Based primarily in Northern California and other locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, the GWL launches with six teams. The league’s charter members are the Chico Heat, Lodi Crushers, Marysville Gold Sox, Medford Rogues, Portland Pickles, and Sacramento Stealth.
Five of those clubs will play 57-game schedules, with the Stealth’s being reduced to 45 games as the teams spends this year on the road, awaiting the completion of a new $3.5 million ballpark. The inaugural All-Star Game has been rewarded to the Rouges and Harry and David Field, which will host the event on July 26.
The action on the field will be part of the focus this year in the GWL, but the league’s hierarchy is notable in and of itself. Headlining the slate of top officials who helped organized the GWL is Pat Gillick, the Hall of Fame executive who served stints as a general manager with the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Philadelphia Phillies.
As part of his role in the league Gillick, a Chico native, will be directly involved with the Heat. He will be one of the owners of the club, along with Steve and Kathy Nettleton, for whom the Heat’s Nettleton Stadium is named. The other notable operator involved in the Heat is Bill Yuill, an experienced sports executive with CSH International. Yuill will also serve as the owner of the Rouges.
Serving as the GWL’s president is Ken Wilson. Baseball and hockey fans may recognize Wilson as a former broadcaster, but he also comes to the GWL with plenty of executive experience. He was previously involved in ownership for two Frontier League teams—the River City Rascals and Gateway Grizzlies—and is the former president of the West Coast League. Wilson will also serve as the president and CEO of the Pickles.
“We’re excited to open our first season,” said Wilson in a press statement. “We’ve put lots of time and effort into making the GWL a premiere league right out of the gate.”
There will also be an experienced official overseeing the league’s umpires, as Bill Speck has been tabbed as the umpire supervisor. Speck has previously been a minor league and NCAA Division I umpire.
Friday’s slate of games will include Sacramento at Lodi, Chico at Marysville, and Portland at Medford. The regular season concludes on August 11, with the four-team postseason set to begin on August 13.