The Yakima Valley Pippins and the West Coast League's other U.S.-based teams won't be traveling across the border this regular season.
Pippins general manager Jeff Garretson said in a release the decision would eliminate any concerns about whether the border between the United States and Canada will open in time for the June 4 season opener. Yakima Valley and the other teams in Washington and Oregon plan to play a 48-game schedule, rather than the initially announced 54-game schedule.
“With three new Canadian members joining for this year, it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t play an international schedule,” Garretson said. “But moving to this format gives all the teams a stronger chance to play.”
Schedules will be revealed next week for the American-based teams and in the first half of April for four of the five Canadian-based teams. Kelowna announced Thursday it would cancel its 2021 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Garretson said Yakima Valley plans to maintain its total of 32 home games, and they're working to fill the dates opened up by the change. Originally, the Pippins were scheduled to open their season against Kamloops on June 4 and host Kelowna in July.
The WCL's board of directors voted to change the schedule earlier this week. They left open the possibility of a full league playoff format.
COVID-19 regulations forced the league to cancel its 2020 season on June 5. Later that year, the league announced the addition of teams from Edmonton, Kamloops and Nanaimo.
The Pippins were scheduled to open the 2021 season June 4 by hosting the Kamloops NorthPaws.
More host families needed
Garretson said part of their preparations this summer include finding more host families for players as they arrive from colleges throughout the country.
Host families are expected to provide free room and board during the three-month season, the ability to get to and from the ballpark, and a family environment to help players transition to the community. Participants receive several benefits including free tickets and parking at games, as well as 20% off team merchandise.
Yakima-area families interested in hosting a player can call Garretson at 509-575-4487.