While still hopeful and committed to a summer of baseball, the Yakima Valley Pippins and West Coast League aren’t sure what that will look like or who, exactly, will be involved.
What they do know is that whatever version of the league takes the field, it will be later in the summer.
The WCL on Friday announced it is postponing the start of its season, originally scheduled for June 5, at least a month due to the coronavirus pandemic and is “targeting early July” to launch a revised schedule.
In its statement on Friday, the WCL said “we anticipate that Bend, Corvallis, Kelowna and Victoria will soon join Bellingham in canceling their 2020 seasons.” Oregon’s governor said earlier this week that fans likely won’t be allowed at sports events until October, and British Columbia’s re-opening guidelines suggest those teams will be unable to play.
There are six teams in Washington who “continue to pursue all their options,” the league said. The Portland Pickles announced Thursday plans for a broadcast-only season without fans at their stadium.
Yakima Valley general manager Jeff Garretson has been hard at work trying to rebuild a schedule around the six other remaining teams and several nonleague opponents.
“We’re exploring a lot of options and it’s all in an effort to get out and play and have a season,” he said. “We’re sitting here right now with a roster of 38 players, which is more than we normally carry, but with other leagues shutting down there are fewer opportunities for players.”
The Pippins hope to release a revised schedule “in the next several weeks.” The other Washington teams include Cowlitz, Ridgefield, Port Angeles, Walla Walla and Wenatchee.
Garretson added that the team will adhere to all local, state and federal guidelines. The state’s plan for lifting restrictions on gatherings will allow crowds of more than 50 people in phase four. We are currently still in phase one.
“That’s why the league is a little vague with early July as a target. Specifics are too difficult to judge right now, and the situation is constantly evolving,” Garretson said. “If we get into mid-June and things are going well with the phases, great, early July would work. If not, then we’d have to look at other scenarios and one of them, unfortunately, would be not playing at all.”
The Pippins are looking at possibly playing some doubleheaders but not at shortening games. Garretson pointed out that because players had their college or high school seasons shut down they are in need of innings and as much playing time as they can get.
To make Yakima County Stadium a safe environment for players, fans and staff, the Pippins are planning for limited seating to maintain social distancing and an app for cashless transactions for ticket sales, merchandise and concessions.
The Pippins have stopped online ticket sales while a new schedule is created. Previously purchased tickets will be valid in the revised schedule and single-game and group ticket buyers will be able to transfer those tickets to new games.
The WCL said all 12 teams are committed to playing in 2021 and that a 13th team, based in Nanaimo, B.C., will join the league next year.