GRESHAM, Ore. – In October of 2015, the West Coast League announced a new team in the Gresham, OR market. On December 4, the team was named the Gresham GreyWolves.
So who are the GreyWolves, and what’s this league they’re playing in?
The West Coast League (WCL) was founded in 2005 and is currently made up of 11 teams in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (originally named the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League, renamed in 2008). It was formed out of four teams – Bellingham, Aloha (now in Corvallis, Bend, and Wenatchee – leaving the semi-pro Pacific International League to create something new. Kelowna and Spokane joined to start the inaugural season.
Once a 12 team league with four in three divisions – East, West, and South – the 2016 season will open with just 11, split into six and five into two divisions – North and South. After the closing of the 2015 season, the Medford Rogues left the league to join the newly forming Great West League (GWL), leaving the WCL with 11 teams.
Gresham came into the league after Klamath Falls was dropped from the lineup. Owners and general managers Jerry and Lisa Walker purchased the Klamath Falls team and moved them to Gresham shortly after. The Walkers are a familiar name in Oregon baseball having owned the San Francisco Giants’ Class-A Short Season affiliate, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Northwest League.
WCL teams are made up of ballplayers still in college who want to develop their talent while away from school for the summer. Fans benefit from being able to see developing talent, many destined for pro ball, in an affordable and family-friendly environment.
The GreyWolves will open their season with two non-conference home games against the Thurston County Senators of the Puget Sound Collegiate League on June 3 and 4. They will open their WCL schedule at home on June 6 against the Cowlitz County Black Bears, starting a six game, two series home stand.
The Yakima Valley Pippins will come to town on June 9 before the GreyWolves travel to Victoria, B.C. to play a three game series against the HarbourCats starting on June 14.
The WCL regular season, which Gresham will conclude at home on August 7 against the Bend Elks, is split into two halves of 27 games each. The winners of each half in both divisions earn a playoff birth and face each other with the winner advancing to the inter-divisional championship. First-half winners have the opportunity to receive home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. If one team wins both halves then the team with the second best overall record in the division earns the second spot.
The GreyWolves have made their schedule easy to remember, but possibly hard to attend, with all Monday through Saturday home games scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. Sunday games are slated for 5:05 p.m. Games are at Mt. Hood Community College’s Oslund Field, located about 17 miles east of Portland’s City Center.
Although in Gresham, the GreyWolves may see fan base and ticket sale competition from the professional (Minor League) back-to-back defending champion Hillsboro Hops (Class-A Short Season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks) and the GWL’s Portland Pickles, also in their inaugural season.
The Hops and GreyWolves play their games on opposite sides of the Metro Area, with nearly 40 miles between them. The Pickles and GreyWolves are a little closer, with just 14 miles between the Pickles’ Walker Stadium (in Lents Park at SE 92nd and Holgate). While the Hops have set themselves apart from the two newcomers with two championships in three seasons under their belt, ease of access for fans on Portland’s East Side could draw fans toward the collegiate league teams.
As none of the three teams have started their 2016 campaigns, only time will tell, along with ticket sales.
To stay up to date on all things Grain of the Game, make sure to follow the blog (see the menu) and the author on Twitter (@atticusrice). Updates on the GreyWolves, Pickles, Hops, and the Portland baseball fan base battle are always in the making. Make sure to check back for a recap of the author’s first GreyWolves game in the coming weeks.