49th in an occasional series: a summer collegiate baseball league with athletes who play — and mow — for the love of the game.
49th in an occasional series
For less than the cost of parking at a Mariners game, you can get two tickets, two beers, two hot dogs and a program during two-buck Tuesdays at a Bend Elks baseball game in Central Oregon.
This is West Coast League collegiate summer baseball, where the players aren’t paid a penny but get to hone their skills, including grounds-keeping.
Before the game, they volunteer their time preparing the field for play, and some are better than others at turf management, says team owner Jim Richards.
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“They play for the love of the game [and] that happens to be their entire compensation package,” says Richards. They stay with host families in Bend.
He says it’s “wood-bat baseball, affordable baseball, good old-fashioned baseball, with no steroids, no lockout, no big egos.” Players showcase skills to fans and pro scouts.
Since Richards bought the team in 2000, more than 70 players have moved on to pro teams after college, including five to the majors.
They consistently have the highest attendance in the nine-team league that includes Walla Walla, Wenatchee, Corvallis and Klamath Falls.
The former minor-league park holds 3,000 and is named for Vince Genna, local baseball fan and former parks director instrumental in having the stadium built in 1946.
In the free parking lot, near the ticket window, one space is reserved for Mr. Genna, and, if available, fans can leave their car there.
As the parking-lot attendant said respectfully, “Mr. Genna won’t mind. He passed in 2007.”
Alan Berner: 206-464-8133 or firstname.lastname@example.org