Is it time for the Bears to move to Vancouver?

Since I began calling games for the Hawks in 2003, heading to Yakima has always been one of my highlights of the season.  Everyone thinks I am crazy – since there isn’t a whole lot to do in the smallest market in the league, but from the front-office staff of the Bears to the team hotel, everyone has went out of their way to treat me and my family amazingly.

So when I heard in May that the franchise was exploring an option to relocate next season to Clark County, Wash., and build a new facility in Vancouver – my heart sunk, thinking, not Yakima…

Unfortunately, after returning to town last night – I think that the McMurray family is making the right decision, it is time for the Bears to look for greener pastures.

Just as we have done in Boise for years – everyone has overlooked the obvious, County Stadium is inadequate for the Northwest League.  Folks forget that the ballplayers that entertain fans all summer are working, and most of the work that they put in is done 3-4-5 hours prior to the game.  Two rogue batting cages sit outside the perimeter of the park – with players traversing a dirt trail to get to them, the clubhouses are tiny with no air circulation (imagine sitting in a cubicle at 90 degreees each day), and the playing surface has hit a rough spot as well.

A leak in the sprinkler system in right field has caused the area near the warning track to turn marshy – literally.  If it were a golf course, there would be a painted line around it and “clean and lift” rules would be in place.  The groundscrew has been forced to turn off the water to minimize the leak – which in turn, has caused enormous brown patches in the outfield, which is a thin layer of grass at best.

But the facility is only half the issue.  Most forget that baseball is a business – and that the Bears have to be able to provide for their employees (remember, the players are sent here and paid by their parent club, the Arizona Diamondbacks).  With the lowest ticket and concession prices in the NWL, less than 1,800 fans turned out for a Friday night game on a absolutely perfect night (80-degrees, light winds, crystal clear sky) – and I think that number may have been a bit high. 

Even if the Bears and the cities of Yakima, Union Gap, and Selah were able to come up with a new stadium – how long would the luster of a new yard last?  After a couple years, would 1,800 fans show up for a Friday night game with $1.00 hot dogs?  I don’t think that would be the case in Vancouver – with the ability to draw from a possible fan base of over a million people, instead of 100,000.

I will miss Yakima, I will miss the staff at the Best Western here, it is painful to say, but it’s time to go to the other Vancouver.

GAME NOTES: The Hawks nearly equalled their home run output of the season in the first inning last night, as Rafael Lopez and Ben Klafczynski each launced two-run homers (listen to the home run calls at http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights7-1-11.wma )…the duo combined to go 6-for-7 with seven RBI in the win…Luis Liria and Kyler Burke each struck out the side in the victory – the first time this season that a Hawks’ pitcher accomplished the feat in 2011…Boise pitchers combined to strike out a season-high 13 men in the victory…it was the sixth time in nine wins this season that the Hawks have scored 10-or-more runs…

1 Comment

After going there for nine years, Mike, you must have many fond experiences and memories popping up and reminding you whenever you have a moment alone. Look at it this way. No one can take those away from you. I empathize with your pain and I expect the folks there feel the impending loss of their team and their ballpark almost as much as you do, if not more. Explains the enthusiasm they showed in the latter innings even while the team was down a bunch of runs. They were making some serious noise and were really into it. Nice piece of journalism and a bittersweet tribute to the community and the ballpark, brother. Second one you’ve cranked out too. You are a big softie.

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