The West Coast League and the Bend Elks are hoping to be the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.
On March 17, the college summer baseball league announced that it will continue to prepare for its 16th season by opening play on June 5. A week later, nothing has changed. Resuming summer baseball is still the plan.
“As of now, our league is operating off the idea that we will be starting the season on time,” said Elks general manager Kelsie Hirko in a phone interview with The Bulletin Monday evening. “As for the Bend Elks, we are going to start a day early. Our plan is to start on June 4 (a nonleague game with NW Star Academy out of Ridgefield, Washington) with a full Vince Genna Stadium.”
While the coronavirus has stopped the sports world in its tracks since the NBA suspended its season on March 11 and college sports canceled all winter and spring seasons, the West Coast League and the Elks have extra time to make their decision on the 2020 season.
Aside from closing down the Elks’ indoor batting cages at the Bend Fieldhouse and the halting of youth travel teams like Jr. Bend Elks, the coronavirus has had little effect on the day-to-day operations of the Elks organization.
WCL teams have already been formed. And due to the cancellation of college baseball and the College World Series, Hirko is anticipating less contraction of the Elks squad than occurs during a typical season.
“We tend to have a full roster in September,” Hirko said. “Then come June some have been released from contracts due to injuries or having to spend time in classes. We are expecting our roster to be fuller than ever.”
The players do need a place to stay during the two-month-long season. The league relies on host families to provide housing for the players throughout the summer.
Even in a time of social distancing and going about each day with extra caution to prevent the spreading of the virus, none of the returning host families who signed up before the outbreak have pulled out of their commitment, Hirko said.
The Elks will still be looking to add more host families.
“Thankfully, we haven’t had anything yet where people aren’t coming back due to the coronavirus,” Hirko said.
The Elks and WCL staff continue to meet via video conferences aimed at ensuring that the conditions for those in the stadium will be clean and healthy by the time the season opens in early June.
“Everyone right now seems hopeful,” Hirko said. “So much is being canceled because of this. Summer baseball can be seen as a light at the end of the tunnel.”