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Portland Pickles announce plans to play baseball without fans starting in July

PMG PHOTO: KYLE GARCIA - Michael Perzan delivers a pitch in a Pickles game last summer at Walker Stadium. The club has annouced a plan to play without fans this summer.The Portland Pickles have a plan to bring joy to Stumptown this summer.

The college wood-bat baseball club last week announced plans to play games without fans in the stands between July 2 and August 9.

Pickles general manager Ross Campbell said he hopes to announce a schedule in about two weeks. The plan includes a modified schedule of West Coast League games.

The Pickles plan a live online stream of each game using social media platforms. Exact details will be released later, Campbell said. The Pickles have live-streamed games using Facebook Live. Campbell said they would like to expand live broadcasts to YouTube and Twitter.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide entertainment for our loyal fans," Campbell said. "We just really want to be able to bring some joy to the community."

Campbell emphasized that player safety is the priority. Expect all players to be wearing masks and social distancing. Some details, such as where umpires will stand, are still being discussed.

The Pickles play their home games at Walker Stadium in southeast Portland's Lents Park. Campbell said the club has been in regular contact with the Portland Parks Bureau, as well as members of local and state government, while creating its plan to play games this summer.

Campbell said the team's plans align with Gov. Kate Brown's plan, announced last Thursday, to gradually reopen businesses in Oregon.

The West Coast League, a summer college wood-bat circuit, was scheduled to begin play on June 5. Last week it announced a plan to begin playing games in early July.

Seven of the 12 WCL teams plan to attempt to play a league schedule. Four are planning to play as independent teams this summer. The Bellingham, (Washington) Belles, club will not play because that city has closed all parks through the summer. Teams in Corvallis, Bend and in Victoria and Kelowna, British Columbia, will not take part in league play but plan to explore other options for playing games this summer.

"The goal of all the teams is to find a way to play," Campbell said.

WCL commissioner Rob Neyer said the target is to have a schedule finalized by early June.

"We have a few weeks to figure out" if starting a season in early July is possible, Neyer said. "We should have clarity in early June as far as what our teams are able to do in July."

The Pickles players are current college baseball players. Campbell said the Pickles will contact players individually to discuss their summer plans and to find out which players are comfortable with the club's plans for keeping players safe.

He said the club put together an "extensive and detailed" plan that will be implemented to keep players safe. The plan includes "a lot of sanitizing" and limiting food in the park to that supplied by the club. Beyond players, coaches and umpires, staffing at games will be limited to those necessary to produce the online broadcast.

The Pickles rely on ticket sales and concessions for their revenue, and will operate without those streams this summer. Campbell said the club feels the same pressures as other small businesses during the stay-at-home order.

Still, the opportunity to provide even virtual entertainment while giving college baseball players a place to play was "obviously not a very hard decision to make," Campbell said.

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