Another Pickles baseball season arrives at Walker Stadium
With four new teams, players in the West Coast League will experience some new environments during this collegiate wood-bat baseball season.
For fans of the Portland Pickles, the dawn of the 2022 season brings with it a few new things to experience at Walker Stadium in Lents Park.
The updates include, naturally, new concession options including two new bars. There's also a pitch-speed display near the scoreboard. And seating capacity has been expanded to 3,524.
The first Walker Stadium experience of 2022 happens at 6:05 p.m. on Sunday, May 29 when the Pickles take on the Willamette Wild Bills in the first of two of warm-up games between the Pickles and two Wild Wild West League sister teams. At 7 p.m. Monday, May 30, the Portland Gherkins and Pickles play a non-league game.
The Pickles open their 54-game West Coast League slate with three games, May 31 through June 2, against the expansion Nanaimo Night Owls.
Portland will then hit the road, including a June 6-8 series that is the home debut for the expansion Edmonton Riverhawks.
The Pickles' roster is heavy on players from California, where manager Mark Magdaleno has a lot of history and contacts.
Among the 44 players signed as of last week, seven are returning from 2021: pitchers Alex Giroux, Evan Tomlinson, Kyle Hoskins and Tommy Snyder, infielder Jacob Jablonski and catchers Evan Leibl and Max Shor.
Edmonton, one of three Canadian clubs that were delayed in joining the WCL because of pandemic-related travel restrictions, are unique among the West Coast League clubs. The Riverhawks' stadium — 9,200-seat RE/MAX Field — is the former home of the Triple-A Edmonton Trappers. And, because of the distances to the rest of the WCL markets, the Edmonton club it will pay opponents' air fare to travel to Edmonton, according to WCL commissioner Rob Neyer.
The WCL is growing from 12 to 16 teams, playing in two eight-team divisions. The Pickles are in the South Division, with league power the Corvallis Knights and the Ridgefield Raptors seen as favorites.
The newcomer to the South Division are the Springfield Drifters, who will play at a new 2,000-seat stadium. The Bend Elks, Cowlitz Black Bears, Yakima Valley Pippins and Walla Walla Sweets.
A new playoff format awaits four teams from each division. First will be a best-of-3 series featuring the teams that won each half against a wild-card team. A one-game division championship game, followed by one game between the division winners for the WCL crown.
The Pickles, and the league as a whole, have made improvements to the online streaming product. The Pickles will continue live-streaming games on their Facebook and YouTube pages.
Pickles General manager Ross Campbell said the club invested in new cameras and software and will use a live drone feed to enhance broadcasts.
The West Coast League primarily follows the NCAA rule book. One rule it will not copy this season, however, is the 20-second clock between pitches.
"We are not going in that direction — in the short term, anyway, in part because we've literally never had anyone complain during my tenure about the pace of our games," WCL commissioner Rob Neyer said. "I think our coaches and our umpires have always done a great job of keeping the games moving along at a good pace. And our game times are not excessive."
Beginning in late June, Walker Stadium again will host Wild Wild West League doubleheaders Friday through Sunday on weekends when the Pickles are on the road.
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