PRESS RELEASE – The Portland Pickles are a work in process, and the next step calls for some major work at Walker Stadium in Lents. The Pickles are one of six baseball teams — three to be named — in the college wood-bat Great West League, which plans to begin a 60-game season on June 3, 2016.
The Pickles are still seeking city approval of construction plans to the Southeast Portland ballpark, says Ken Wilson, team and league president.
“The city has been very cooperative, from the mayor’s office on down,” says Wilson, a former Seattle Mariners broadcaster who lives in Portland.
Time might not be of the essence, yet, but Wilson says he hopes to see several essential things fall into place this summer or by the end of 2015.
The team’s basic timeline/wish list includes grading of the field in July and then renovations and seating improvements by Thanksgiving, with a team office on site by then as well. Expected capacity is about 1,500, including 1,000 permanent seats with backs.
Wilson says the Pickles are close to revealing their logo, uniforms and mascot. The team name, announced after an online contest, has been a hit, he says.
“When you tell people the name, they all laugh, and that’s what we’re after,” he says. “It’s a name we can do a lot with. We’ll have some pickle food to eat at the ballpark and probably have a pickle-eating contest on the field. But we’re not going to overdo it. The players won’t look like pickles. You’re not going to walk in and think you’re at a pickle festival. This is going to be about baseball and family entertainment.”
Wilson says he’d like the Pickles to create good times, somewhat in the way the independent, irreverent Portland Mavericks did in their Class A Northwest League run in the 1970s under owner/actor Bing Russell.
“That was a really wonderful time and a wonderful experience,” Wilson says, “and Bing Russell was all about being crazy and fun. We don’t intend to be too far removed from that.”
Also likely to be announced this summer, Wilson says, is who will manage the team and what cities in Oregon or California will join the Pickles, Chico Heat and Lodi, Calif., in the Great West League for 2016.
“We have two or three series managerial candidates and would really like to have the manager hired by the middle of August,” Wilson says.
Getting the right person is key, he says, because “the manager is the one who recruits the players and puts the team together, so the ability to have contacts is very important.”
Wilson says he expects to have some players from teams in this year’s College World Series as well as from college programs in the Northwest.
“There is a great demand for players from Oregon State and Oregon, and (coaches) Pat Casey and George Horton spread their players around (the country in the summer),” Wilson says, “but we hope to have some players from those programs, and from Washington, and we’d like to have a connection with the University of Portland.”
Wilson says he would like to launch season-ticket sales for the Pickles during the World Series in October, “hopefully with an event at the ballpark.”
The revamped stadium will be available for use by other teams and events, not just for the Pickles’ 30 summer home games.
“It’s a community ballpark, and you could do a lot of things there, from a beer fest to a craft show to graduations and small concerts and high school and other baseball,” Wilson says. “Our goal is to get more use out of it and give more kids the opportunity to play on a terrific playing surface.”