YAKIMA — The season hasn’t started yet, and already local baseball fans are saying, “Wait ’til next year.” At least there will be a next year at Yakima County Stadium.
Word came last week that Yakima, which for two decades hosted the professional Class A Northwest League Yakima Bears before seeing the club depart late last year for Hillsboro, Ore., has landed a team in the West Coast League for the 2014 season.
The ownership group of the WCL’s Walla Walla Sweets will control the club; the geography and shared economic ties between Yakima and Walla Walla suggest a natural rivalry in the making. There’s also an existing team in Wenatchee that’s under a different ownership.
The new Yakima franchise won’t be affiliated with a Major League parent club. WCL players aren’t professionals but are college players, with many from Division I schools in the West.
Yakima isn’t alone in finding a place in the WCL after being orphaned by the Northwest League. Walla Walla, Wenatchee, Victoria and the Oregon cities of Bend and Medford are WCL members that used to reside in the Northwest League.
Baseball fans will miss the Northwest League, but this setup has the makings of a good fit. Geographically, Yakima slides right in with existing clubs.
News of a WCL is welcome to those seeking affordable, family-friendly summertime diversions that enhance an area’s quality of life. For baseball fans, it will be an anxious wait until next year.