What does James Paxton and Shane Bieber have in common? They once took the field in a West Coast League game – pitching their hearts out in the hopes of one day stepping out onto a Major League field.
The West Coast League in its current form was established in 2006 with the goal of creating the best-run, most talented collegiate summer league west of the Rockies, or the Mississippi River. Dugout Dish had the pleasure of speaking with Commissioner Rob Neyer last week.
“Aside from the talent of the players, the West Coast League probably mirrors, more than any other collegiate summer league, the minor league baseball experience from the players’ perspective.” Neyer said when asked if he believes the league is beneficial for baseball players who are looking to play Major League Baseball or with an affiliated club.
He continued: “Our teams are professionally run, there are long road (bus) trips and we play in a number of markets that have historically hosted minor league baseball, including Portland, Oregon and Victoria, British Columbia.”
Along with the mentioned cities above, fans of the West Coast League can find teams in Bellingham, WA., Kelowna, British Columbia, Port Angeles, WA., Wenatchee, WA., Yakima, WA., Bend, OR., Corvallis, OR., Kelso/Longview, WA., Ridgefield, WA. and Walla Walla, WA.
“There’s nothing like the Pacific Northwest during baseball season, and I would put our scenic experiences up against any other league, anywhere.” Neyer added. He even recommends fans come visit next summer to get the full experience of the league.
While Neyer has only been commissioner for just over two years, he has been around the game of baseball for more than 30 years. “I’ve been commissioner for just over two years. While I’ve been around baseball for more than 30 years, as a writer who usually felt very much like an outsider. I never had any real thoughts of becoming an insider.”
“I had a colleague or three who made the transition from writing to actually working for baseball teams, but I never pursued opportunities like that. And then a couple of winters ago, this West Coast League thing just sort of fell into my lap – completely out of the blue.”
Notable alumni include: Shane Bieber, Matthew Boyd, Adam Cimber, Chris Davis, Jacob Ellsbury, Jace Fry, Mitch Haniger, Trevor Hildenberger, Rhys Hoskins, Bud Norris, James Paxton, Eric Sogard, Tyler Wagner and Taylor Williams.
While the 2020 season has been cancelled due to COVID-19, Neyer does not see the mission of WCL changing in the coming seasons. “Fundamentally, I don’t see our mission changing much in the coming seasons, or how we go about accomplishing it.”
“That said, there might be significant changes in the structures of both collegiate and professional baseball as soon as next year, and all of those changes are likely to change how we do things in terms of geographic alignment, the size of our league, the talent of our players and the schedule.”
Despite the possibility of those changes, Neyer expects fan and player experience to remain the same. “Except with a higher talent level.”
For more information on the West Coast League, you can visit their website. Once again, big thanks to Rob Neyer for his time.
(Photo Credit: West Coast League)