By Antonio Unpingco
Bellingham’s summer college league baseball team, the Bells, started their season with a three game series on Friday in British Columbia at Elks Stadium, home of the Kelowna Falcons.
The West Coast League (WCL), founded in 2005, has proved to be one of the premier summer collegiate leagues throughout the country. Travelling to play a series of three to four games and using wood bats, WCL players get a feel for what it’s like on a Major League club. The league is committed to prospect development, increasing player exposure, and bettering its member communities. Teams are located in British Columbia, Washington state, and Oregon.
Last season, the Bells held the best record in their division at 33-21. They lost in the first round of the playoffs in a best of three series to the Kelowna Falcons, winning the first game at home 12-1, then dropping the next two games 0-6 and 6-9 in Kelowna.
First year general manager for the Bells, Stephanie Morrell says that this year, the Bells hope to win it all of course, but more importantly, the club wants to instill what it means to be a Bell into their players.
“It’s important for these guys to get their reps and have a taste of what the minors are like, but we want to emphasize to them the importance of respecting, supporting, and embracing the community of Bellingham” said Morrell.
The Bellingham Bells have fundraisers every year at Joe Martin Stadium. Since 2011 they have raised over one thousand dollars for nonprofit organizations at the ballpark. Some past community projects supported by the Bell’s include a jersey auction to help those suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Blue Skies for Children jersey auction, Whatcom Humane Society hat auction, and St. Baldrick’s Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research BaseBald Night.
Joe Martin Stadium has a long tradition of baseball. Built in 1964, the field has hosted three different minor league professional teams including the Bellingham Dodgers (1973-1976), Bellingham Mariners (1977-1994), and the Bellingham Giants (1995-1996). The Bellingham Mariners won league championships in 1977, 1980, 1986, and 1992.
Famous big leaguers like Edgar Martinez, inducted into the Mariners hall of fame after an 18-year career with them; the late Dave “Hendu” Henderson, the Mariners first draft pick when they entered the league in the 1977 amateur draft; and Mike Scioscia, the current manager for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, all called Joe Martin Field home.
The biggest name to ever play in Bellingham’s finest ballpark was Ken Griffey Jr. who debuted his professional career in 1987 as a Bellingham Mariner. The 17-year-old played 54 games at Joe Martin in which he scored 43 runs, 57 hits, and 40 RBI’s with a batting average of .313. Ken Griffey Jr. went on to have an illustrious career, spending most of his time with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. “The Kid” ended his career in 2010 with the Mariners, putting up 630 career home runs and going on to be the first Mariner inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Tickets to see the Bells in action can be purchased online at at the Bells website or at the door of Joe Martin Field. General admission tickets cost seven dollars each and grandstand tickets, which are open seating and a first come first serve basis, cost nine dollars each. On Tuesday’s you can purchase one ticket at regular price and get the second one for two dollars.