By Justin Busby
The Bellingham Bells welcomed the 2017 summer baseball season with a series win against the Gresham GreyWolves.
The Bells kicked off the new season of baseball with two wins in their opening three game home stand of the year.
The Bells are coming out swinging, attempting to reach the West Coast League final again after they were defeated last year by the Corvallis Knights, losing the playoff two games to one.
The WCL is a collegiate summertime baseball league created in 2005 for eligible student athletes to develop their skills for the next level like minor or major league baseball.
The Bellingham Bells have players representing universities from all around the country like Gonzaga, University of Maine, and Tulane University.
The WCL keeps players active and healthy during the summer while also giving college players a taste of what a professional environment would be like. Batters use wooden bats only, opponents are geographically diverse, and they play a 57-game season, with streaks of games up to 18 days in a row.
The Bells have been in league since the inaugural season in 2005 earning championship runners-up that year and have been one of the consistently successful clubs in the WCL this decade.
In recent years, the Bells finished with only one losing record in the last seven seasons, reaching the playoffs in four of the last five years, and winning the WCL championship in 2014 against Corvallis.
Pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Jim Clem has been with the team since 2011 and continues to be successful in a coaching career that’s lasted over 35 years. Clem’s illustrious career has been inducted into six different baseball halls of fame, including the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and Central Washington University.
Clem’s arrival to the team and the Bells’ turnaround towards success seems oddly coincidental but Clem says that it’s been a group effort starting from management and its new owner, Eddie Poplawski, who took over in 2011.
“I think we need to give credit to the new owner and the management he brought in,” Clem said. “It all starts from the top, they are terrific, best owner in the league, best front office in the league.”
Greg Goetz enters his first season as the Bells head coach and manager after a successful year leading the helm with the North Sound Emeralds, another collegiate summer team, as well as completing his first year as director of baseball operations at Seattle University.
Goetz is a pitching and strength coach at heart and is looking forward to the damage their pitchers will provide this season with Clem on his staff.
The Bells play at Joe Martin Field, a turf baseball diamond with a 1,600-person capacity, located in the Civic Field Complex just on Lakeway Drive.
Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., and other big names of Pacific Northwest baseball started their careers at Joe Martin Field when the Bellingham Mariners, a minor-league predecessor of the Bells, dominated the Northwest League in the 1980s and ’90s.
Rick Teegarden is an assistant coach focused on working with the fielders and hitters and is entering his first year with the Bells organization after contributing to a massive offensive turnaround with the Shoreline Dolphins last year.
Teegarden said the rich history of Bellingham baseball was something he had to be a part of.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I had previous been the head coach of a summer team last year when Greg came up to me and said he had this opportunity. I said yes on the spot,” Teegarden said.
“The tradition of local baseball here is what makes Joe Martin [Field] so special.”
The Bells’ next home game is against the Corvallis Knights and starts on Thursday, June 8. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m. for all three games.
Tickets are $7 for general admission and $12 for a dugout box seat.