KAISER, Ore. — With the addition of the Yakima Name-TBDs, the West Coast League has 12 teams and now three new divisions.
The league announced Tuesday that it will adopt a three-division format: the Wenatchee AppleSox will be joined by the Walla Walla Sweets, the Kelowna Falcons and the Yakima squad (moniker to be announced at a later date) in the East; the Victoria HarbourCats, Bellingham Bells, Kitsap BlueJackets and Cowlitz Black Bears will comprise the West; and the South will include the four Oregon teams — the Corvallis Knights, Bend Elks, Klamath Falls Gems and Medford Rogues.
“First of all, we think we can save some money for the teams,” WCL president Dennis Koho said in a phone interview. “… . I think it will help foster some competition to the teams most closely situated. They’ll play them a little more than the other teams.”
The playoff setup will be forced to change as well — the three division winners will clinch a berth and the team with the best record out of the remaining nine teams will play the squad with the best record.
“A lot of times a lot of races are decided early on, but now you’re competing with all the teams in all the divisions,” Koho said. “Even if your champion is running away with it, you’ll still have a chance to make the playoffs.”
AppleSox owner/general manager Jim Corcoran said he’s excited about the move as well.
“I thought it made a lot of geographic sense to try to group the teams with the goal of having the schedule weighted within our division,” Corcoran said. “Hopefully we can save a little travel costs, which is our largest annual expense.”
Koho said he expects the East division to be an extremely tight division year-after-year. The Sox had dominated the now-defunct North division, taking top honors seven times since 2002.
“Wenatchee always has a great team, as does Corvallis,” Koho said. “So I think that the Oregon South division and the East are going to be very competitive. It will be interesting to see how fast Yakima gets up to speed, but in our league that can happen very fast because you aren’t counting on returning players.”
The league president said he expects the teams to play 27 in-division games and 27 games against out-of-division opponents. He also said that he expects teams to travel to the more far-flung locations once every two years.