The Vancouver Canadians will be setting up shop in the state of Oregon to begin the 2021 High-A season.
The Canadians organization has announced it will be playing its 2021 “home” games at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro as the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. The club hopes to return to Nat Bailey Stadium later in the season. Ron Tonkin Field is the newest park of the High-A circuit as it was built in 2013 to host the relocated Yakima Bears.
The news does not come as a surprise as C’s president Andy Dunn told The Vancouver Province in February that the club was looking at options for another home due to the border issue. There was some thought that Bellingham—the home of the West Coast League Bells which hosted a Northwest League franchise from 1973 to 1996—was a potential solution due to its close proximity to Vancouver and Everett. However, Joe Martin Field does not meet Minor League Baseball stadium standards as set out by Major League Baseball.
Another possibility for the C’s was sharing Everett Memorial Stadium with the AquaSox. However, that facility is not considered to be a jewel among minor league ballparks. Former Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather admitted last month that the stadium in Everett was the reason why there were considering Vancouver and Spokane as potential Mariners affiliates before deciding to re-up with Everett. Also, the fact the Everett Community College Merchants and various high school teams use the school board-owned stadium would have created plenty of scheduling nightmares.
As Steve Ewen pointed out in his article last month, playing surface considerations may have limited the C’s options to Hillsboro, Eugene and Everett as those parks have artificial turf which is easier to maintain than the natural grass parks in Spokane and Tri-City. Eugene had to be ruled out for the C’s as the Emeralds have to fight the Oregon Ducks for stadium time as the collegiate squad is the main tenant of P.K. Park. The Emeralds, by the way, have been ordered by Major League Baseball to have a new stadium in place by 2025 that meets MLB standards.
The only question now is when will Monty’s Mounties return home? Will it be later in 2021 or will Canadians fans have to wait until 2022 for baseball to return to The Nat? One baseball club in B.C. is already looking forward to next year. The Kelowna Falcons of the summer collegiate West Coast League announced last week that they are opting out of its 2021 schedule due to the border problems. The remaining four clubs in Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops and Edmonton may resort to an all-Canadian schedule much like the NHL is doing this season.
One potential positive for the C’s when it comes to playing in Hillsboro is the possibility that their home games at Ron Tonkin Field may be televised on MiLB.TV. Hillsboro and Eugene have been the only teams in the Northwest League to broadcast all of its home games on the web in recent seasons. Vancouver begins its season in Spokane May 4 before returning home to host Tri-City at The Tonk.
The Hillsboro Hops are proving to be gracious hosts for their temporary guests on Twitter.
The final word goes to Tri-City Dust Devils broadcaster Chris King.
Chris King and the Dust Devils will be the first ones to see the Hillsboro Americans/Vancouver Canadians in action on May 4 at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, Washington. Seven days later, the C’s will be in Hillsboro for their “home opener” against the Spokane Indians.