By SARA N. MILLER / SMILLER@SOUNDPUBLISHING.COM
BREMERTON — Fall may be for football, but summer is about baseball. And the Kitsap BlueJackets are working to make this summer at the ballpark as memorable as possible.
Under new ownership, a lot of changes are being made at the Kitsap Fairgrounds in preparation for this summer’s West Coast League season.
“We have roughly $225,000 worth of projects happening,” said Matt Acker, the team’s new owner. “A lot of things are being renovated and improved to make this field the new standard.”
The West Coast League is a summer league for collegiate baseball players. Top athletes come from all over the country to play in this league, which is one of, if not the, top summer baseball leagues in the country. After coaching the BlueJackets for seven years, Acker said buying the team was the natural progression.
“The old owners were wonderful, great people, but it was the same show for seven years,” Acker said. “It was the same when I came last summer, and I understand that, but this year things are going to be different.”
Some of the changes being made to the park include: moving fences to add a party deck, deepening the dugouts to make locker rooms for the teams, making a changing room for umpires and building a beer shed. The old “beer shed” was originally a guy selling beer out of the back of his van.
“The only one worse than ours was the Spokane Riverhawks, which was a guy sitting on a cooler with an umbrella selling Budweiser and Pabst,” Acker said. “That was bad.”
Moral of the story: the beer shed was a necessity with the upgrade.
Other than these enticing draws, most changes being made are structural. Adding locker rooms for players and umpires is what Acker describes as “standard in this league.”
“High-quality umpires are not going to change in the parking lot,” Acker said. “So, naturally we were getting second-tier umpires, which would spark complaints and put both the players and the officials in bad situations. It wasn’t fair to either party.”
The concession stand is also getting a makeover.
“That’s my wife’s profession,” Acker said. “I went to my favorite parks and picked my favorite menu items and told her to copy these.”
Although some requests were a little outlandish (“My wife saw some and simply went ‘No, I don’t know how these parks are affording these but you’re not.'”), the concession stand will now be offering ballpark favorites as well as some of the best park cuisine this side of Safeco.
If the food is not enough of a selling point to get to the ballpark, the BlueJackets will host events and giveaways that are both family-friendly and great for a night out.
Some events that are going to be taking place include: $2 drink Tuesdays, JonBoy’s trivia nights, ladies night, a 10-day pool party in August, and a Hawaiian night, where the organization will give away a trip to Hawaii.
“We have airline tickets, a reservation at the Aston Waikiki. It’s going to be a big deal,” Acker said.
Acker worked to make sure that every game the team plays this summer is connected to some promotion, event or cause.
One such game is the Habitat for Humanity series against the Walla Walla Sweets. Kitsap Habitat for Humanity has sponsored a gazebo and fans are encouraged to bring stuff to the games to donate. The organization has even challenged the Walla Walla branch to see who can get the most donations during the series, sparking a good-hearted rivalry.
Also, the BlueJackets will host the U.S. Military All-Star team on June 16 and 17.
“They came here on a promotional tour and they as an organization are unbelievable,” Acker said. “Their coach played for the team after he was released from deployment. I guarantee it will choke people up; the stuff they do is impressive.”
The field will also be home to the West Coast Guns, a team of college graduates, former professional players and current college players looking to make it to the next level.
With strong teams, great food, theme nights and give-aways, watching the Kitsap BlueJackets is an easy decision for what to do on those hot summer nights. Whether it is date night, a night out with friends or family night, Acker wants the ballpark to be the place to be.
“It’s going to be a fun summer,” he said.
The season opener is 6:35 p.m. June 2 vs. the TC Senators. For schedules and other information, go to www.bluejacketbaseball.com.