SEASIDE - While the local high school athletes are busy preparing for basketball, wrestling and swimming, Mike Clark was talkin' baseball Friday morning at Broadway Field.
To be specific, Seaside Wildcats baseball.
Clark is the owner, operator and general manager of the Portland Wildcats, a college-level, summer league baseball team. But at least for the 2006 season, the Portland Wildcats will be the Seaside Wildcats, as Clark will move team operations to Seaside.
And Clark already has the ball rolling, with a 50-game schedule that includes about two weeks' worth of games in Seaside on dates to be announced. The Wildcats will play their home games at Broadway Field, while the players will live in or around Seaside for the 21/2-month season.
The Wildcats are part of the seven-team Pacific International League, and as the Portland Wildcats, have recorded a record 635 wins (267 losses) since 1987. They've also won 22 tournament titles from 12 different tournaments around the west.
The 2006 season will mark their 20th anniversary.
"The one thing I've noticed in trying to market college summer league baseball, it's just tough to draw a fan base in the city of Portland," Clark said.
"A perfect example similar to Seaside is a team called the Humboldt Crabs in Northern California. They play their home games in Arcata (Calif.), and they average 600 to 800 fans per game.
"Bend, Bellingham, Wenatchee - they have college summer league teams in isolated communities, and they're able to promote their product and develop a fan base, and draw 500 to 600 people per game."
Clark said he'd had his eye on Seaside over the years, "and the timing just seems right for it. I'm looking to build a fan base and a community following, and turn it into a profitable situation to help pay for road trips, because with the number of days we spend on the road, it turns into a pretty big budget."
The Wildcats carry a 25-man roster with a 12-man pitching staff.
"The majority of the guys are current college players from all over the West Coast," Clark said. "There's a few graduated college players, and on rare occasions we might pick up a graduated high school senior. It's pretty good caliber baseball."
Clark has spoken with Seaside graduate Matt Hendryx about playing for the Wildcats, hoping the team might have a local draw.
"He played in the league last year (with the Northwest Titans), and we've talked to him about playing for us this year, which would be on his home field."
The 2005 Wildcats were managed by Gerald Bolden and consisted of 24 players from 15 colleges throughout Oregon, Washington, California, Alaska and Utah.
Playing in Seaside could turn out to be beneficial for more than just the Wildcats.
"We look at bringing in a good crowd so they (Seaside Kids, Inc.) can make money off their concession stand," Clark said.
"And I've already offered to make some charitable donations for fencing, field improvements, equipment ... to make it a nice facility for their players and all the youth programs, as well as bring our program in, have guys help run youth clinics in the summer and sponsor a youth-league team ... just do everything we can to be a part of the community."
Seaside High School baseball coach Joel Dierickx "has been very supportive of it," he added. "It sounds like they're trying to do some improvements here (at Broadway Field). The city of Seaside has some ideas about renovating or re-configuring the field.
"It's a nice summer tourist town, and we'd like to develop a fan base not only in Seaside, but Astoria, Ilwaco, Warrenton, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Knappa ... and bring a product to this part of the coast that hasn't been here."