Bums in seats are required for the Kamloops NorthPaws to begin play this summer in the West Coast League baseball ranks.
The club’s expansion season will be postponed until 2022 if pandemic-related restrictions do not allow for at least 1/3 capacity (about 500 fans) at Norbrock Stadium, according to co-owner Jon Pankuch.
“I don’t know if we can do it with anything less than that,” Pankuch told KTW. “The fan component is a huge part of this [business] model and how it works.”
Pankuch said Kamloops ownership has until the second or third week of April to make its decision on the 2021 campaign, which gets underway in June.
“That has a lot to do with the kids we have on contract,” Pankuch said. “If we don’t know if we can have a season, we owe it to those kids to release them from their contracts and be able play somewhere south of the border.”
The team is operating as if opening day is June 4, when the NorthPaws are slated to begin league play against the hometown Yakima Valley Pippins.
"We have to," Pankuch said. "There are just so many moving parts and pieces to put together."
Pankuch said league owners are scheduled to begin weekly meetings on March 15, the virtual gatherings a chance to exchange information and provide COVID-19 updates on the league’s four regions — Oregon, Washington state, B.C. and Alberta.
“I want to get our inaugural season under our belt,” Pankuch said. “I want people to be able to see the talent that’s going to be on the field and what we are going to offer at Norbrock Stadium.
“If we are allowed to have it where people are socially distanced within the stadium and safely in and out, we’re willing to do that.”
Two more NCAA Division One players have joined the NorthPaws’ roster in time for the 2021 WCL season, both of whom toil for the Oregon State University Beavers.
Sophomore outfielder Wade Meckler of Yorba Linda, Calif., and freshman utility player Brady Kasper of Mission Viejo, Calif., were introduced in a club press release on Friday.
“We’re fortunate to have guys from a program like Oregon State,” NorthPaws’ head coach Cole Armstrong said in the press release. “We want to create a winning culture in Kamloops and it starts with bringing in players who know how to win.”
There are 25 players listed on Kamloops’ roster online at northpawsbaseball.ca.