Medford to host GWL All-Star Game
Calling it a “natural” choice, Great West League president Ken Wilson joined the Medford Rogues on Thursday in announcing that Medford will be the site of his year’s inaugural Great West League All-Star Game July 25-26 at Harry & David Field.
“It is an honor for us to be awarded it,” said Carolyn Birch, acting general manager of the Rogues. “That’s Ken and the league and the board of governors saying we believe that you can really do the first All-Star Game the right way, and we appreciate that.”
“I was part of the one in Victoria in 2013 in our inaugural (West Coast League) season,” she added, “and it’s a lot of fun and really brings something to the city that is special and a unique opportunity, so we’re really excited.”
Birch has taken over as Medford’s acting GM in place of Ian Church, who returned to Florida in the offseason. Birch joined the Rogues one month before the season last year and served as assistant GM while also handling on-field promotions, which was her role with the Victoria HarbourCats.
She was officially named acting GM on Wednesday in a release by Consolidated Sports Holdings International, who own the Rogues. Wilson said it was a welcome move given his ties with Birch through his days as president of the WCL and now as he embarks on his first season as GWL president.
“We’re really happy to have Carolyn here in Medford,” Wilson said during Thursday’s media conference promoting the All-Star Game. “She did a great job last year and is continuing to do a great job. Nobody in our league has more enthusiasm than Carolyn has; she’s a terrific asset.”
Birch said being able to host the inaugural GWL All-Star Game is a feather in the cap for the Rogues, who are joined in the first-year league by the Portland Pickles and California’s Chico Heat, Marysville Gold Sox, Sacramento Stealth and Lodi Crushers.
“I went to a league meeting a couple weeks ago and I couldn’t be more impressed and happy with the group of general managers,” said Birch. “Everybody’s got that general sense of really wanting to build this league and put out a good product and we’re working together to do that.”
“Even though some of the teams are new and the league is new,” she added, “there still is a lot of high-caliber ownership behind the product.”
The biggest benefit to the change in leagues will be lesser travel for the Rogues, who won’t have to endure 16-hour bus rides to Canada and a host of other trips to Washington as they did in the WCL. The 60-game schedule will produce 30 home games over a 10-week period, with each league team visiting the other cities at least twice during the summer.
“We’re real excited about the Great West League,” said Wilson. “I still love the West Coast League. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a terrific league. We’re both doing the same thing. The geography I think for Medford is a little better in the Great West League. We have visions of more teams between Portland and Medford someday.”
As for her role, Birch said she plans on concentrating on providing an affordable fan-friendly experience. Rogues manager Josh Hogan and pitching coach Jeff Lyle will return this summer, with the season opener set June 3 against Portland.
“For me with coach Hogan, the baseball part is his baby,” said Birch. “I certainly have a baseball IQ and I won’t hesitate to tell him what I think, but I pay a coach to run the baseball side of things. He’s experienced with that and my focus is going to be building the entertainment product.”
“I want people to look at the team and say, ‘What are they doing at the park today? I know baseball is happening and I know it’s good baseball and I like that, but what else is going on there?’” she added.
As for the All-Star Game, Birch said she plans on making the event more than just a baseball game featuring standout players from each GWL team.
“I can promise you that it’s going to be more than just an All-Star Game,” she said. “It will include a home run derby, a fan fest and many activities to get all of Medford involved.”
Wilson said players for the game will be selected based on their on-field exploits during the first half of the season as well as through requests of players major league scouts would like to see play in the All-Star Game.
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