Not an official Major League Baseball Minor League Team, the Bend Elks are what is known as a "collegiate wood bat team," a league comprised of college prospects looking for an extra opportunity to get noticed, and ultimately drafted, by major league teams.
Leagues like the West Coast League are filled with a dozen teams from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, like the Grants Pass Nuggets and the Medford Rogues. The schedule is as brisk as the major leagues—and that is the point, to give major league scouts a glimpse at how the college kids play under more major league-like conditions.
"Scouts are able to watch them play every day, instead of a few days a week like in college," General Manager Chuck Heeman for the Medford Rogue explains. "The schedule (65 games in 72 days) is patterned after the minor leagues; plus, like the majors, our players only use wooden bats."
"For players it's basically like a summer-long job interview," continues Heeman, estimating that of the 30 players who play on each team, 25 are attempting to play in the majors—and, he adds, a remarkable three-quarters are good enough to do so.
The team is particularly strong at the Pete Rose/Kevin Costner position of catcher, led by Salem native Cole Ferguson, a four-year starter and letter winner at North Salem High, with a solid .450, 16 HRs and 148 RBIs; no wonder he was named league player of the year his junior year and all-state during his senior year. In the four years since, he has continued to mature, first at Western Nevada and currently Southeast Missouri State, helping to anchor his team to an eighth-place finish at the Junior College World Series. Ferguson is backed by Seattle University freshman Sam Finfer, a solid hitter (.486 his senior year at Interlake High School). He was so impressive his senior year, he was drafted in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB Entry Draft by the LA Dodgers.
The team also includes a wide reaching bullpen (19 total!), including players from nearby colleges, like Oregon State pitcher Philip Belding and a potential up-and-comer, Lewis & Clark College freshman pitcher, JT Kaul.
Bend Elks, first home game
Fri., June 6
Vince Genna Stadium
401 SE Roosevelt