Ryan Wright’s to-do list might seem a little daunting these days.
As new coach of the Kelowna Falcons, Wright didn’t even have his full team in place before playing his first game on Tuesday night.
“It’s fun for me just getting my first taste of the West Coast League,” he said. “It’s all about development and getting guys better and working as one. … It’s a different experience, but it’s a fun experience.”
Wright and the Falcons (1-2) won their opener 4-2 over the Bellingham Bells in 10 innings.
They dropped the rematch 6-2 on Wednesday before playing the rubber match on Thursday in Washington State, a 3-1 loss.
They will return home tonight to face the Ridgefield Raptors at Elks Stadium in their first home game of the WCL season.
“Returnees are really excited,” Wright said. “(They’re) just kind of filling in the new guys with the crowd that gets put in (Elks Stadium) opening night. We’re really excited. We’re just hoping to get in and repeat an opening series win for the home fans just like we did in Bellingham.”
Kelowna has reached the WCL final two of the past four seasons. They’re returning as many as nine veterans from 2018, and have a team general manager Mark Nonis called one of the most talented he’s every assembled.
That doesn’t make Wright’s job any easier, however.
While the WCL season is 54 games and runs from June to August, it’s always a challenge to field a competitive roster with players from across the continent on different schedules.
Some players come early, but leave early, while others come late and — well, they might leave early, too.
The league is for college kids to continue playing in the summer, but they are often faced with strict schedules and instructions from their school teams.
“The big focus within the first couple weeks is our guys getting in and getting to know one another, playing with one another,” Wright said, “and building that team camaraderie.”
The Falcons expect between six and eight more players to join the squad within three weeks.
Wright arrived here May 31 and held a three-day camp with a “decent majority of the team in town.”
“I like what we got. I’ve seen some really good stuff on the pitching end of things. We got two quality starts from Blake Tritch and Jonathan Clark and our bullpen in Game 1 really came out and filled up the zone.”
Because the WCL uses wood bats (to simulate the pro game) compared to aluminum bats in U.S. colleges, hitting can take some adjustments.
“There’s some guys at the plate who are really standing out as well, so overall impression is good, but we just need to keep evaluating over the next couple of weeks and see where we’re at,” said the manager.
Coming into Elks tonight are the Ridgefield Raptors, an expansion club. That won’t mean any easy victories, however. Most teams start each summer season needing to fill plenty of holes in the roster.
“(College) coaches are looking to send guys to the West Coast League just because of its reputation,” Wright said. “I fully expect them to have a quality roster with good players.”
The Falcons will have a four-day break after facing Ridgefield, giving Wright time to build more of that chemistry.
In his second year managing summer ball, Wright tries to keep his approach simple.
“Like we tell the guys, ‘take it day by day, stay pitch to pitch.’ It’s all about competing within that game. Don’t look on to June 20 when you’ve got to go home or what your innings’ limits is, or that we’ve got a new group of guys coming in. Just take it game by game and we’ll go from there.”
Game time tonight is 6:35 p.m., and admission is free.
Follow Dave Trifunov on Twitter @da_trif