The Bellingham Bells opened up their 2019 season with an almost entirely new roster.
The Bells are a summer collegiate, wood bat baseball team and a member of the West Coast League. They compete in a 57-game season lasting through June, July and August. The team plays their home games at the Joe Martin Field and compete with other WCL teams in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
Jim Clem, pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, has been coaching the Bells for nine years. Clem is in charge of searching out players and putting the roster together for the season.
The Bells have gained about 25 new players for the upcoming season and have four returners.
“We have approximately 16 pitchers and 14 positions players, so a roster of 30 players,” Clem said. “You can see it’s almost an entirely new team.”
Clem said that it isn’t unusual for the Bells to turn over an entire roster, and that it’s an important thing to do. He also said the team usually keeps around five to six players for the next year that they see as leaders who will help the next year’s team be successful.
“The thought has been that we give the majority of the roster an opportunity to come to Bellingham and experience something that’s very unique to anywhere else they could be,” Clem said.
Clem said the Bells is a team that means more than just playing baseball. He said playing for the Bells is an experience players never forget.
“It’s a great chance to see a different part of the world and be a part of an organization that is ran first class,” he said.
General manager Stephanie Morrell oversees all of the day-to-day operations within the Bellingham Bells along with a couple of other members on staff. Morrell helps Clem with the recruiting process and bringing new players to Bellingham.
Morrell said last season for the Bells went well. They won both halves of their season, making them the first seed for the playoffs.
“We had a really talented team, very good pitching staff, good defense, some guys who could really hit and a good group of guys that worked well together,” Morrell said.
She also said last year’s team had four all-stars, several players named to the All West Coast League teams and the prospect of the year was a Bellingham Bell. As well as having a team of award-winning players, the Bells also received the sportsmanship award that was voted by the other teams in the league.
“Overall a really great season and we are really encouraged by our first year with coach Miller,” Morrell said. “We’re excited and we think we have a really good roster this year.”
Head coach Bob Miller is going into his second season heading up the Bells. Miller said he is still looking for his standout players this season his roster is almost entirely new.
“The one great thing about a summer team like this is that we have players coming from situations where they haven’t played very much versus some that have played quite a bit,” Miller said. “So when they get their opportunity to play on the field every day, some guys really blossom and take off.”
Miller said he and his coaching staff are really looking forward to the season getting underway and giving all players the availability to play. Miller also said this year’s team has a great amount of talent.
“We are working on developing each and every player and becoming a better team each and every day,” Miller said.
Both Miller and Clem said the Bells don’t have a specific rival to watch out for since most teams can change each year. Miller also mentioned that their sole focus isn’t on their opponents, but bettering their own team.
“The Bells have a fantastic reputation not just in the Northwest league but throughout college baseball,” he said.
Some of the alumni from the Bells include Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jake Locker and Omar Vizquel. A big portion of Bells players go on to play professional baseball all over the country.
Returning player Justin Armbruester is one of the pitchers for the Bells and plays at Pacific Lutheran University. Armbruester has been playing since he was five years old and is originally from Sammamish, Washington.
“I started my Bells career last summer and was brought onto the team as a 10-day player. After a lot of hard work, the coaches told me that they would like me to stay on the team for the rest of the summer,” he said.
Armbruester said his summer playing with the Bells was a dream and he was honored to be named to the WCL All-Star team as well as being second-team all WCL. He also finished second in the league for most strikeouts.
After college, Armbruester said his goal is to be drafted in the MLB in June 2020 and see how far he can go.
“This season on the Bells I look forward to all the fun times that summer baseball brings with it - bus rides, meeting longtime friends from around the country, and playing baseball under the lights every night,” he said.