Historic Vince Genna Stadium was built in 1964 and later named after its builder - "Mr. Baseball" himself, Vince Genna. High school, American Legion, and semi-professional teams initially utilized the stadium. Professional baseball didn't come to Bend until 1970, when the Bend Rainbows a minor league affiliate of the California Angels, first cam to town. Hollywood actor Kurt Russel played second base for the Rainbows in 1971; he hit .285 and recorded one homerun that season. The Rainbows only played two seasons in Bend - in 1971 they moved to Washington, becoming the Walla Walla Islanders.
In 1978, the Bend Timber Hawks, affiliated with the Oakland Athletics, played a single season at the stadium. The following year, the Philadelphia Phillie's became affiliated with the Northwest League and placed the Central Oregon Phillie's in Bend. Interestingly, they were one of the first minor league teams to title themselves with a regional name versus a city/state name. The Phillie's remained in operation at the stadium until 1987, when they ended their affiliation with the Northwest League.
In 1988, the California Angels came back to Bend with the Bend Bucks; they remained in action through 1990. In 1991, the Colorado Rockies came to town with the Bend Rockies. They stayed for four seasons, leaving after the 1994 season came to an end. That same year, Bend ended its 17 year connection with the Northwest League.
The Western League then placed a team in Vince Genna Stadium during their debut season as a league. The team? The Bend Bandits. The Bandits were not affiliated with any minor league team and called Vince Genna Stadium home until 1998.
Following the exit of the Bandits in 1998, Vince Genna Stadium lay empty. In 2000, the historic stadium was in jeopardy of being bulldozed. The aptly named Save-Our-Stadium Committee went into action, rallying the community behind their efforts. The committee was successful in their quest to keep the ballpark in tact, and Bend Elks owner and general manager Jim Richards signed a multiple year lease with the Bend Parks and Recreation Department to preserve baseball in Bend.
The new club choose to name its team after one of the original semi-professional teams that played in Bend in the early 1900's - the Bend Elks. Johnny Pesky played for the Bend Elks in 1936 and helped win a state title. Pesky signed with the Boston Red Sox and had a marvelous professional career, playing alongside Ted Williams, Dom Dimaggio, and Bobby Doerr.
The summer of 2000 marked the return of baseball to Bend with the debut of the current Bend Elks organization. The Bend Elks began as a semi-professional team, affiliated with the Pacific International League. The Elks played in the Pacific International League from 2000 to 2004. In their final season with the PIL, the Elks won the league championship. Following that season Jim Richards, then General Manager and owner, moved the team to the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League in 2005.
The West Coast League is a NCAA sanctioned wood-bat league and is considered by many to be the Cape Cod league of the West. Teams affiliated with the West Coast League recruit players nationwide and are committed to the development of aspiring professional and student athletes. No collegiate summer league has ever had as many student athletes drafted or alumni who have made it into the Big Leagues so early in its history as the West Coast League. A summer months league, the West Coast League is an outlet of play for college players around the country, who are looking for a place to play where professional scouts come.
The Bend Elks are entering into their 16th season of play at Vince Genna Stadium and have been a dynamic force in the league play since inception. The Elks have had 3 West Coast League Batting Champions: Eric Sogard (2006 - Arizona State University), Drew Heid (2008 - Gonzaga University), and Tommy Richards (2010 - Washington State University). The Bend Elks organization has seen 57 of its players go on to play professional baseball. Three of which have gone on to the Major Leagues: Brian Barden of the Arizona Diamondbacks (2000 - Oregon State), Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox (2002 - Oregon State), and Eric Sogard of the Oakland Athletics (2006 - Arizona State University).
Baseball is a part of our history in Bend. And today? Today, its good old-fashioned baseball brought to you by the Bend Elks Baseball Club. So come on out to the ballpark where the crack of the bat followed by that electrifying roar from the crowd, will bring you back to the Glory Days.