Play Ball: Visalia Rawhide ready for 2021 season at Valley Strong Ballpark

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Visalia Rawhide were riding high after their 2019 championship win.

New ownership took over a few months later, and the team was excited to debut its new video board to fans for the 2020 season.

But then the pandemic took hold of the country.

"March came and everything changed and everything really kind of flipped over on its head right away," Visalia Rawhide Owner and President Sam Sigal said.

The Rawhide didn't play a single game in 2020.

Minor League Baseball officially announced the season's cancellation on June 30th.

"It was tough," Visalia Rawhide Broadcasting Director Jill Gearin said. "I mean, this is a huge part of the community here in Visalia. This is one of the only family-friendly activities that you can go to 60, 70 times throughout the year, so I think it's tough for us to not be able to feel as connected to the community like we were able to."

But baseball is back in 2021. The Rawhide's home opener is one week away.

Fans won't have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, but masks will be required.

In Tulare County, baseball games can operate at 33% capacity.

So fans will see some seats with zip ties.

"It's going to be assigned seating, just to make everything a little bit more safe, socially-distanced," Gearin said. "We really want to work with the county and major league baseball to make sure everyone is safe and comfortable here."

Earlier this year, the Rawhide announced their affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks had been extended through the 2030 season.

On Tuesday, the team revealed that Valley Strong Credit Union acquired naming rights for its ballpark.

"They have expanded into this community and they've embraced the community," Sigal said. "I mean a name in 2021 to be Valley Strong, that's perfect regardless. And to be able to partner with them is something really exciting, not just for us, but I really do think this community."

The rebranding to Valley Strong Ballpark will take place over the course of the season.

Rawhide officials say by 2022, there will be no more sign of the former name, Recreation Ballpark.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.