For the Love of the Game hires former pro ballplayer to run day-to-day operations at KLL Park

Corey Paul will oversee scheduling of fields and maintenance of Keizer Little League Park (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

After the Keizer City Council granted management of Keizer Little Park to For the Love of the Game, the nonprofit officially hired Corey Paul to run the day-to-day operations at the facility.

The Vancouver, Wash. resident will be the lone full-time employee of For the Love of the Game. He will oversee scheduling of fields and maintenance of the park.

“We interviewed a few folks, but Corey was always the top choice in our minds, just because of his background and all of his baseball experience,” said Mavericks League CEO and For the Love of the Game founder Mickey Walker. “He has kind of been at every level of baseball, so having that kind of experience, especially when it comes to a complex like this, is going to be invaluable.”

Prior to his experience in managing facilities, Paul was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 16th round of the 1987 MLB Draft. He spent four years in the Mariners system where he shared an outfield with Ken Griffey Jr. while playing for Bellingham — the organization that would later become the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes when Mavericks League owner Jerry Walker moved the franchise in 1997.

Paul says that the relationship he formed with Jerry Walker more than 30 years ago was the catalyst for why he was selected to run the complex.

“It’s a unique opportunity, and I really appreciate Jerry for selecting me. For me, it’s about being visible. What makes me a good fit for this opportunity is because we have a legacy together. His reputation and legacy and experience through baseball is being community oriented,” Paul said. “I’m glad I still get to be a part of a baseball community. It doesn’t matter if it’s a half-block away or halfway around the world. I want to represent the community as best as I can.”

Paul was out of baseball for four seasons before returning in 1995 to play in the independent Western League until 1998. He then played professionally in Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan until 2005. He then returned to independent ball before retiring as a player in 2005 — which was the same year Paul started Northwestern Baseball Academy, a high school and college prep program for baseball and softball players.

Paul also spent time coaching and scouting in Taiwan and Japan.

His first experience with organizing tournaments and managing fields began in Sherman Park in Canada, working with the parks and recreation department to help with lawn care and manicuring fields. Paul had a similar job in Vancouver, Wash., where he would coordinate camps and maintain facilities.

Paul believes that his past experience will be beneficial as he begins his new gig. 

“The routine isn’t much different. We had to manage eight fields and make sure they were manicured and taken care of,” Paul said.

Currently, Paul is in the winterization process at Keizer Little League Park, preparing the fields for ballplayers’ return in March.

“There are plenty of things to do around here, it’s just a matter of putting the ducks in the pond,” Paul said.

One of the aspects of the job that Paul is most looking forward to is seeing youth players learn and grow. But he also is hoping to receive feedback from parents and community members on what he could do to help the park run better.

“I just want to be on the field everyday and see players transform and get better. I want to be around the facility often because I will kind of be the face of this place,” Paul said. “I want to be visible, available and responsive to the needs of the city,”

With the City of Keizer agreeing to a 10-year contract with For the Love of the Game, Mickey Walker has high hopes of one day bringing turf to the complex. Paul, on the other hand, has even bigger aspirations, including exploring the possibility of one day bringing a dome to the complex — yes, you read that right.

“Shoot for the moon. I don’t know if it’s feasibility or timing. But if you have a community that is that committed, there’s no reason it can’t happen. I think it would definitely add value to Keizer and Salem,” Paul said. “I want to have facilities people will appreciate.

“I have been to a number of places throughout the world where facilities had a dome stadium. It doesn’t get any better. You can do all kinds of things, RV shows, concerts, even football.”

Paul says that there would have to be some large donors that make the dream of a dome into a reality, but the benefits of a world class facility would be immense.

“If we could gain that kind of status in this neighborhood, I think we should definitely look into it,” Paul said.

Regardless if he can fulfill some ambitious dreams, Paul’s main focus is to make Keizer Little League Park a positive place for kids, regardless of age or skill-level.

“We want to create an atmosphere and experience for these players,” Paul said. “I think it’s only fair that we put out something that will be pleasing to people. We’re going to be optimistic and put everything we can into it.”

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]