Bring Baseball Back

Nova Newcomer

...as I round those bases with my son one last time, I will take comfort that baseball is still alive in Portland in the t-ball leagues, the little leagues, the legion teams....

Today, I will walk through the gates at PGE Park (formerly my beloved Civic Stadium) for the last time for a baseball game.

As a young fan, I remember going with my dad to the games. He would park pretty far away above the Pearl before it was the Pearl and we would walk what seemed like AGES to the park, just so we didn't have to pay for parking. And my dad would buy the General Admission tickets, which hovered around or under $5 then. He had just two rules when attending sporting events:

And we could have about 5 hours of entertainment (watching batting practice and all) for just about $10, not counting the gas.

But I didn't just spend time at the ballpark as a fan. My first job was with the Portland Beavers in 1993. Portland baseball fans will remember this was the last time the Beavers left Portland. I was one of the zombie baseball fans who wandered aimlessly through the 1994 season with no baseball in Portland and (mostly) no Major League Baseball due to a strike.

When the Rockies came to town in the summer of 1995, I had to be a part of the excitement. I spent two fabulous summers working for the Rockies -- the first year in souvenirs and the second as an intern doing in-game promotion and a segment on the daily Rockies Report on a local radio station. It was the time of my life. I still remember the rain-delay game in the 1995 season when Jack Cain told me I could go down to the booth and announce the batters for the inning. This then-aspiring sports broadcaster took the mic for the first time behind home plate at Civic Stadium.

And later as a media relations intern for the now-defunct Portland State baseball team, I would announce, keep score and sing the seventh-inning stretch over those loudspeakers every home game. (I had to endure the loss of the Portland State baseball team as well after the 1998 season.) You see, my coming of age happened at this ballpark, which is what makes it so hard for me to imagine it without baseball.

But, of course, my coming of age story and those of the countless other Beaver baseball fans in Portland weren't enough to save this latest dance with the Portland Beavers. I remember coming back triumphantly in the 2001 season -- I still have my commemorative opening day ball. I thought that baseball was again here to stay, though I have to admit I was then at a stage in my life and career when baseball had taken a backseat and I didn't attend very many games.

Over the last couple of years since having my son, I didn't go to any games. This was the summer that I was going to introduce my son, who is 2 and a half, to baseball -- Portland Beaver baseball. In March, the news came that the deal for Major League Soccer had been made and that the Beavers no longer had a home. After failed attempts at finding a location and a deal for a new minor league park, the message was soon clear -- the Beavers were not going to be staying in Portland. And so the season started and instead of racing to the park to take in every second that was left, I stayed away. I couldn't face it. I couldn't introduce my son to something that wouldn't be here next year. Some people might call it disloyal. Some people may say I'm a bad fan. I just call it heartbroken.

Baseball in Portland has a storied history and has provided affordable entertainment for families for decades. From Vaughn Street Park to Civic Stadium; from the Jantzen Lady to the recently-grown outfield ivy; from the birds in the rafters to the old press box behind home plate where I spent many days and nights; from the likes of Eddie Basinski to Ad Liska to the homerun hitter of my youth Bernardo Brito -- a piece of our history once again flickers out tomorrow.

I know this isn't a typical topic for a post on Blue Oregon, but I felt it was important to mark this moment. I know that frontline services are what need our attention now and we need to be creative and innovative about how we jumpstart our economy here so we can put Oregonians back to work. Worrying about baseball seems like a frivolous distraction. But when it seems appropriate and not a misguided use of scarce resources, I hope that we will look once again at the prospect of baseball for this town. It took the support of policymakers to make the Major League Soccer deal happen. If baseball is to ever return to our fair town, it will take the a committed business partner, the will of our local elected officials and a group of dedicated fans to make it happen.

Farewell to Baseball in Portland Once more

*"Empty Seats at PGE Park", Photo by Sage Corson, Portland Sportsman

Today, I will be at the game surrounded by friends and family and my son to pay homage to the weary Portland Beavers. I wanted our group name on the sign at the park tomorrow to be "Bring Baseball Back" but dubbed too controversial, I settled for the equally-yearning "Beavers Fans Forever." And after the game, as I round those bases with my son one last time, I will take comfort that baseball is still alive in Portland in the t-ball leagues, the little leagues, the legion teams, the high school teams and in the baseball and softball programs at Oregon's colleges and universities.

And I will promise to my son that I will work to make sure he will have a hometown team to sing the 7th inning stretch for again soon.

Comments

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    I know this isn't a typical topic for a post on Blue Oregon, but I felt it was important to mark this moment.

    It's a great post for BlueOregon. Thank you.

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    Beautifully written. I feel your ache for baseball. I'm a big supporter of getting MLB to Portland. Have fun at the game, and keep hoping!!

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    Nova

    As a lifelong baseball fan, I feel your pain but fully understand why the Beavers are leaving. I moved here from Durham, NC where the stands were filled all summer. The first season we were here, we went to a few Beavers games and saw the mainly empty stands and unenthusiastic fans. I think I've been to only a few games since in my ten years here.

    Contrast that with the Timbers games that I've attended and the fan interest and excitement is huge.

    Portland is just not a sports town, that's the long and short of it for me. The summer is too short and too cold--no one wants to attend a baseball game in 50 degree rainy weather. The other recreational alternatives are too many.

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      Portland is just not a sports town, that's the long and short of it for me.

      I have to disagree Paul. I don't think Portland is a bad sports town at all. For one, it's amazing to me how many people around Portland and the state in general passionately follow the Blazers. Having grown up in Minnesota, I rarely if ever saw any particularly committed Timberwolves fans, even when Kevin Garnett was on the team and they were in the playoffs almost every year. Similarly, the level of intensity with which people follow the Beavers and Ducks during the college football season far exceeds what you would find pretty much anywhere outside of the South.

      I think that the sports culture here is defined by the fact that the Blazers are the only major league team in town. Would Portland be such a basketball town if there was, say, an NFL team here? I honestly doubt it. People like watching athletes compete at the highest level. The fact that the Beavers are a minor league team hurts them in a number of ways. The quality of play is much lower than in MLB, and let's face it, a bad baseball game is hard to watch, arguably more so than a bad game in many other sports. Plus, as soon as any player starts having a good season, you know they're going to be called up to the Majors, especially when they're affiliated with a team like the Padres. That makes it really hard to get attached to the team, especially when the Padres are thousands of miles away, if they were affiliated with the Mariners that would at least be an improvement.

      I am a diehard Minnesota Twins fan, and I love baseball. But I've been to more MLB games this summer (3 total, 2 Twins games in Seattle and 1 Dodgers game in LA) than I've been to Beavers games in my 5 years in Portland (2 total, and then only the 2nd time because I got free luxury box tickets). Between the nonexistent crowds and the terrible play on the field, it's just not that appealing to me. On the other hand if Portland had a major league team, if perhaps the A's were to move to Portland if the league shoots down their San Jose proposal, I'd probably be going to 20-30 games a season. I know plenty of other people who feel the same way, and I really think that a MLB team in Portland would be far more successful than the Beavers.

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    It's sad to think there won't be a baseball team here anymore. The story goes was that I was almost born at a Beavers game....my mom's water broke while she was watching them play. And I'm sure there are thousands of more stories like mine. They will be missed.

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    The Padres having their Triple A club in Escondido CA is brilliant for them. My dad had house there for a few years. It's perfect spot for them.

    Huge CA counties make it possible have a farm club on the opposite side of the same county. North County is separated enough from the city to have it's own ID. They'll support that them too.

    Sorry.

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    I'm 62 and I used to listen to the Portland Beaver baseball games in the 50s and 60s on the radio. I really enjoyed that and rooted for individual players. Some really good players went on to play in the majors. The Pacific Coast League used to have some great baseball. In fact the San Diego Padres were originally a Pacific Coast League team.

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    Pro baseball will be back in PDX before too long- the market is too large for the minor leagues too ignore for too long.

    At least I hope it's one of the minor leagues that will refield a team here, as I took a trip to Safeco this Summer to see the Chi Cubbies- great stadium, great game, but...$65 apiece for seats in the upper section of the field-level! And I think the "cheap" seats are around $30 apiece. And I hear the prices at the new Yankee Stadium are multiples of what they are at Safeco.

    I grew up walking to Anaheim Stadium in the late '60s- it was $1.75 for the cheap seats, then. For Major League American League ball.

    These current prices are way beyond any inflation correlation as relates to the last 40 years.

    Anyway, sad to see the Beavers go.

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    Nova, thanks for the story, you are a true fan. I moved here from a town down south (way down south!) where as a kid i would see my beloved Dodgers during the glory days of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, and when I brought my family to Portland in '93 we were very happy to find the local team(s) and enjoyed many games at Civic Stadium/PGE Park. We thought about attend a final game but I could not face giving another dollar to Merritt Paulson. I'll just live with the happy memories until one day baseball returns to Portland. I hope the boys do well in their next home.

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    There's a very good article in the New York Times today about public stadium finances, how New Jersey taxpayers are still paying millions for the old Giants Stadium even though it's now a parking lot.

    Sports team owners, the real billionaire boys club, use our love of the game to leverage huge subsidies and avoid anti-trust regulations.

    I suppose I should feel sad that we have lost a mediocre and badly marketed product, um, I mean team... but I don't. And I am not going to bash any officials who didn't buy into Merrit's schemes (notice how the Beaver's marketing suddenly got off life support when there were public dollars to be had...) I love baseball. I used to go to ten Giants games a year in SF, and take BART to see the A's (their hotdogs rule!). I'd go to see the Sacramento River Cats when I worked the legislature, and was amazed at the packed house every time. So, Portland, good luck attracting a new team. Be careful what you wish for, you could get something like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who make far more money losing than they would if they put a good team on the field. Don't give away the farm, play hardball, lead with your cleats.

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    Thanks for the info., Nick Wirth. $7 is a great bargain for big-league ball.

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