September 6, 2010

Bring Baseball Back

Posted in Baseball, Blue Oregon at 9:23 am by Nova Newcomer

Originally posted on BlueOregon.com.

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:

  • We didn’t come to buy anything and
  • We never leave a game early.

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.

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