Category Archives: san diego padres affiliates

Ballparks currently used by minor league affiliates of the San Diego Padres.

The Diamond, Lake Elsinore, California

The Diamond, Lake Elsinore, CALIFORNIA

Number of states:  13
States to go:  37

Number of games:  1
April 7, 2006 (Lake Elsinore Storm 3, Lancaster JetHawks 1)

Update August 2008:  To see Storm Account Executive David McCrory’s jaw-droppingly unprofessional email response to this ballpark review, scroll down.

(Click any image to see in a larger size.)

It all comes down to a conversation I had at the gift shop.  I went to this game alone, which mean I was carrying my scorebook as I purchased my mini-bat to add to my Wall Of Minor League Mini-Bats.  God as my witness, the saleswoman uttered the following:

“Are you a scout?”

This is sick and wrong on so many levels.  Let me count the ways:  First, why the hell would a scout buy a mini-bat?  Beyond

that, I cannot come up with any reason why a scout would even enter the gift shop.  So why did she ask me if I was a scout?  It had to be the scorebook.  She assumed that a scorebook meant I was a scout.  I believe that she had never noticed a fan carrying a scorebook before.

And why would anyone bother taking a scorebook to The Diamond at Lake Elsinore?  I see no reason why, because baseball is unimportant at this ballpark.  In spite of all of the positive things I’d heard about it, I was not at all impressed with this night at the ballpark.

Yes, I know.  I like promotions at the ballpark, and more promotions at the lower levels than at the higher levels.  But at Lake Elsinore, the promotions actually crossed the line and

interfered with the baseball.  For reasons I cannot fathom, they made April 7 a St. Patrick’s Day promotion.  They changed the baselines and bases to green.  They put either an “O” or a “Mc” in front of everyone’s name on the scoreboard.  This ranged from the confusing (since I missed player introductions and didn’t buy a program for a few innings, there was no reason why Skip Adams couldn’t actually be Skip McAdams) to the ludicrous and borderline-offensive, as in the photo here.  Often, the music and promotional crap distracted the PA announcer, who frequently would fail to announce a batter or a fielding change until after a few pitches had already been thrown.  That is completely unacceptable.  Get your promotions out of the way and do your primary job!

Seriously.  I’m not incapable of having fun.  I love “Bark at the Park” night at Everett Memorial Stadium.  I’m into trivia, silliness, and even bizarre behavior between innings.  I like Bill Veeck.  But once the inning begins, leave the game alone!  Don’t touch the field, and don’t touch the players’ names.  To do so is to send the message that baseball is of secondary or even tertiary importance to the night.  If it were, why bother having a team?  Why not just invite a couple of thousand people over 72 nights a year for themed parties?

The atmosphere of baseball-is-not-important trickles

down to every part of the park.  In addition to gift-shop workers who assume that one must be a scout to carry a scorebook, just consider the grassy hill by the right field foul pole.  Alone, this is a positive.  I imagine people hanging out on blankets, picnicking, enjoying the game, maybe throwing a ball around.  I imagine kids running around, too, burning off some steam.  At Lake Elsinore, what we have instead are kids constantly either rolling down the hill, running up the hill, or whaling on each other.  I have three siblings, so I know violence is a base component of any family, but what I saw on that hill was akin to Lord of the Flies.  I saw exactly one kid in the stands (more on him later), but dozens on the hill.  That’s right…families of Southern California had taken their kids to the ballpark where almost none of them watched baseball.

The park is lovely in architecture…nice tan bricks,

red seats, green roof.  The scoreboard is high quality for single-A ball.  The gift shop, the external concourse, the ad-covered monster wall in right field which includes a hand-operated scoreboard…all were very nice.  The Diamond’s location is far enough outside of L.A.’s endless, boring, monotonous suburbs that it’s lovely–near the actual Lake Elsinore and some mountains.  With other people running the team, I might have enjoyed this park, but I’m afraid I couldn’t see through the entire night of silliness…the Irish crap on the field, the obese guy in spandex throwing out T-shirts, the constant assault and battery on the lawn, the indifference of the scorer and PA announcer…all of it was too much to overlook.

What I’ll remember most from this night is the Storm’s Colt Morton

and a youngster sitting two seats to my left.  I’ve been keeping track of Colt since he had a big night in Eugene two years back.  I thought he might be a stud in the making, and I especially liked the fact that a guy named Colt wore #45.  He’s been promoted to high-A since then.  He’s switched to #41, alas.  But I like him a lot more now than I did before I saw him at The Diamond because of the way he interacted with the little kid nearby.  This was the second game of the year, and Colt stepped out before his first at-bat and gave the kid a really warm greeting.  “Hey!  Where were you last night?  I went 0-for-3!”  The kid absolutely ate it up, and all of us shouted “Go, Colt!” to get the kid to join us.  Colt even let the kid hold his bat’s donut between innings at one point.  It made for a very nice vibe around where I was sitting.

Even with that nice moment, however, I can’t say I was impressed with The Diamond.  I’d be interested to go back someday if the team were under new management who cared a little about baseball…who recognized that you don’t have to be a scout to pay attention.  When that happens, I’ll probably like the place better.

UPDATE AUGUST 2008: I get fairly consistent emails based on what I write on this site.  Sometimes I receive interesting remarks from people in the front office of minor league teams (such as the nice guys from Tennessee or Everett).  Occasionally I’ll get rage-filled notes from people with anger management problems who take things like frivolous ballpark websites too seriously.

But never before had I received a combination: a rage-filled email from a minor league front-office worker with anger management problems.  I present, verbatim, an email I received from David McCrory, a Storm account executive.

Subject: Storm Baseball

Hey Jerkoff,
I am the obese guy in the spandex throwing out t-shirts,
only it isn’t spandex, it’s red tights, part of the
Mr. Incredible costume which the kids and families really
enjoy if you bothered to look around you, and I wasn’t
throwing out t-shirts they were frisbees, so obviously you
have your facts wrong and you should probably spend more
time paying attention to detail. Now I can see why you need
a scorecard in the first place, you have the mental capacity
of a first-grader.
It’s OK though because we have your picture now and
we are going to have a ball this season making you look
like the complete MORON you are. Stay tuned for more.

Mr. McCrory correctly points out that I made a couple of mistakes on this page–from a distance in the night, I could not tell that he was wearing tights rather than spandex, or that he was throwing out frisbees rather than T-shirts.  If that’s a lack of “attention to detail,” well, I’m guilty, although, unlike the Storm, I try to focus on baseball-related details while at the ballpark.

However, let us consider the way that Mr. McCrory and the Storm’s GM and President (all of whom ignored my request for an explanation for McCrory’s behavior) feel it is appropriate to do business.  They either practice or condone the following behaviors:

1.  To address former customers who disagree with them as “Jerkoff.”
2.  To question those customers’ educational attainment (and to do so in a run-on sentence).
3.  To state that those who score the game are doing so because they are mentally challenged.
4.  To insult those customers three times in a 120-word email (“Jerkoff,” “mental capacity of a first-grader,” and “MORON.”)
5.  Perhaps most alarmingly, to insinuate that they have memorized a dissatisfied customer’s physical appearance and to threaten to humiliate that customer should he ever again appear at The Diamond.

Mr. McCrory’s threats don’t matter to me, since I don’t like the overbearing show the Storm puts on and therefore am very unlikely to return until their product indicates that they value baseball as more than a promotions transference device.  But still, I think it’s good that people see that the Storm’s front office apparently finds emails like this to be appropriate and acceptable.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
Nice views.

Charm:  2/5
I like the physical ballpark, but anyone who tries this hard cannot possibly be considered charming.

Spectacle: 1/5
While I like a lot of promotions in single-A ball, this was overdone to the point of disgusting.

Team mascot/name:  2/5


Thunder, a Phillie Phanatic ripoff with a boring name, gives me a little love.  This is yet another thing the team got wrong.  The mascot used to be named Hamlet, which is perfect for Lake Elsinore (am I right, fellow English teachers?).  But no, they managed to screw this up by changing the name to Thunder, which mostly makes me think of flatulence.

Aesthetics:  4.5/5
Can’t deny that this is a lovely place.

Pavilion area: 4 /5

Scoreability:  1/5
Seriously, if I can’t trust them to tell me the batter on time, how can I trust them with anything of import?  Also, intentionally putting wrong names up was more confusing than funny.

Fans:  1.5/5
Memo to Storm fans:  There is baseball being played.  You might enjoy watching it.  (The cool kid who was friends with Colt bumps up this score.)

Intangibles:  0/5
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I spent most of the night annoyed at the ballpark’s wasted potential.  And to be called names by a member of the front office…well, that’s just so over the line that it’s comical.

TOTAL:  23.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Storm’s Chase Headley was the hero, driving in the winning runs with a double in the bottom of the eighth.

A.J. Shappi pitched beautifully for Lancaster, striking out 8 in 6 innings.

Tri-Cities Stadium/Dust Devils Stadium/Gesa Stadium, Pasco, Washington

Tri-Cities Stadium/Dust Devils Stadium/Gesa Stadium, Pasco, WASHINGTON

Number of states: still 5
States to go:  45
Number of games:  5
First game:  July 7, 2004 (Everett AquaSox 16, Tri-City Dust Devils 4)
Most recent game:  August 3, 2017 (Tri-City Dust Devils 8, Boise Hawks 7, 11 innings)

Stadium was called Tri-Cities Stadium in 2004, Dust Devils Stadium for my second visit, and Gesa Stadium now.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

What might have been…Michelle the Girlfriend worked for this franchise for a couple of years, overseeing its 2001 move from Portland.  And I was all set to head out there during the summer of 2002 to serve as a general dog’s-body for the organization. 

(Michelle said she was considering using me as official scorer until they found someone who could do it more regularly, then having me pinch-hit wherever I was needed for the rest of the summer.)  But, alas, Michelle left the Dust Devils before the season began and moved to Seattle with me.  Oh well…lose summer employment, but gain Michelle the Girlfriend’s constant presence.

If anyone ever asks you what public relations staff must do for a minor-league team, keep in mind (and this I never knew) that one of the duties is to dress as the mascot for winter appearances.  This makes The Dust Devil (who technically  does not have a name, although I was encouraged by Tri-City staffers to call him “Dusty”) was, when my girlfriend was in the costume, the sexiest mascot in the United States and Canada.  But take a look at that thing…what IS it?  A dust devil, I know, but does it look at all like one?  The nickname of Dust Devils is a fine nickname, and totally appropriate (I walked through

a few on the way to the ballpark, and a good number of them popped up on the field during the game).  But this thing doesn’t look like much of anything, and on top of that, it’s got to be difficult to walk around in that getup.

The ballpark itself is nice.  Not a standout. It’s a part of the local recreational complex, and is therefore surrounded by a billion soccer and  softball fields.  I took my customary walk around the ballpark before play began, and saw people taking softball batting practice on the soccer fields, which, come to think of it, would be a fine place to take a catch before the game.  Also, if you wanted to attend the game for free, please note that on this night, not one but two gates along the left field wall were open.  One led directly onto the field (kinda hard to get in that way) but the other actually led to the seats.  Not that I advocate this kind of thing, but it would have been

very, very easy to walk right in–nobody watching and a gate already open.

The Dust Devils might consider letting people in for free, actually, since their attendance has been quite low in their four years of existence.  I’m told it can be stiflingly hot even for evening games (please note that the third-base side is the sunny side).  But this July night was unseasonably cool, so the dust-devil winds not only kicked up dirt but made it  a chilly, unpleasant night.  Very few fans were there for the first inning, and after an awful night of baseball (7 errors, 3 by the Tri-Cities in the seventh inning, and a 14-0 Everett lead at one point), there was more or less nobody left but me.  The day started quiet like a bookstore, but ended quiet like a tomb.

The ballpark was huge–335 down the lines.  I’ve not seen a game with so many Texas League doubles and backpedaling middle infielders in my life.  I haven’t looked up the stadium’s history to see if it’s always been that large, but my guess is that they’ll

certainly keep it that way as long as the Dust Devils are a Rockies affiliate.  Coors Field is that large as well, and those young outfielders need to practice patrolling all that real estate.

The Tri-Cities workers did their best to keep everyone involved and active.  Erik the Peanut Guy had a microphone on him, and the PA announcer would kick it down to him for promotions and even a few random announcements.  It was a nice touch.  The affable Erik would do his schtick on the microphone, then resume hawking.  By the way, I absolutely loved the personalized T-shirts that the hawkers wore (the backs had their names and statements like “Cotton Candy Expert”).  Erik even did an interview with the mother of the Dust Devils’ third baseman who was seeing her son play professionally for the first time.  His first question to the mother was bizarre.  “So, is this your first time in the Tri-Cities?”  Gee, Erik, what do you think?  Why would this young woman have ever been to Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, or 

West Richland before?  (That’s right…there are FOUR cities in the “Tri-Cities.”)  The third baseman had two hits, as the mom said to anyone who would listen to her after the terrible loss–“My boy had two hits!” she said–but really needed to work on his arm.  Like clockwork, at least one of his warmup throws every inning would sail into the front row.  I was in the front row.  I’m fortunate I was not hurt.  It took me until later in the game to figure out what was going on…he was trying to throw to his mother!  What a sweet gesture.  UPDATE:  The kid, Matt Macri, eventually made the majors with the Twins.

One of the nicest

moments I’ve ever seen at a ballpark arose out of a scary one.  A foul ball looped over my head and hit the ankle of the adorable kid in this picture.  He screamed and cried while his mother held him.  The ball rolled down past my feet to a fourth- or fifth-grader in the front row.  He then walked up and handed it to the still-crying little guy.  Would I have had that kind of kindness and grace at that age?  I’m not sure.  In my mind, that gracious young fan is the MVP.  I tried hard to get a ball for the rest of the game–maybe one of the third baseman’s errant throws?–so that I could give it to the kind, charitable youngster, repaying his kindness.  But no such luck.

All in all, a decent night of bad baseball in shivery, windy cold.  Yup–to me, that’s not a bad night.

UPDATE 2009: I’ve been back twice since, both for July 4 family baseball jaunts, and have improved my view of the ballpark.  First, some significant changes:  Most importantly, blessedly, and thankfully, the Dust Devils have installed a sun screen behind the first-base stands.  I’ve heard

it called an eyesore, but I don’t care.  No more desert sun and desert heat for the third-base side…the screen blocks it beautifully, and it was worth every dime.

Second, the name has changed.  Gesa, a local credit union, has affixed its name to the ballpark.  Not a fan of corporate naming, but if that money helped build the sun screen, then I’m all for it–and might have to transfer all my money into a Gesa account.

Next, Tri-Cities sprawl threatens the character of the area just a little bit, but the view hasn’t much changed…the view beyond the outfield fence still features several rows of soccer fields.

The only negative to the visit were some jerks in the section next to us, who I heard were the Dust Devils grounds crew–let in free for the game.  If that’s the case, they need to tone down the heckling, especially since

they were in my original seat (no big deal, as I just sat in a better one).  Shouting “Ichiro!” at the Boise Hawks’ two Korean players, Hak-Ju Lee and Jae-Hoon Ha, is a rare combination of racially insensitive, geographically stupid, and boorish.  Tone it down, guys.

Finally, and for the first time ever, I was recognized for this website.  I was on my way to the head when Erik the Peanut Guy flagged me down, noticing my Tennessee Smokies hat.  “Is that the Tennessee Smokies?” he asked.  I replied in the affirmative, and Erik asked if I’d been there.  I talked about my effort to get to all the minor league parks, and recommended he visit my website–and I wrote down my name.  He said “Oh, I know you!  I LOVE your website!” and then said “We need to

get you a hat.”  He then had the team store give me my choice of hat.  I picked the $22 TC model to complement my wife’s Dust Devil model.  He took some time out from hawking to hang with us for a while.  He and Michelle remembered each other from his days hawking in high school when Michelle worked for the team.  We spent a pleasant inning hanging out.

I’ve got to say, wearing random other minor league hats to ballparks is a good move.   Wearing an Everett AquaSox hat in Princeton, West Virginia bought me a free sledge-hammering of a car.  And now wearing a Smokies hat…and having this website…got me a $22 hat. Thanks, Erik.  You just brought your score up significantly.  Remember–this is not Congress.  Bribery is acceptable.  Giving me presents can increase your ballpark’s score (although there’s no guarantee).

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
Lovely views of soccer fields and mountains.  Actual, literal dust devils on the field help out a lot, although those can hardly be planned.

Charm:  2.5/5
Not much going for the physical edifice here, but Erik and his fellow hawkers help out quite a bit.

Spectacle: 3.5/5
A fair number of them, pulled off with nice energy.

Team mascot/name:  2.5/5


They call him Dusty.  He looks like–nothing.  And they have since put him in a Dust Devils uniform, which actually makes him more perplexing.

Aesthetics:  2.5/5

Pavilion area:  3.5/5
Could be larger.  It includes an “alumni report” featuring the stats of former Dust Devils, wherever they may be.  This is a fantastic idea that I”d like to see reproduced elsewhere.

Scoreability:  1.5/5
Not good here at all.  Many errors on the scoreboard.

Fans:  4/5
As much as I appreciate Erik, crowds here are pretty sparse.  And while I like the kid who gave up his foul ball, I don’t like the grounds crew acting like jerks to the opposition.  Just cheer and watch the game.  Don’t try to be Andrew Dice Clay.  (I upped this score in 2013 after a much better experience sitting next to Erik the Peanut Guy’s parents.)

Intangibles: 5/5
In spite of all of its flaws, this place leaves me with positive memories.  I’ve been there for a decade now, and thanks to Erik the Peanut Guy, I feel welcome there every time.

TOTAL:  33.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

My, what a terrible game I saw on my debut visit.  Three hits for the AquaSox’s Omar Falcon led their attack.

Two errors–on back to back plays–by Dust Devil shortstop Pedro Strop (each a throw through the first baseman’s legs), plus another by second baseman Jason van Kooten stretch the top of the seventh into six outs, eight runs, twelve batters, and about fifteen years.  Not that I’m complaining.

In July 2005, I saw what looked to be a stud-pitcher-in-the-making…Shane Lindsey, a free-agent pitcher, struck out 11, walked none, and gave up only 3 hits in 5 innings in a Dust Devils victory.

A crazy close to a game in July 2009.  Tri-Cities scores their winning runs in the eighth inning on a combination of two hit batsmen, a wild pitch, a passed ball, an intentional walk, and a sacrifice fly.  Low-level A baseball.  Catch it.

D.J. Peterson scored on a Huascar Brazoban wild pitch in the 11th inning of a 2013 game to give Everett a victory.

Crazy game in 2017 is highlighted by an ejection: pitcher Mike Bunal was tossed for some word or other: just walked off the mound after he was, too. The Dust Devils win in the 11th on a double, sacrifice, and fielder’s choice.

(Written July 2004.  Updated July 2009.)

PGE Park, Portland, Oregon

PGE Park, Portland, OREGON

Number of states: still 5
States to go: 45
Number of games: 40
First game: July 4, 2004 (Portland Beavers 3, Edmonton Trappers 1)
Last game: September 3, 2010 (Las Vegas 51s 9, Portland Beavers 2)

(PGE Park was converted to an MLS soccer facility after the 2010 season, and is still used for soccer.)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Portland was the third stop on what I hope will become an annual event–the Paul and Michelle July 4th weekend trip to minor league ballparks.  It’s possible we won’t be able to afford to go to new stadiums every year, as by the end of this year, I’ll have all of the Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia stadiums crossed off my list.  But who can come up with a better July 4th tradition than baseball…minor league baseball?  It’s American, kids and adults

love it, and you get to see a fireworks show safer than what your crazy Uncle John puts together with marginally-legal explosives he spirits in over the state line.  If you do the weekend right and are willing to drive a little, you can get two fireworks shows (Eugene’s was after their July 3rd game, Portland’s on the 4th).  Plus, the minor league baseball atmosphere is better–bigger, louder, more looking-for-a-good time crowds.  So even if we just dip down to Tacoma or Everett every year, I’m thinking this will become a tradition.  And it’s a good one.

And we could certainly do worse than to visit Portland again.  I was extremely impressed with the setting of the ballpark.  Field level is significantly below street level, so from throughout the stadium, when any fan looks out past left field, it’s easy to see city life go by.  Portland’s light-rail MAX train goes past the fence out there, and better still, people who want to watch the game for free can do so easily by walking up to the fence between the sidewalk and the left-field pavilion.  It’s not that bad a view, actually, as these pictures should show.

The MA

X trains and the Beaver mascot are only a tiny part of what gives this fine ballpark local color.  A good chunk of that local color is supplied by Timber Jim, the de facto human mascot for the Beavers and A-League soccer’s Portland Timbers.  Timber Jim is a bona-fide lumberjack.  If you don’t believe me, just check out how he clambers up the giant log/pole beyond the right-center field wall and watches several innings of the game from there.  Also, check out how he repels down from a beam to dangle in front of fans and lead cheers from midair.  He’s an excellent asset to the team–not really detracting from the game, but very much adding to the experience.

Speaking of detracting from the game, this is the first game since my early youth where I have done the wave during the game.  I know, I know, disappointing.  But I think you’ll understand when I say why.  I attended this game with Michelle the Girlfriend and a whole gaggle of her college buddies (and their spouses and kids).  They don’t know me terribly well yet, so as they did the wave, I was explaining to them that “I don’t do the wave.”  Matt, one of Michelle’s best friends, was trying to talk me into doing the wave.  I, of course, remained adamant.  Michelle knows how passionate I am about the wave.  But she made a tragic mistake.  She cavalierly–and, as she soon

learned, too hastily–said to Matt:  “I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you get him to do the wave.”  Matt didn’t miss a beat before he turned to me:  “Paul, I’ll give you fifty bucks if you do the wave.”  Hey, we all have our price–fifty bucks is significant money to a teacher–and it’s not like doing the wave is a crime.  So when the wave rolled by next time, I stood up, shouted, and did the best wave I’ve ever done.  Alas, Michelle was very disappointed in my lack of morals.  I hope I didn’t cause long-term damage to the relationship.  How much money would YOU take for doing the wave once?  I bet it’s less than fifty bucks.  Fifty bucks which, by the way, both Matt and I are still waiting for.  Michelle–hurry up.  We’re charging interest.

The other thing I’ll remember from this game, besides forever losing Michelle’s trust in my integrity, was teaching a woman in the group to score.  She was given a scorebook for a recent birthday, and it was suggested that I help her through the game.  No problem…it’s very nice to help somebody out, and I love both scoring and teaching.  But my…it wasn’t scoring this woman didn’t understand, it was baseball. Case in point:  after a double play, I started to explain to her where to mark each of the outs.

“Here’s how you mark the double play,” I told her.  She gave me a blank look, so I continued:  “A double play.  That was a double play.”  Still nothing. 

“They got both the runner and batter out.”  Now she’s looking a little panicked behind her cluelessness.  “You know, a double play.  Two outs on one play.”

Finally, both confused and astonished, she responded:  “They can do that????”

It’s not so much my efforts to teach her how to score that interest me…it’s the whole notion of the situation that I’m interested in.  Why would somebody who  didn’t understand baseball happily receive a scorebook as a gift?  To be honest, even though she wasn’t yet a proficient scorer at the end of the day, I admired her a good deal.  I sure wouldn’t try to score cricket or bridge.

At this writing, it looks like the Montreal Expos have next to no chance of moving to Portland.  I admit I wish they would–not so much for the possibility of a new NL team down the road in a new stadium, but because it’d be fun to see major league baseball in this cozy, interesting venue.  No sweat: I’ll have to settle for the quite pleasant alternative of a few minor league trips down I-5 to catch the Beavers at the very enjoyable PGE Park, where I’ll sit with Michelle and not do the wave.  Unless somebody meets my price.

UPDATE JULY 2009: PGE Park has now become my home stadium, since I moved down I-5 to Vancouver, Washington in the summer of 2007.  My knowledge of the park–a couple of years of partial-season packages–has led me to appreciate it a little more (still love those MAX trains heading by) and a little less (there’s no legroom, and a tall guy like me needs it).

The bad news is that it’s all academic, however, since PGE Park will become a soccer-only facility after the 2010 baseball season ends.  As of this writing, there’s very little certainty as to what will become of the Beavers. They may be gone just like Timber Jim (who has hung up the repelling equipment since my original post).

There’s a chance that the Beavers will leave the area altogether, which would be terrible, but right now the number one possibility is that they’ll leave downtown and move to the suburbs. If they go to any suburb other than my own, the number of games I’d attend would drop precipitously.  I will not fight rush hour out to the suburbs to catch a game more than once or twice a year.  Stay tuned on this one.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8.5/10
Outstanding.  The MAX trains going by left field and a guy standing on top of a giant log?  Can’t beat that.  The former means you’re in the city, the latter means the Pacific Northwest.  If this is the minor leagues, it must mean Portland.  (I deducted a half point for the loss of Timber Jim, but the view of the Oregonian building still carries the day.)

Charm:  3/5
PGE Park is old…mostly the good kind of old.  It gets docked for having a carpet, the right-field eyesore view of an extremely unattractive athletic club, zero legroom, and the stands being some distance back from the field.  This weighs down the score in spite of its many positive quirks.

Spectacle: 4/5
A fair amount, but the game came first…about right for AAA.

Team mascot/name:  4.5/5


Lucky Beaver.  The mascot is good–indigenous and intimidating (I’d hate to face a rabid beaver).

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
Wonderful to left field, hideous to right, and mixed within the old stadium.

Pavilion area:  3/5
Nice sense of ballpark history and a good sunny left field porch.  I do wish that more of the pavilion were outdoors, however.

Scoreability:  3/5
The only balls-and-strikes scoreboard is hand-operated.  Mistakes are a touch too frequent.  I like the retro feel, but I like accuracy better.

Fans:  4/5
Attendance is often dismal, but when they show up, it’s a raucous-but-civil group.

Intangibles:  4.5/5
Overall, I like this place for baseball and I’m going to miss it.

TOTAL:  38/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

A pitchers’ duel.  Portland’s Chris Oxspring (who really should have been a mattress salesman…excuse me, I mean an attress salesman) gets the best of it, pitching seven innings of four-hit ball.

Edmonton’s Josh Karp is the hard-luck loser, pitching very well besides a three-run homer to the Beavers’ Jon Knott.

Portland’s Mike Thompson takes a no-hitter into the sixth in a marvelous pitchers’ duel with Tucson’s Shawn Estes (on a rehab assignment).  He loses it on a solo home run by Keoni De Renne, and three runs in the ninth seal it for Tucson.

In 2007, Royce Huffman has a killer Father’s Day afternoon against Salt Lake, going 4-for-4 with a double, a home run, 3 RBIs, and a stolen base.

The 2009 AAA All-Star Game was an enjoyable affair.  Eric Kratz of Indianapolis takes MVP honors in the International League’s win, but I’ll most remember Nashville pitcher R.J. Swindle busting out a few 50-mile-an-hour breaking balls that nobody could hit.

Best pitching performance so far is probably Fresno’s Kevin Pucetas, who set the Beavers down on 2 hits over 7 innings.

(Written July 2004.  Updated August 2006 and July 2009.)

Civic Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Civic Stadium, Eugene, OREGON

Number of states: 5
States to go: 45
Number of games: 2
First game:  July 3, 2004 (Eugene Emeralds 5, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 4)
Last game:  August 11, 2007 (Spokane Indians 5, Eugene Emeralds 3)

Civic Stadium was no longer used for affiliated minor league baseball as of the 2010 season. Fire destroyed the structure in 2015.

(Click any image to view a larger version.)

As I approached Civic Stadium for the first time, I absolutely fell in love with the place.  Beautiful.  Charming.  Venerable.  Looking much the same as it did when it opened back in nineteen-twenty-whatever (just guessing on the date, but it has that Fenway and Tiger Stadium boxed-up,

team-logo-painted-on-the-outside-wood, held-up-by-beams feel about it.)  As I walked in with 10,000 others for fireworks night, I was convinced that I was in  for something special and that I’d feel about this beautiful old place the same way I did about Fenway Park, which is to say, totally entranced.  Over the course of the next few hours, however, I fell out of love with Civic Stadium.  There was just too much troublesome about it.  The experience was akin to seeing that my blind date looked like Sue Bird or Julie Delpy or Claire Danes, then finding little things wrong…okay, she’s got an annoying, nervous laugh…okay, she’s a whacked-out crystal-worshipping new ager…okay, she’s had three drinks to my one…until I finally, the many flaws become overwhelming and I can’t let the original charm win out.

I can already feel traditionalists breathing down my neck on this one, since there are so few places like Civic Stadium left in the world.  But my night at Civic Stadium was, if nothing else, an explication of reasons why 

stadiums no longer are designed like Civic Stadium and an argument that maybe the changes since are progress rather than regression.

Make no mistake.  I loved the look of the place!  It had all the charm of bygone days.  I felt connected to every fan who’d ever gone into the place.  The beams, the real grass, the bizarre asymmetry of it (the seating bowl reaches almost all the way down the right field line, but doesn’t even make it as far as third base along the left field line).  It’s accidental charm, and I love it.

The Eugene fans were fantastic.  This was a sellout for fireworks night.  Michelle The Girlfriend and 

I arrived an hour early (after a wonderful day meandering down the gorgeous Oregon coast) to poke around the place and to find good general admission seats.  Whoops!  We needed to arrive a lot earlier than that to get good seats.  We did okay–only about 3/4 of the way up to the top, only about 3/4 of the way to the end of the right-field stands–but I was highly impressed with how early the fans showed up to claim their stake.  Maybe it’s different on a non-holiday Tuesday night in August, but even so, for so many to arrive that early speaks well for the Emeralds and their fans.

Here’s where the problems begin, though.  Although the stadium technically can hold 10,000, it certainly can’t do so comfortably.  While I’m sure that the season-ticket holders were enjoying 

their seats with backs and arms on them, we in general admission were horribly uncomfortable.  Whenever anyone wanted to leave (and I’m trying not to harbor enmity towards the butthead who left and returned to my row FIVE TIMES during the game), the entire row would either have their feet stepped on or their backs jostled.  There just wasn’t enough room to sit.  Even while at rest, I had to position my knees and feet just so to avoid contact with the fine young family in front of me.  Net result:  as the game progressed, we all became more and more uncomfortable.

Strangely, the Emeralds did little to keep its large crowd–who clearly were rearing to have a very good time–active.  Music choices were baffling.  “Deep in the Heart of Texas”?  What the hell?  Why not just throw in “Chicago,” 

“New York, New York,” and “God Save the Queen” while you’re at it?  Why not throw in “Streets of Philadelphia,” just to be both geographically inaccurate and breathtakingly depressing?  No wait…they DID play “My City in Ruins”!  Strange, strange choices.

STILL, I was eager to enjoy this beautiful old ballpark, but I actually became a little concerned for my safety at some points.  A hard foul ball was smacked back into one of the beams on the first-base side and shattered a light bulb there.  Surely, at some point in the last 80 years, someone must have at least realized the necessity of putting a cage around that.  But later, things got even more bizarre.  In the eighth inning, the entire bank of lights went out on the first-base side.

Salem-Keizer catcher Charlie Babineaux was ready to

take his first pitch from Eugene pitcher Jake Upwood when the lights went out.  Babineaux called time,  which was granted, but the home plate umpire seemed to want to continue play in the twilight combined with outfield lighting.  But when the Salem-Keizer manager stepped in, play was delayed while they fixed the lights.  Okay, I understand that maybe this could have happened anywhere.  But I doubt it.  The lights over the left field pavilion looked only slightly less old than the stadium itself, and they’re the only ones that went out.  Plus–and am I the only one who could possibly have been thinking this?–if it’d been a blown fuse or a small explosion that caused those lights to go out, those wooden bleachers would have taken about a minute and a half to become a hellish inferno, and when this sucker was built, emergency exits and sprinkler systems were not exactly high in architects’ minds.  So while I’m sitting and thinking about the tragedy at England’s Bradford City football grounds, the Emeralds’ staff could be doing some things to make sure we’re all having a good time, like playing some music or having the mascot run around and do the good stuff mascots do.  Two problems:

1.  The music people.  At a time the audience needed something to do–“Minnie the Moocher,” “YMCA,” hell, even the damn 

Macarena–the sound guys played Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First,” the radio call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” and “Dueling Banjos.”  Audience participation possibilities?  None.  So we sat in our uncomfortable seats for 29 minutes doing nothing.

2.  The mascot.  There isn’t one.  Come on.  Is this even possible in the low minors?  I must admit, I didn’t notice its absence until about the fifth inning, but I felt a little bit cheated, like if I’d showed up to an NL game and found they decided to use the designated hitter.  It’s just not the rules!  Low minor league teams simply MUST have a mascot…and during the big delay, this was a notable absence, since all we had to look at were the two umpires sitting around waiting for the lights–lights that were probably only slightly younger than Thomas Edison’s original–to kick back on.

In the end, as much as I wanted to love this place, I just couldn’t overlook these problems.  I felt uncomfortable.  I even felt a little unsafe.  And I totally felt like I was missing part of the minor league baseball experience.  Even the fireworks show didn’t redeem it…it only lasted about 7 minutes (although they had 15 minutes worth of fireworks…they just fired them all off in 7 minutes, thus eliminating any sense of buildup or climax to the show).

Michelle and I have agreed that, if we win the lottery for more than, say, $100 million, we will purchase the Eugene Emeralds and clean this stadium up a bit…maintaining its old charm without sacrificing the many, many comforts that Civic Stadium sacrifices.  Yes, I am a traditionalist, but not militantly so, and Civic Stadium goes beyond my limits.

UPDATE:  I received a nice email from a University of Oregon student who works concessions for the Emeralds, encouraging me to give the team another chance–saying that, among other things, the team “dreads” the July 3rd/4th games.  And I also got the sense that many of the problems I had with the ballpark were a result of a crowded night.  So Michelle and I headed back down to Eugene for a random Saturday night game in 2007.  The team impressed me with their low-key calmness that ngiht, and I found it was worth every penny not to sit in general admission.  I will adjust my score a little bit accordingly (although that first visit was so frustrating that it weighs a little bit heavier).

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8.5/10
Quite lovely here, with local promotions, a view of the Cascades, and many fine folks who clearly were from Oregon and Eugene.  No question where I was.

Charm:  3/5
Yes, Civic Stadium has charm due to its age.  But I don’t find cramped, backless seats, people colliding with my back or stepping on my toes every time they leave, endless concession lines, my toes up some poor person in the next row’s butt, a lengthy power outage, and the very real fear that we could burn alive to be very charming. (But on the second visit, it was quite lovely.  Just don’t go there on a night where it’s packed unless you have a reserved seat.)

Spectacle: 1/5
Could have used a bit more for low-A ball.

Team mascot/name:  1.5/5
The name is fine…the mascot nonexistent.

Aesthetics:  5/5
Say what you will, but the place is gorgeous.

Pavilion area:  4/5
Fine.  A bit cramped, but overall not bad.

Scoreability:  4/5
Lineups were available.  Some close decisions were not made clear, however.

Fans:  5/5
Arrived early and maintained excellent enthusiasm under difficult circumstances.

Intangibles:  3/5
Pluses:  Good game, fireworks, a polite letter from a ballpark worker that did all but apologize for the lamentable first night.  Minuses:  Power outage, aching back, and fireworks show that packed 15 minutes worth of gunpowder into 7 minutes.  I didn’t leave satisfied on any count…until three years later.

TOTAL:  35/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Eugene’s Colt Morton (who wears #45…get it?) appears to be a stud-in-the-making.  He homered twice, which made it 4 homers in 5 days for him.

Salem-Keizer’s Chase Smith gets his first professional loss without surrendering a hit:  a leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt, a deep flyout, and a wild pitch score Craig Johnson with the winning run.

Mitch Moreland homers to put the 2007 game in the bag for Spokane.