Category Archives: former san diego padres affiliates

PK Park, Eugene, Oregon

PK Park, Eugene, OREGON

Number of states:  still 31
States to go:  still 19

Number of games:  1
First game:  July 4, 2012 (Eugene Emeralds 9, Everett AquaSox 1)

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

I can’t believe that 2012 was the 10th time that Michelle and I hit the road to do a July 4th Minor League Road Trip.  It’s getting a little harder to find a team within striking distance (since I eschew going to the same stadium twice…at least for now…), but since the Emeralds moved from Civic Stadium to their new digs in 2010, a

trip to PK Park was an easy decision in 2012.  We packed up two kids and headed down I-5 for some baseball and fireworks.

I had such mixed feelings about Civic Stadium, and those mixed feelings re-emerged about the new ballpark.  I really enjoyed the rustic feel of the old place, but didn’t enjoy the cramped feel or the sense that I could burn to death at any moment.  A new ballpark was absolutely essential, and yet I was worried that a new ballpark would be so similar to other places that I would no longer feel like I was in a special place.  Additionally, I had some concerns about the Emeralds sharing a facility with the Oregon Ducks.  PK Park was built primarily on the emotion of envy.  When Oregon State won a couple of College

World Series, the Ducks, who had played baseball as a club sport for years, suddenly wondered “why not us?” and built a state-of-the-art facility to attract talent to try to duplicate the Beavers’ success.  (As of 2012, that success looked like it was on the edge of coming: the ’12 Ducks were within one win of making it to Omaha.)  In fact, according to the Ducks’ athletic department web site, PK Park is named for former duck AD Pat Kilkenny.  This fact surprised Michelle and me, who would have bet a C-note on the PK standing for Phil Knight.  He’s built everything else related to Duck athletics…why not this?

In any event, I was concerned that PK Park would have the same shortcomings for Northwest League ball as some spring training ballparks (such as this one) have for

Florida State League ball.  In other words, I don’t like the minor league team to look like they’re just there at the whim of the REAL home team.  But the Emeralds (and, I think, the Ducks) did well to nearly scrub the place clean of any Duck identification.  There were some that could not be avoided:  the looming presence of Autzen Stadium next door, for instance, or the green-and-gold decor, or the Pac 12 decals on the walls behind home plate.  But this felt like the Emeralds’ home rather than a sublet.  The Emeralds’ Hall of Fame was quite well-done: huge banners honoring great Emeralds of the past.  It didn’t matter whether the players went on to greatness with other teams (Ryan Freese, Mike Sweeney) or if they were just MVP for a Northwest League season, never to be really heard from again.  Everyone got a huge banner, and I liked that.  I am pretty sure that those banners are replaced by Duck banners during the NCAA season, which is fine.

Perhaps most telling were two busts of ballplayers I spied…BEHIND a table where an Emeralds worker played the spin-the-wheel-and-get-a-prize game.  I asked her if I could go back there to see the sculptures, and I did…where I found two Ducks.  Net result: they were actively trying to prevent spectators

from seeing Duck history.

Not that the crowd cared much.  This July 4 crowd was there to party.  One of the biggest cheers of the night was when it was announced that the beer sales would be extended through the ninth inning (I would imagine because they figured everyone could sober up during the fireworks show).  And I had this bizarre exchange with a random fan when I was walking 3-year-old Steven around to look at the Emeralds Hall of Fame banners (the kid LOVES that shit).   We had just looked up at the banner commemorating Cory Luebke’s stellar 2007 season for the Emeralds when a fan with a beer talked to me.

FAN:  Is that the beer batter?
ME:  Huh?
FAN:  That guy up there.  Is that the beer batter?
ME:  No.  Not the beer batter.  A guy in the Emeralds Hall of Fame.

The more I think about that exchange, the stranger it is.  He had to overlook the “Emeralds Hall of Fame” label on the banner, the fact that the guy was wearing an Emeralds jersey, the “2007” label, and the fact that the dude was PITCHING in

the photo.  But even if you overlook all of that, his assumption that they’d make a 10-foot long banner for the Beer Batter (the dude on the opposition who reduces beer prices to $3 for 15 minutes if the Emeralds manage to strike him out) is comical, because they’d have to make a giant banner for every single game.  Seems like a breathtaking waste of resources.  I think that this fan is a little like my students who draw nothing but marijuana leaves on every piece of paper they see.  He just had beer on his mind so much that everything he sees became beer.

But I still feel that this was a good crowd.  I can forgive some non-baseball attention on July 4th Fireworks Night.  And I also was surrounded by some pretty awesome people playing with both of my children.  16-month-old Aaron looked over my shoulder and flirted with the entire row behind me at some point, doing high fives and “ET Phone Home” index finger touches with anyone who wanted to all night long, as well as playing “I’ll drop something, say ‘uh-oh!’ and smile at you until

you pick it up” until I put the kibosh on that.

The approximately 6- and 7-year-0ld kids on my left to a liking to Steven and played with him all night long.  They were blown away that Steven could read the scoreboard.  Listening to their conversations were hilarious.  The kids would read a baseball card to Steven, and Steven would tell them what team he played for, and even correct their pronunciation.  Then, one kid said that he had been to Safeco Field for a game: a pretty good feat, actually, since Eugene is about 5 or 6 hours down the road from Seattle.  I was ready for Steven to talk about the games he’d seen at Safeco, but instead, he said “I…have…been………to Idaho.”

I couldn’t stop laughing.  Where the hell did that come from?  Michelle suggested that Steven said

this because he’s been to so many ballgames that they’re not as special to him as Idaho.

The kids were impressed enough with Steven that they offered me a straight-up trade of him for their little sister.  “She’s four and she can’t even read yet!”  I declined.

In the category of “strangest conversation

with an on-deck batter,” I nominate my son and the Emeralds’ Ronnie Richardson.  This game was in the midst of a huge beard obsession for my son.  When his two obsessions–baseball and facial hair–meet, things get pretty intense.  He’d look at on-deck batters and we’d say “Steven, what do you want to say to him?” and he’d cheer (not loud enough to be heard four feet away) “Go, River!” or “Get a hit, Jason!”  But for Richardson, Steven said he wanted to say “I like your beard!”  So, when Ronnie turned to face us–just on the other side of the netting–I said to him the following:   “Mr. Richardson, my son says he likes your beard.  And he’d know…he LOVES beards.”  Ronnie was kind enough to reply with what I believe to be the only possible reply:  a bewildered smile.  I hopethat both he and his beard go far.

As for the Emeralds’ atmosphere, it was fine. 

The on-field stuff was appropriate for single-A ball…stuff between  innings that’s pretty fun and funny.  The ballpark itself was a little antiseptic and reminiscent of every other new small ballpark out there, and it’s a little hard to tell that you’re in Oregon outside of all of the Duck-related color and sights out there.  This makes the ballpark a little difficult to score on the “is there any question where in the United States you are” contest.  On the one hand, there’s nothing in the land that says “Western Oregon” like there was at Civic Stadium.  But Autzen Stadium and the green-and-gold attached to the Ducks’ soccer facility beyond right field does indicate Eugene, which is difficult to extricate from its university as any university town is.  But then, as I said before, I don’t want to feel like I’m at an NCAA event.  I want to feel like I’m at a Northwest League game.  Confusing!

But still fun.  My family and I had a great time hanging out into the night.  It was worth the 1:30 AM arrival home.  We’d never been out with both kids sleeping in the back seat as we drove late into the night before.  I liked that feeling.

We will almost certainly be back.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional Feel:  6.5/10.

The antiseptic corporate feel of the place didn’t say “Oregon” to me, but there’s no doubt the place is in Eugene due to the U or O everywhere.  However, as I say above, that’s a mixed blessing, one which the ballpark dodges with some success with its focus on Emeralds’ history.

Charm:  3/5

Turf is not charming, but “Fowl Territory” is nice.

Spectacle:  4/5

Pretty good overall.  This is the second time Michelle and I have been underwhelmed by an Emeralds’ fireworks show, however.  It might be time for them to seek out a new vendor.

Team Mascot/Name:  4/5

Not sure what Sluggo (right) is.  The giant tree on the left is pretty nice for liberal Oregon and inflates the score, Stanford Tree be damned.

Aesthetics:  4/5

Lovely new ballpark.  Again, however:  Turf.

Pavilion area:  3.5 /5

Works fine–a few things to look at.  Still, I’d like to be able to walk around the ballpark, and there were many, many stairs–way more than I’d like–to get anywhere distant.

Scoreability:  5/5

PK Park did an excellent job here.  I managed to score the game very nicely even while wrangling two boys, and that’s in good part due to the efforts of the crew there.

Fans:  4.5/5

A tad rowdy, but most were very good to my children and having a good time.

Intangibles:  4.5/5

Had a good night there–one my kids will remember for a while.  Us too–both kids fell asleep during fireworks while my wife and I held hands.  Can’t argue with that.

TOTAL:  39/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Justin Hancock,the starting pitcher for Eugene, was the player I was most impressed with tonight. He threw 5 innings of 1-hit ball, striking out 7.

Jeremy Baltz carries the biggest stick of the night, driving in three runs, two with a double.

Ronnie Richardson and his nice beard score on a big hit in the eighth:  Richardson doubles, then scores on a throwing error by the AquaSox’s Chris Taylor on the relay throw.

Written July 2012.

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)

(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.)