Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baseball Puts Its Best Foot Forward in the Rose City

For one night anyway, baseball was the top game in town last night, as the Triple AAA Pacific Coast League and International League put their best talent on display at PGE Park. And PGE Park was filled to the brim, as over 16,600 joined the event, which included myself and girl. We're baseball fans, although soccer in this town is much more of a pleasurable fan experience for us. For a crowd this large, it was mostly quiet at time, politely clapping and cheering when prompted, and the only loud cheers were for local player Chad Huffman and the Chicken, making one of his last appearances in costume. There was an attempt to start the wave, which finally worked around the eight inning, and the Rainiers' first baseman got some polite cheers from Mariner fans in the crowd, but for the most part, it was quiet for being this big of a crowd.

The Trail Blazers spent so much time pumping music and distractions out there, it's loud at most points, but it's artificial as they don't want any idle time at all during the game. The Timbers are loud and boisterous, but that has a lot to do with the antics of the Army, chanting, singing, and generally having a good time. Baseball hearkens back to a different age, where the clock doesn't matter and things move at their own pace. While this might work for many baseball fans who have grown up around the game, there were plenty of fans that decided texting or surfing on their phones was a better use of time. Plus, there were plenty of people that just couldn't sit for more than an inning, moving from getting food to walking around to going to the loo to whatever. For some, baseball is the death of the short attention spanned world, because it can drag at points. Granted, there are some nuances that are fun to watch, the chess game between pitcher and batter, the strategy on the bases, and the outguessing that goes on, but honestly, if you didn't catch it or understand it, it would be lost on you. Much like the subtle part of soccer that most detractors point to as reasons to hate soccer, if you missed the strategy of the game, it can be boring.

But what last night proved more than anything is that Portlanders love an event, and last night certainly was one. From the anthem done by Storm Large who did an amazing, understated job in her rendition, to the flag display in center field, to the Chicken's antics, it was a large scale undertaking, and for a game that was played for little more than pride and entertainment, the players and the PGE Park staff didn't disappoint. We were greeted by our server right as we walked to our club seats, and Nick did a great job of taking care of us all night. I got some great pictures that I will share later tonight after downloading them, but overall, here are my memories and thoughts about the night:
  • The game itself ended 6 to 5 for the International League, but it was a true back and forth affair, as noted in the Oregonian. The PCL fell behind, but rallied with two runs late, and got things close. Both managers used their benches extensively, as I believe everyone got to play for both sides.
  • Chad Huffman played very well, and represented Portland and the Beavers well. He was smiling, laughing, and just having a good time playing in his home park, and it was great to see the team represented so well. Scott Patterson also pitched well in relief, representing the Beavers as well.
  • Girl and I had a crappy day in our jobs, and so we tried to put forth some positive karma for the evening. After striking out on parking near the Mission Theater, we moved closer to PGE Park, and drove up 17th. As we got stuck in a traffic line, someone was leaving and gave up a parking spot near the Cheerful Bullpen, and we were able to swoop on it before anyone noticed. Then during the game, Girl was the lucky recipient of the first foul ball of the night in the first inning, as a ball was hit foul and tossed into the crowd. It glanced off her shoulder, bounced off her margarita drink in the cup holder, and then plopped into her laugh. And it's a special ball, carrying the Triple AAA All-Star logo on it, it was a rather pleasant surprise. Karma is pretty cool.
  • The Chicken's shtick was predictable, but it played really well for the crowd. Even after all these years, he brings it and the crowd was mesmerized by his act. Mascots could learn a thing or two from him, he's still got something special.
  • I still think the Albuquerque Isotopes is the coolest team name in baseball.
  • Girl, S3K and I spent a great deal of time talking about the stadium, the Timbers, MLS and why baseball would be great in a slightly different environment. The stadium photographs very well (Tight Jeans said this, and I agree with him for once), but it's cramped in parts, the concourses are still too small once the crowd tops 10,000, and there are some rather bad seats in parts of the stadium including some obstructed seats. The Beavers could really do well with a slightly smaller, but more baseball appropriate venue.
  • At least some people felt that PGE Park was good enough last night, just like heaven. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it was good to see.
  • I'm glad to see that Rick Burk got his chance to show off his skills, calling the game. He's a passionate, knowledgeable baseball guy, and he's very good at his craft. He deserves a shot at the big time, but I'm happy to see him stay with the small fish here for a while. We're lucky to have him.
  • The most interesting comments I read after the game was from PCL president Branch Rickey, who indicated that Portland was an important market for the PCL, but the stadium location isn't so much of a concern. Rickey realizes the issues with PGE Park being too large and cavernous at points, and seems very aware of the MLS efforts, but still supports this town for baseball. I can imagine that Merritt Paulson is keeping him looped in on everything going on.

I'll post my pictures later tonight, and I'm also working on my next piece for Oregon Live, which will be posted there later today. So far, I'm enjoying my work for the Timbers Blog, and hopefully, I'll be able to provide some insight on the team and the history of things from my own warped perspective. Give it a read, and let me know your thoughts.

And finally, I'll have a big announcement coming soon about something at PGE Park, which could be extremely epic!!! I'm hoping to get it done by this weekend!!

EDIT - I've added the Flick link for pictures, noted below

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