There was a fitting and ironic announcement out of Hillsboro this morning. Strangely enough, it had nothing at all to do with all the high tech junk they've got going on out there. Baseball was the theme. And beer.
You may recall the recently departed Portland Beavers of the AAA Pacific Coast League. They left Portland a couple of years back to make way for the Timbers soccer club. I don't care for soccer, but the Timbers have been a success story here, attracting good crowds and quite a lot of media buzz...even though they've been dismal this year.
Of course, the soccer transition miffed a lot of baseball fans. See, Portland has a rich and lengthy history with baseball dating back to the 19th century. Many baseball fans simply failed to appreciate the move to soccer.
This is all about demographics, in my mind. Portland, particularly at its core, has become a young city in recent times. Droves of 20-somethings moved here to retire, as the saying goes. Soccer is a better fit than baseball for that community. Portland Beavers games were not well attended in the years leading up to their departure. Timbers games, though there are fewer of them, draw large, boisterous crowds.
I always suspected baseball would return to this area. The question was where. Would we build a stadium somewhere and try to attract another AAA team or, heaven forbid, try to bring Major League Baseball to town? Actually...no.
Enter the city of Hillsboro. And the Yakima Bears, Single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks who play in the Northwest League. A few months back, the city and the Bears came to an agreement that will bring the team to Hillsboro next summer. The city's part of the deal is a $15 million investment in a 4500-seat baseball stadium/complex. The team's part of the deal is to show up come June.
The significant part of this arrangement involves the name...the team announced today that it will be called the Hillsboro Hops. This is a reference and a tip-of-the-hat to the area's fast-growing craft beer industry. Of course, there are good and bad hops in baseball. And Oregon does grow some of the hops used to make our fabulous beers.
The ironic part of the story is this: Yakima is the largest hops growing region in the US. And yet the team that played there from 2001 to 2012 was called the Bears. Now it moves to Oregon, where we are better-known for what we make with hops than for growing them, and the name changes to Hops. I like it, but I can't put the irony out of my mind.
No matter. I'm looking forward to seeing the Hops in action...while enjoying a few of those terrific beers.