Sunday, July 19, 2009

Save the Beavers - or Bust

I can't sleep, so I'm downstairs at the laptop, trying to organize my thoughts.

They mostly concern the Portland Beavers.

The Portland Beavers are the local baseball team. They've been around for all but a few years since 1903. They are currently the Triple-A affiliate for the San Diego Padres. And they're being threatened by Major League Soccer.

I've got nothing against MLS. In fact, I'd be thrilled to know the Timbers are being promoted to the MLS if only I could be assured that it wouldn't affect the Beavers. Because I know there are a lot of soccer fans in Portland, and they deserve to be rewarded for being faithful fans.

But I also feel strongly that all of Portland's baseball fans deserve a reward.

I remember a few years ago, when the Montreal Expos were being relocated, and Portland was one of the final cities being considered for the relocation. Boy, did I want that Major League Baseball team. It was so... big. Mind you, I wasn't a kid anymore; I was well into my teens. And yet the idea of Major League Baseball in Portland seemed so magical to me. I could picture the jerseys, brighter white than any the Beavers had worn, against a background of REAL grass (as opposed to artificial turf). My family spent time brainstorming possible team names and colors. We learned the facts and the reasons, Why Portland Is a Major League City.

To this day, we have a bumper sticker on our fridge: "Bring Major League Baseball AND Education to Portland!"

Now we're using those facts and reasons again, but this time it's not run for a promotion to the big leagues.

It's to save our poor triple-A behinds.

Here are some of the facts:
Portland is the third-largest city without a Major League Baseball team (after Sacramento and Orlando).

Five Major League cities are smaller than Portland.

Some say that Portland is not a big league city, judging by the attendance of Beavers games at PGE Park. Many of these like to compare these statistics to those of the Timbers Minor League Soccer team. To those I say: the Timbers play 15 home games a year. Obviously they get bigger crowds than the Beavers, who play about 70 home games each season.

Another reason Portlanders aren't considered diehard Beavers fans? It can be hard to get swept away by players in AAA ball when they're always coming up from AA or going up to the Majors or being traded in clusters for a major leaguer for the parent team. The lack of superstar makes it harder to invest yourself in a team and it's win-loss record.

But that doesn't mean we don't have favorites. The last summer I was home, I went to several Beavers games and always hoped to see Yordany Ramirez playing. If he wasn't, I was pretty happy to watch Pete LaForest. Familiar names such as Manny Alexander, Shea Hillenbrand and Hiram Bocachica come through on breaks from the Majors. And Portland Beaver Chad Huffman received a huge ovation during the Triple-A All-Star Game, and the umpire was severely booed when he was called out on strikes. In his second at-bat, the Beaver was greeted by enthusiastic cheers of "Let's Go Huffman".

I'm sorry to say I've taken the Beavers for granted. Now, however, I got to sleep every night upset at the thought of a Portland without a baseball team. Every morning I read the columns in the Oregonians by people who have ideas for saving the Beavers but no means of carrying them out and almost no support by public figures, such as Mayor Sam Adams, and resign myself to the likelihood that the Beavers will be tucked away in the suburbs, somewhere I won't be able to get to nearly as often. And for what?

So the Timbers can play their 15 games as a Major League team in an improved stadium.

Really, I'm happy for Portland soccer fans. I just think that MLS should not come at the expense of professional baseball, no matter the league.

We may not have a lot of options, but we have some. I hope you'll sign this petition and help us try to keep the Beavers in Portland, their home of nearly 100 years.

No comments: