HILLSBORO, Ore. – The back-to-back defending Northwest League Champion Hillsboro Hops begin their fourth season on Friday.
The Short-Season Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks open their fourth season on the road against division rivals Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The Hops and Volcanoes are 18-18 against each other in the last three seasons since the Hops moved from Yakima. A win will put either club over .500. Despite this, the Hops have never won on opening day, a feat they hope to accomplish tomorrow behind second year manager Shelley Duncan.
Duncan was at the helm of last year’s championship team, the second brought home to Hillsboro in as many years for the young ball club. He led the Hops to a 45-31 season, taking first place by six games in the South Division over Salem-Keizer (39-37), and the best record in the league, by three games, over the Everett AquaSox (42-34).
The Hops 2016 roster, just announced on Wednesday, includes eight players Duncan worked with in 2015, as well as 12 players just drafted last weekend in Major League Baseball’s 2016 draft.
Among the new draftees is the Diamondbacks’ top pick (#39 overall) Anfernee Grier. The Auburn University outfielder hit .366 with 12 homeruns and 41 RBI’s this last year as a junior.
Joining Grier from the 2016 draft will be, in order they were drafted, RHP Jon Duplantier, LHP Jordan Watson, RHP Tommy Eveld, C Gavin Stupienski, INF Manny Jefferson, LHP Colin Poche, RHP Jake Winston, RHP Riley Smith, RHP Trevor Simms, INF Paxton De La Garza, and OF Billy Endris.
The new recruits are joined by Duncan’s eight from 2015 include five that won the championship: C Alexis Olmeda, INF Josh Anderson, RHP Tyler Mark, RHP Jeferson Mejia, RHP Tucker Ward. RHP Jose Martinez, INF Jeff Smith, and 3B Nic Coffman will also return to the team, although they were not present for the final games of the season.
Coffman, a Portland native, remains the only player with that title to suit up for the Hops in their four years of existence. Coffman graduation from Wilson High School in Southwest Portland followed by Lane Community College and Corban University.
Also on the roster is LHP Anfernee Benitez, RHP Julio Perez, RHP Jake Winston, RHP Taylor Wright, INF Justin Chigbou, OF Matt McPhearson, OF Matt Railey, and OF Marcus Wilson. A detailed roster can be viewed here, courtesy of the Hillsboro Hops.
On deck for fans this summer at Hillsboro’s Ron Tonkin Field are a number of fun and wacky promotions. Besides post-game fireworks shows on June 20 (opening night), July 4 (Independence Day), and September 5 (fan appreciation night, final home game), the Hops will be handing out magnet schedules to all fans and showcasing a pre-game championship celebration (June 20), handing out replica championship trophies (June 21), bobblehead Barleys (August 15), and McDonald’s lunch boxes (September 3). Fans can also catch the San Diego Chicken (July 13), Portland Beavers Night (July 28), Youth Sports Weekend (August 20-21), and Craft Beer Night (August 23), among many other promotions.
After back-to-back Northwest League championships, Hops fans all around the Portland Metro Area should have something to look forward to this summer, with all the action starting Friday, June 17 in Salem-Keizer and at home on Monday, June 20 against the Eugene Emeralds.
Make sure to keep up to date with all things Hillsboro Hops and Northwest League by following the blog (at left) and the author on Twitter at @atticusrice.