Introducing the 2016 Hillsboro Hops

Introducing the 2016 Hillsboro Hops

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.


QuickTake: Hillsboro Hops Ticket Pickup Event and D-Backs Mini Camp

QuickTake: Hillsboro Hops Ticket Pickup Event and D-Backs Mini Camp

NOTE: This post will be frequently updated. The latest version will always be time stamped after updates.

HILLSBORO, Ore – The 2014 and 2015 Hillsboro Hops are currently holding their 2016 Ticket Pickup Event for ticket plan holders at Ron Tonkin Field in conjunction with a Diamondbacks Mini Camp full of potential Hops and recent D-Backs draftees.

Being a mini plan ticket holder I managed to get the invite. The following includes a little information, unedited, about the events along with a few pictures, also unedited. A full length recap of the events will be posted in conjunction with this post later this evening. For the most up to date imformatiom make sure to follow me on Twitter at @atticusrice.

So what is this event? The Ticket Pickup Event, so far, consists of tables for fans to pickup either their mini plans or full season ticket packages (note the fancier setup for season tickets, should’ve splurged), full concessions (one free drink I’ve heard), a trophy display table with decals and other fun items (all free, except the trophy (I assume, if not then I call dibs)), and access to the team store and other ballpark amenities.

imageBut perhaps the most exciting part of the event is that it is happening at the same time as an Arizona Diamondbacks Mini Camp, full of young D-Back hopefuls, many of whom have played for the Hops or may play for them in the future. A picture of the full roster of players is at left.

As of now, players are warming up and beginning to take some drills.

A recap and debriefing of the attending players is in the making.

Update: 5:25 p.m.
Players are working with coaches in groups, split by position, on standard drills. It appears that coaches are wearing the Diamondbacks’ home white pants and players are wearing the team’s road grays.

As shown on the player roster (linked above), there are a number of players drafted in both 2015 and 2016 (as recently as this past weekend). It appears that players drafted last year (2015 Hop Alexi Olmeda, among others) are wearing jerseys with their name and number, while players drafted this year are wearing just their number. From a logistical standpoint this makes quite a bit of sense, as it would have been a nightmare for the Diamondbacks organization to make the proper jerseys for each of their draft picks from this year and send them out to the mini camp, among other locations.

Update: 6:00 p.m.
Field drills have ended and batting practice has begun! Cue the grounds crew setting up the protecting screens (yes, this did take a lot longer than I expected, especially for the backstop).

Update: 6:25 p.m.
So far only the catchers have taken batting practice, including Alexis Olmeda (2015), Luke Lowery (2015), and BJ Lopez (2012 NDFA). Olmeda seems himself back at Ron Tonkin Field and Lowery is hitting bombs straight out onto the Frontier Family Berm.

Update: 6:32 p.m.
Leaving just a tad bit early. Batting practice is still going strong, unsure if all players will get to hit, but it is unlikely.

Stay tuned for more updates, especially on Twitter in the days to come as the Mini Camp continues.

Introducing the Portland Pickles

Introducing the Portland Pickles

PORTLAND, Ore. – Baseball is back, again. Six years after the Portland Beavers (2001-2010) made their final appearance at then PGE Park, America’s pastime is back in Portland proper, in the form of Pickles.

In 2014 a new summer collegiate baseball league as formed known as the Great West League (GWL), similar to the area’s West Coast League (WCL). The league opened for play last Friday, June 3, with the Pickles on the road against the Medford Rogues.

The league has six teams across Oregon and California which will compete in a 57 game season that runs from early June through mid August with two rounds of playoffs and an All-Star Game.

Medford, who the Pickles opened against, is the only other team in Oregon. The Rogues previously played a number of seasons in the WCL under the same moniker, logos, and setup.

The Chico Heat, Lodi Crushers, Marysville Gold Sox, and Sacramento Stealth round out the other four teams in the GWL, all from California.

As Pickles announcer Spencer Smith made note of during the broadcast on opening night, the Pickles and Rogues should form a natural, interesting rivalry being the only two teams from Oregon in the league.

The Rogues won the opening series with the Pickles 2-1, outscoring Portland 17-14 in the three games, proving Smith’s words to be true, so far.

The Pickles played their first six games on the road (the other three against Chico) and are set to open at home after their first off day today against the Marysville Gold Sox at 7:05 p.m.

The opening series will feature two opening nights, as announced by the team, the first on Friday and the second on Saturday to give all fans the chance to get into the park and get a good seat. The openers include post game fireworks, magnet schedule giveaways, among other promotions.

The park in this instance will be Walker Stadium, a relativiely long-standing ballfield in East Portland’s Lents Park (at SE Holgate and 92nd). As part of a deal with the City of Portland, Walker Stadium has been vigorously renovated throughout the spring in order to bring it up to league standards. Below are a few pictures of the stadium being worked on earlier this morning.

The front entrance to Walker Stadium.
View from beyond the right field (309 ft.) fence.
New scoreboard waiting to be set up.
Work being done on the bullpens.
The Portland Pickles away cap.








As part of my visit to Walker Stadium this morning I was able to step inside the team offices, a trailer located along the third base concourse. I picked up the team’s away cap (one of many Pickles hats I expect to buy) and my tickets for this season, and was also able to say hi to team owner and general manager Ken Wilson.

Wilson helped found the GWL back in 2014 and is currently the president, as well as president and CEO, among his other duties, of the Pickles. Wilson owns the Pickles with his partner  under the company name Rose City Baseball, LLC.

With GWL operations running right alongside Pickles operations 2016 should be an exciting season for Portland baseball fans as the GWL opens tomorrow. Make sure to catch all Pickles home games at Walker Stadium where more than half the tickets are just $8 or less.

Stay up to date with the Pickles by liking them on Facebook (/PortlandPickles) and following the team on Instagram (portlandpickles) and Twitter (@picklesbaseball).

After their first three games at home over this weekend the team will have a break and a road series against Lodi before returning home for a six game homestand against Medford and Chico starting June 21. Don’t miss out on post game fireworks on June 10, 11, and 25.

To stay up to date on all things Grain of the Game and Portland Pickles, make sure to follow the blog (see the menu) and the author on Twitter (@atticusrice).

Introducing the Gresham Greywolves

Gresham’s mascot poses outside the team’s bus on May 14 at the team’s inaugural Fan Fest. Photo courtesy Gresham GreyWolves.

GRESHAM, Ore. – In October of 2015, the West Coast League announced a new team in the Gresham, OR market. On December 4, the team was named the Gresham GreyWolves.

So who are the GreyWolves, and what’s this league they’re playing in?

The West Coast League (WCL) was founded in 2005 and is currently made up  of 11 teams in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia (originally named the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League, renamed in 2008). It was formed out of four teams – Bellingham, Aloha (now in Corvallis, Bend, and Wenatchee – leaving the semi-pro Pacific International League to create something new. Kelowna and Spokane joined to start the inaugural season.

Once a 12 team league with four in three divisions – East, West, and South – the 2016 season will open with just 11, split into six and five into two divisions – North and South. After the closing of the 2015 season, the Medford Rogues left the league to join the newly forming Great West League (GWL), leaving the WCL with 11 teams.

Gresham came into the league after Klamath Falls was dropped from the lineup.  Owners and general managers Jerry and Lisa Walker purchased the Klamath Falls team and moved them to Gresham shortly after. The Walkers are a familiar name in Oregon baseball having owned the San Francisco Giants’ Class-A Short Season affiliate, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the Northwest League.

WCL teams are made up of ballplayers still in college who want to develop their talent while away from school for the summer. Fans benefit from being able to see developing talent, many destined for pro ball, in an affordable and family-friendly environment.

The GreyWolves will open their season with two non-conference home games against the Thurston County Senators of the Puget Sound Collegiate League on June 3 and 4. They will open their WCL schedule at home on June 6 against the Cowlitz County Black Bears, starting a six game, two series home stand.

The Yakima Valley Pippins will come to town on June 9 before the GreyWolves travel to Victoria, B.C. to play a three game series against the HarbourCats starting on June 14.

The WCL regular season, which Gresham will conclude at home on August 7 against the Bend Elks, is split into two halves of 27 games each. The winners of each half in both divisions earn a playoff birth and face each other with the winner advancing to the inter-divisional championship. First-half winners have the opportunity to receive home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. If one team wins both halves then the team with the second best overall record in the division earns the second spot.

The GreyWolves have made their schedule easy to remember, but possibly hard to attend, with all Monday through Saturday home games scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. Sunday games are slated for 5:05 p.m. Games are at Mt. Hood Community College’s Oslund Field, located about 17 miles east of Portland’s City Center.

Although in Gresham, the GreyWolves may see fan base and ticket sale competition from the professional (Minor League) back-to-back defending champion Hillsboro Hops (Class-A Short Season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks) and the GWL’s Portland Pickles, also in their inaugural season.

The Hops and GreyWolves play their games on opposite sides of the Metro Area, with nearly 40 miles between them. The Pickles and GreyWolves are a little closer, with just 14 miles between the Pickles’ Walker Stadium (in Lents Park at SE 92nd and Holgate). While the Hops have set themselves apart from the two newcomers with two championships in three seasons under their belt, ease of access for fans on Portland’s East Side could draw fans toward the collegiate league teams.

As none of the three teams have started their 2016 campaigns, only time will tell, along with ticket sales.

To stay up to date on the GreyWolves, make sure to follow them on Twitter (@GreshamGreyWolves) and Instagram (greshamgreywolves) and to like them on Facebook (/GreshamGreyWolves).

To stay up to date on all things Grain of the Game, make sure to follow the blog (see the menu) and the author on Twitter (@atticusrice). Updates on the GreyWolves, Pickles, Hops, and the Portland baseball fan base battle are always in the making. Make sure to check back for a recap of the author’s first GreyWolves game in the coming weeks.

Team Profile: McDaniel Green Terror Baseball

WESTMINSTER, Md. – The McDaniel Green Terror Baseball squad open their season on Feb. 27 at St. Mary’s (Md.) with a doubleheader starting at 12:00 p.m. Game two is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The Terror finished their 2015 campaign at 19-15, 11-7 CC, placing 0th in conference and earning a bid to the conference tournament. They lost both their games.

Despite a 5-12 routing from Johns Hopkins (22-18, 9-9 CC), the Terror rebounded to defeat Arcadia (9-26-1) 10-0 in the ECAC Southeast Tournament Semifinal. Sadly, McDaniel was dropped in the Championship Game 5-7 at the hands of the Widener Pride (33-13).

The 2015 campaign was much improved from that in 2014 where the Terror went just 15-18, 9-9 CC.

At the helm of the Green Terror this year will be Coach Dave Seibert, returning for his 36th season since joining the team in 1981. A McDaniel graduate in the class of 1978, Seibert holds a career record of 471-495-4.

Five seniors have graduated the team since last spring. 11 freshman take their places this year.

The 2016 squad is highlighted by nine seniors, including 2015 hits leader Marty Windisch. The third baseman collected 61 hits in 149 at bats. With nine doubles and five triples, the latter of which earned him the team record, his 40 RBI’s also topped the McDaniel charts. His slash line of .409/.436/.557 contain two more top spots, both the outsides. Windisch’s average was just two percentage points behind the conference leading .411, held by Craig Hoelzer of Johns Hopkins.

With Brandon Hayward graduated, 2015 the second-place doubles leader Tyler Gilbert finds himself a senior for the Terror this year. Gilbert collected 11 doubles in 36 hits, collecting a line of .293/.364/.431.

Homerun leader Kasey Nelson returns this year as a junior, hoping to add to his four from last year’s 104 at bats.

Sean Sivo, now a senior, will look to add to his team-leading 21 steals from 2015. Sivo also earned the most walks in 2015 with 23, nine more than the following bid.

The 2015 slugging percentage leader (.468) Cameron Bahr will return this year behind the plate for his final season with the Green Terror.

With 38 games scheduled for this spring, 18 in conference, the Green Terror will look to improve upon, or at least repeat, their 2015 season.

For the latest and most up-to-date info on McDaniel Green Terror Baseball make sure to follow McDaniel Athletics, Green Terror Baseball, the Centennial Conference, and myself on Twitter.