The Grain of the Game Announces New Blog Features

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Grain of the Game author Atticus Rice would like to thank all of the followers of the blog for being, well, followers. Through interactions on Twitter and the blog, our numbers have soared since the first post was published.

Now, as the 2016 Minor League Baseball season is finally in full swing with the start of Class-A Short Season ball, the blog has a few exciting announcements regarding new blog features.

The new features include live posts  that will be written during events and updated – and edited – after the events conclude, ballpark and uniform/branding reviews, baseball history quips, and and a number of others, some to be released later this year. A full breakdown of each new feature is below.

QuickTake

After a trial run during the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Mini Camp held at Hillsboro’s Ron Tonkin Field last week, QuickTake will be a feature that revolves around live posts that will be updated, unedited, throughout the event, and then wrapped up following the conclusion of the event .

Filed under the title, and category, as “QuickTake,” the feature should be expected every now and then, and will not be regularly scheduled.

Park Pass

As a way to document the author’s attempts to catch a  game at every ballpark a baseball team calls home, Park Pass will be anew feature that highlights first time visits to ballparks across the country. To not swarm the blog with these types of posts, followers should expect them infrequently, only upon visits to new ballparks.

Exceptions will be made for parks that were visited before this announcement with this type of post in mind. The date the park was visited (or dates) will always be made clear.

Brand Blues

Despite an episode of Makers of Sport Podcast that the author recently listened to which argued that ‘brand’ is likely the incorrect term to name this feature for what it is, Brand Blues will include posts celebrating, critiquing, criticizing, and/or simply making note of various teams’ brands – logo, uniform, use of the aforementioned, and everything in between- for the sake of what baseball design should look like, in the eyes of the author. Disagreeing with and debating the opinions expressed in these posts is not only welcomed, but encouraged.

Pastime Pinstripes

A project started for am English class at McDaniel College in the spring of 2016, Pastime Pinstripes is a “personal learning network” which focuses on the history and evolution of baseball uniforms and logos. Rather than continuing both blogs  at the same time, the decision was made to merge the two and make posts that would be better fit for Pastime Pinstripes special features on The Grain of the Game.

Posts of this nature should be expected on a weekly basis, typically posted on Sunday afternoons. While most of the posts will be new content, all posts from the original blog will be reposted on this blog on an infrequent basis. Each recycled post will be clearly marked as so.

If anyone desires, the original Pastime Pinstripes blog can be found here, along with the Twitter account here.

Sweetspot Scorecards

Given the nature of baseball, it only makes sense to keep score. The author has always believed in this, recently to the point where he has started producing his own scorecards, while still testing those made by others. To celebrate this, The Grain of the Game will begin to post features that showcase select scorecards, both game-used and ready-to-print to use at the park yourself.

If any followers or fans would like to request a custom scorecard they are more than welcome to. Requests will be filled as soon as possible.

As always, game and season previews and recaps will continue to fuel the blog as the main type of post. Team news and additional features will also remain to have a presence.

Any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the new features and/or this announcement should be directed to the comments section of this post or to the author’s Twitter, at @atticusrice.

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Hops Edge By Volcanoes for First Ever Opening Day Win

Hops Edge By Volcanoes for First Ever Opening Day Win

KEIZER, Ore. – The back-to-back Northwest League defending champion Hillsboro Hops edged past division rival Salem-Keizer on Friday 6-5. The Opening Day win was the first for Hillsboro in their four year history, taking their all-time record against the Volcanoes to 19-18.

After a hitless top of the first, Hillsboro starter Anfernee Benitez gave up a lead off double to the Volcanoes’ Manuel Geraldo. A Benitez wild pitch with Geraldo on third scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first. Benitez would give up another double and throw out a second wild pitch, with no fault, before the inning was over.

The Hops responded with three of their own in the second thanks to back-to-back hits from Justin Chigbogu and Alexis Olmeda and a three run blast from Jeff Smith.

The score remained 3-1 until Hillsboro’s Luke Lowery hit a shot of his own with Josh Anderson on base in the sixth.

Salem-Keizer’s Gustavo Cabrera added a homer of his own in the seventh after a pitching change for Hillsboro. Two more came in for the Volcanoes in the last of the seventh putting the home team within one, 5-4.

The Hops added an extra insurance run off a Chigbogu double in the eighth which scored Lowery.

The Volcanoes threatened a comeback in the bottom of the ninth scoring one on a Cabrera single, but the defending champs were able to shut things down, ending the 2 hour and 46 minute Opening Day contest.

As noted by Hops’ play-by-play announcer Rich Burk during his post game show, it was a very clean game, with no errors committed by either team, a rare feat at the start of the Northwest League season.

Lowery led the team with two RBI’s, hitting 2-for-4 and scoring two runs of his own. Smith drove in three, hitting 1-for-4.

Anderson and Chigbogu both doubled for the visitors.

Cabrera led the Volcanoes with two RBI’s and a run of his own hitting 2-for-4.

Hops starter Benitez lasted five innings, earning his first win of the 2016 season. The fifth-year player struck out six while allowing just one run on six hits. Despite being banged up early in the first inning, Benitez was able to calm down and find his groove after being handed a lead to work with.

Julio Perez earned his first save for the Hops with one inning of work where he allowed one run on two hits while striking out just one.

The Hops pitching staff combined for 10 K’s while giving a free pass to just one batter. 12 hits scored five runs.

The Volcanoes staff of three allowed six runs on 11 hits while striking out seven and walking three, along with hitting one.

As the numbers show, the Hops outlasted – and outscored- the Volcanoes just enough, garnering one more run on one less hit.

A perfect 1-0 for the first time in history, the Hops will turn to right handed Tyler Mark tonight in attempt to start a winning streak. Salem-Keizer will start Hengerber Medina, a third year righty.

Game time is set for 6:35 p.m. in Keizer.

The Hops return to Hillsboro for their home opener Monday for a 7:05 p.m. game time against the Eugene Emeralds.

As always, make sure to stay up to date on all things Hillsboro Hops, Northwest League, and Grain of the Game by following the blog (at left) and the author on Twitter at @atticusrice.

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.

Recap: Hillsboro Hops Ticket Pickup Event and Diamondbacks Mini Camp

Recap: Hillsboro Hops Ticket Pickup Event and Diamondbacks Mini Camp

HILLSBORO, Ore. – The Hillsboro Hops hosted their inaugural Ticket Pickup Event yesterday, open to all ticket plan holders. The event was held in conjunction with an Arizona Diamondbacks Mini Camp at Ron Tonkin Field. A QuickTake post of the event can be found here.

The event was an overall success with a variety of free food and beverage items, posters and decals being handed out, photo ops with the Northwest League Championship trophy, and plenty of baseball to watch prior to Friday’s League opener (and Monday’s home opener).

Thanks to the Mini Camp, in attendance at the park was not only many eager Hops fans, but about 40 young prospects in the Diamondbacks franchise, along with a full coaching staff. A list of the staff wasn’t released, nor was it clear exactly everyone who was there, but returning 2015 Hops manager Shelley Duncan was helping out along with Hops consultant and Oregon native Ben Petrick.

Three of the players at the park had already spent some time in Hillsboro, all helping the Hops to their latest championship last season. These men were Josh Anderson, Alexis Olmeda, and Nic Coffman, all 2015 draftees.

Anderson, now with 35 games under his belt in the 2016 season with Full-A Kane County (currently on the disabled list), spent 43 games with Hillsboro in 2015, accumulating 41 hits and a line of .270/.345/.362.

Olmeda, one of the late-season heroes with the 2015 Hops (scored key runs multiple times), spent 40 games with the club last season, earning 36 hits and scoring 15 runs with a line of .265/.384/.324. The catcher from Puerto Rico caught 13 runners.

Coffman, a Portland, OR native, spent just four games with the Hops in 2015, hitting 2-for-11 in the span, although he did drive in a run and score one of his own. Between two other low-level teams in 2015, the Non-Drafted Free Agent from Corban earned a line of .211/.250/.250.

Anderson already spending time in Kane County, it is unlikely that he will spend a significant amount of time with the Hops, if any, depending on his condition. Olmeda and Coffman, on the other hand, have a fair chance of ending up in Hillsboro again, what will most likely be a warm welcome for the fan-favorite catcher and the hometown kid.

Also in attendance at the Mini Camp was Tommy Eveld and Jordan Watson, 9th and 7th round 2016 draftees.

Eveld, a dual (football) athlete at the University of San Francisco, pitched in 13 games in 2015, making two starts with a 1-2 record. Joining the baseball team after primarily playing football and having successes right away (four innings of hitless ball with five K’s in his debut), Eveld is regarded as a steal for the D-Backs in this year’s draft.

Watson, a pitcher out of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO), is best known for his 7-1 record and all-conference honors while pitching at Seminole State College prior to his work at USAO. The lefty earned an ERA of 3.2 and helped lead his team to a 41-18 record.

Not in attendance, yet listed on the roster, was 2016 4th round draftee Curtis Taylor out of the University of British Columbia. Clocked at speeds up to 95 mph, Taylor led his team with a 1.02 ERA and was named to the NAIA All-American Honorable Mention team.

A roster full of promise, those highlighted here are just a few names that Hops fans may already know or should get to know for this coming season. The events were an overall success and will most likely only grow to be even better in the years to come, as seen with the Hops Fan Fest the last two years.

The Hops open their fourth season as a team on Friday on the road against Salem-Keizer at 6:35 p.m. to defend their back-to-back Northwest League championships. The team (whose roster has yet to be decided, stay posted), will open at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro on Monday, June 20 at 7:05 p.m. against the Eugene Emeralds.

As always, make sure to follow the blog using one of our follow buttons, as well as the author on Twitter, at @atticusrice, for the the latest updates on all things Hillsboro Hops, Northwest League, and your weekly fix of baseball. Make sure to stay tuned for a 2016 Hops preview and roster reveal later this week.

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.

Pickles Home Opener a Success, Despite Loss

Pickles Home Opener a Success, Despite Loss

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Pickles were handed their first loss at their home park, Walker Stadium, on Friday night at the hands of the Marysville Gold Sox by a score of 8-6. The game went 10 innings, the first extra innings contest in Great West League history.

The inaugural home game for Portland got off to  a quick start as both teams drew in the first. Marysville (5-1) plated two in their half of the inning thanks to work at the Plate from Adrian Vela and Austin Call.

The Pickles (3-3) responded in the bottom half of the inning with two of their own off a Marcus Doi two-run double.

The Gold Sox came back in full force behind starting pitcher Justin Giovannoni, scoring three off of Pickles’ southpaw Jacob Allbee in the second.

Marysville tacked on their sixth run an inning later in the third.

Portland was held scoreless after the first until the team exploded for four runs in the seventh, tying the game at six apiece.

The eighth and ninth saw failed efforts from both teams as the game went into extras, the first occurrence in League history.

The visitors wasted no time once play resumed after a fireworks delay (for more on this make sure to check out our review of Walker Stadium in the coming days), securing their first two batters on second and third in just three at bats. Three-hole Ryan Weisenberg singled both runners in, breaking the 6-6 tie.

Portland threatened in the last of the 10th after a leadoff single from Joey Cooper and one out walk from Jordan Prendez. A game-ending double play silenced the crowd just three pitches later.

Marysville’s Dalton DeVries led the team, reaching base five times in six at bats and scoring one run. Weisenberg hit 2-for-6 and drove in two.

Steven Chavez led the Pickles, hitting 2-for-6, both doubles, scoring twice, and driving in one more.

The three hour and 56 minute home opener was played in front of a faithful 1,607 Portland fans.

The Pickles continue their opening home stand against Marysville tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Walker Stadium.

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.

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