Hallo everyone at GLB. For those of you who weren't around in the miserable year of 2008, allow me to acquaint myself with you guys. I'm royhobbs. Another nerd on the internet using the namesake of the greatest fictional baseball player of all time. If it's not obvious, I am an Atlanta Braves fan, first and foremost. It's not that I'm so much a fan of the San Diego Padres as much as I am simply, a fan of Gaslamp Ball. What started off as me coming by to inundate the SD locals for advice, ideas, and things to see when my nerdy baseball travels brought me to San Diego, turned into me having an awesome time at PETCO and the rest of the city. And before I knew it, I was coming back to GLB well afterwards, hanging out in your open threads, leaving sarcastic remarks, and scratching at the few true connections that I could (then) relate to most people with: Marcus Giles and his brother's oddly erotic shower escapades with Chris Young, and Greg Maddux slowly, but surely passing Roger Clemens on the all-time wins list, while wearing a Pads uniform.
I also posted some huge, fluffy, picture-filled fanposts, when applicable to the San Diego Padres. Now life kind of got in the way all throughout the 2009 season, and sure, most of the 2010 season, since I work solely on a freelance basis, so my GLB activity more or less screeched to a halt; but it was nothing personal, since my activity on my own side of the fence is pretty low in comparison to older times, and let's not even get into my surprising author status over at Uncommon Sportsman - damn it Axion and jbox, I can only do so many eating contests!!
But much as changed since 2008. The Padres and the Braves are both leading their divisions instead of dwelling in their respective cellars. I won't say much else about that, because I've already probably jinxed us both now, and this is turning into way too long of an introduction. But I still love to travel and visit ballparks I've never been to, which brings us to recent times. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and going to San Diego, to Drama's proposed meet and greet, with fake prosthetic genitalia and an ironic designated driver bracelet, I instead made my most expensive and furthest distanced ballpark road trip of the season, to Portland, Oregon, which you guys probably know better as the Home of the soon-to-be-kaput Portland Beavers. Yes, I just dropped $400 to go to a minor league ballpark.
Okay, I'm not even going to bother to fabricate some bull(crap) reason why I like the Portland Beavers. "I saw Chase Headley tee off on the Las Vegas 51s!!!" Yes, in my case, it is very safe for you to believe your assumptions on why I grew fascinated with a team called the Portland Beavers. The 14-year old in me demanded this trip to come to fruition! It was actually kind of panic-worthy; I knew that 2010 was the last year for the Beevs, but somewhere throughout the season, it slipped my mind until I was reminded by a Braves fan that happened to reside in Portland. "O (crap)," I thought, and suddenly, I was on the website, looking at the remainder of the Beavers' home games, trying to find a chance to see the Beevs, at PGE Park, which I've always heard was a great park as far as MiLB was concerned. Labor Day weekend? Nope, got nerdy plans already. Which pretty much left only one possible day that I could make it: August 16th.
Long story short, it was a stressful period. The day game on the 16th was my only chance because it allowed me to fly in, take advantage of the three-hour time change, see the Beavers, troll around town for a few hours, and then take the red-eye back to Atlanta that night. But to anyone who knows the airline industry (frequently stands by for flights) might know, it's never simple when you need it to be, but I got lucky, and made my flight out to Portland. I wasn't quite so lucky on the red-eye flight, but that's another story, but at least I still got to see PGE and the Beavers.
So upon arriving to Portland, I didn't waste any time, and hustled quickly to the MAX redline so I could get to PGE as soon as possible, since it was a 1 p.m. local game. I opted to train it, since costs were already high, and well, there was a train that had a direct stop to PGE. I opted to buy a day pass, and ride the trains. Oddly, even though I did purchase the day pass, not a single opportunity presented itself throughout the entire day where I actually had to present it, and wave/punch/insert it anywhere. I rode the train all day for free, basically, even outside of the "free-zone" within Downtown.
Here's the outside of PGE Park, with its weird, rubberbandy/tapey looking giant masks. I didn't bother to ask what the significance was, but the few kids that were already at the park seemed to be crazy about them.
I figure I'd let you guys here make some joke about Dex, since apparently, I have very little to say to him whenever I visit except for random remarks about Brooks Conrad, and how he keeps hitting these awesome pinch-hit homers/slams for the Braves.
Did I mention that I got there really early? But this is why I chose a Monday day game. I knew it was going to be really desolate, and afford me all the leisure I wanted to walk around and soak in the place, without bumping into random people all afternoon. I'm kind of agoraphobic and claustrophobic in that regard, which is ironic, considering how much I love to travel.
After walking around the pavilion, it was time to see the field I had frantically fought to ensure would happen.
PGE Park is a beautiful facility, even if the turf is artificial, and discolored in the outfield, due to its inevitable fate as a futbol venue. It's also the largest minor league park I've ever been to.
And for today, it was also one of the emptiest ballparks I've ever been to. For a park that can supposedly hold over 10,000 people, there were maybe at tops, 400 people in attendance. I'm really glad I didn't spring for great seats, because with my $5 general admission ticket, I could pretty much sit wherever I wanted to, anyway.
There is a lot charming about the place, but the manually-operated scoreboard is still one of the top reasons. I went to one of my (former) favorite MiLB parks out in Virginia last week (Potomac Nationals, class high-A), and I say former, because it used to be this total (crap)box that even the players in the opposing bullpen would whine about throughout the game. But then apparently this year, they installed this high-def screen in the outfield, and then suddenly, it lost some of its charm. Not to mention prices on about everything throughout the ballpark were higher than they used to be. With PGE's old-ass manual scoreboard, it transcended the point of "being cheap" and has turned into "ironically retro cool."
Here's the rich people section where they cage themselves off from the rest of us plebeians so they can drink overpriced beer, and slightly upper-quality catered food, while they watch minor league ball behind this segmented net with these obscuring huge black strips of fabric, instead of one gigantic, taut-pulled net.
I like old, hand-written whiteboard lineup walls. And the guy in the background is definitely picking his nose.
And no minor league park is compete without its litany of child-distracting fluff, for the parents that can't seem to ingrain the love of the game into their spawn, and resort to happy distractions. Or maybe I just wanted to take pictures of all the things I could that had "BEAVERS" written on it. Your choice.
Requisite view from the outfield pole.
And the look down from the outfield wall. I learned in Chicago that the best way to deter anyone from going somewhere they're not supposed to go was to have a chain-link fence, tilted at 45 degrees, and it seems to send the message that this was a boundary, not to be crossed. Apparently, Portland doesn't seem to mind that their easily-traversable outfield wall leads to a potential FALL OF DEATH. But at least the ivy is pretty, much like it is in Chicago, albeit a little polluted, when seen up close.
Oh yeah, baseball. Here's Josh Geer, warming up before the game. Where Charlie Haeger was pulled early for the Isotopes, Geer was left in too long. One guess to which was the better decision.
The backside of the manual scoreboard. Apparently, a few baseballs get hit up here from time to time, because I saw some beggar kids begging the guy up in the tower for baseballs, and suddenly, he threw a couple down.
One interesting thing about the park is the neighboring athletic club. From what I heard from a local, the athletic club donated some of the land for PGE to be built, and in return, the club's patrons could utilize this balcony level, or the unpictured seating rows on the side of the building to watch free baseball, while working out. C'mon guys, it's minor league ball, don't be such cheapskates! Although, I certainly wouldn't mind sitting on the balcony, and using a baseball game to take my mind off the exercise while on a stationary bike or something. Granted, I run the risk of dehydration or exhaustion, in 93 degree Fahrenheit weather, but whatever.
Okay, this is really strange to me. The last time I saw RC cola, I was living in the countryside of Virginia. And the logo was different than this. Furthermore, this is the first, and only baseball park I've been to that has been predominantly supplied by a soft drink maker other than Coke or Pepsi. To see 7-UP fronting the fountains only reminded me of one thing: Orlando Jones telling televisions to "7-UP YOURS"
Oh yeah, there was a ballgame I came to see. The first three innings were excitement, with Geer starting off strong, sitting down the Isotopes in the first inning, with Craig Stansberry starting off strong by blasting a 2-run homer in his first at-bat. But that was quickly responded by Justin Sellers who tied up the game with his own 2-run dinger, before Nick Green un-tied the game in the bottom of the third with a 2-out bases loaded 2RBI single. I was told by a buddy that ESPN's Rob Neyer was at this particular game, and made some tweet about how it wasn't exciting. I wonder if that was before, or after the dueling scoring?
Be proud, Padres, Beavers fans. In all my baseball travels, I have never left home without an Atlanta Braves, or Atlanta Braves affiliates' hat. I knowingly left my house on Monday morning without a hat, because one, I needed the space in my messenger bag, and two, I had full intention of purchasing a Portland Beavers hat. And when I got to the team store, I had my veritable pick of hats to pick from. And the road, two-tone hat is what I decided upon.
...Okay, I'm lying. I really wanted the all-navy Beavers home hat, but a combination of the fact that the Beavers are on death row, on top of the team store pretty much selling everything at 50% meant that there were no more home hats in my size left. Seriously though, I thought I had a unique-sized giant head (in before TWSS), but apparently, I'm not the only person out there who wears a 7 1/2. There was literally almost every other size known to man, but NOOOO, long-distance traveler can't get a single 7 1/2 for himself. EFFF. But I refused to leave PGE empty handed, damn it, so the two-tone it was. I love it no less than I would have an all-navy home hat.
I thought about getting my picture with Lucky the Beaver, but felt really awkward doing so, when I was all by myself. I was neither a small child, or a wanton female. Which is odd, because I've got my picture taken with several other team mascots before on my travels, but I guess the shy geek in me felt a little intimidated in the presence of a large . . . okay, I'll not finish this one. But when I decided that I should do it, since I'll never get another chance, it was too late. Lucky made his one lap around the park, and was never to be seen anywhere else throughout the game.
Wily Mo Pena sighting! I had no idea that he eventually made his way waaay the hell out west, considering the last time I remember him, he was playing for the Washington Nationals. But with an 0-fer day, apparently some things haven't really changed, stats be damned.
Here's the game from the other side of the park. This, if I can recall correctly, is actually Nick Green's 2RBI single that made the game 4-2 in the favor of the Beevs.
Between the innings of 4-6, this girl was doing exactly what I'd be doing if I were a member at this particular athletic club. I mean seriously, basement dwellers like me don't get much excuse to go out and be active, but if I were to sit there pumping my legs, while watching baseball, it might not be so bad. Especially if I actually had vested interest in the teams playing.
And she appeared to be really hot, so I was kinda glancing back way too often.
I eventually realized that the lower level wasn't necessarily exclusively for the rich and famous (in Portland), and eventually made my way down there. There, I noticed the most contrary ball hawk I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, it's not the guy slouched in the chair, but the girl in somewhat fashionable clothing. She had already retrieved one foul ball during the game, but apparently that wasn't enough for her. Any ball that sailed in the remote vicinity, she was up out of her seat, tracking it, and if close enough, charging for it. Definitely not the case of Mr. Overzealous Foul Ball Catcher Guy.
Despite my track record of seeing home teams win at their home parks (even the 2008 Padres), I forgot that such did not apply to my minor league travels. With the Beavers 5-4 loss to the Isotopes, my overall Minor League record is a cool .500 (8-8).
And with that, the park cleared out in record time. I had hardly finished taking a few pictures when I turned around, and this is all I saw left of the park. It was kind of a melancholy feeling for me, because I came such a far distance just to see PGE Park and a Beavers game, and just like that, it was so quickly over, and concluded. No milling in the concourses, no post-game beers with my single-serving friends of the day. Just emptiness.
But since baseball is only a part of my road trips, I did some wandering around Downtown Portland, before my scheduled flight was supposed to be. Since I'm the food-devouring monger which got me an "in" with Uncommon Sportsman, this is what I ate after by experience with the Beavers. A turkey-pastrami-corned beef double decker from Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen. My mouth's watering just thinking about this again.
And then I found this old school arcade/hipster bar a few blocks away, called Ground Kontrol. It's the "K" in the name that really drew me in. Inside, I was able to actually find and play a few quarters worth of the 6-player X-Men arcade game from the 1990's. While drinking PBR like a true hipster, minus the nut-huggers, Weezer glasses, and sleeved tattoos.
I saw this right outside of Voodoo Doughnuts, since I'm a sucker for the places that Man v. Food does. From what I experienced, Portland is anything but in any danger of not being weird. My favorite author is Chuck Palahiunk, and he's a former Portland resident. It's so very obvious to see why he writes the way he does, having lived in this place. Seriously, this city was pretty much exclusively HHH - no, not the professional wrestler, or Hubert H. Humphrey of the Metrodome, but a lame attempt to incorporate Triple H the wrestler into this post, but it really stands for what seemed to be 80% of the populous on the streets of Portland - Hipsters, Hippies, and Homeless.
And this photo kind of captures most of it . . . sorta. The hipster on the bike, there's a guy wearing a Barney purple pimp suit, and hat, but obscured by the sign is the hipster hippie with the mohawk. All sitting together in some weird Bone Thugs 'N Harmony... harmony.
If I weren't so stuffed from the massive sandwich I had just eaten, I totally would have tried some Portland street fares. Seriously, I was fascinated by just how much available street food there was. But unfortunately, even if I wanted to push my gut's limit a little bit, it was impossible, since pretty much all these booths, as well as well, every small business in Downtown Portland, seemed to close at like 6 p.m., wtf??
Overall, Portland is a really cute city. It's very aethestically pleasing to me, and I had a great time walking around, and getting myself lost, and then un-lost thanks to my anDROOIIID phone, using the Google Maps app. I would loved to have had more time to walk around and cross the river, and go walk around the southeast part of the city, but alas.
Voodoo Doughnuts' maple bacon donut - bliss.
But the day was about the baseball, about the Beavers. Despite the fact that my motives and reasoning for liking the Beavers and actually going to Portland to see the Beavers are more or less rubbish, I really do love baseball, and this trip was well worth the money, time, and trouble. I could have easily allowed Monday to pass by, and pass by my one and only chance to ever see the Portland Beavers, and PGE Park, but I told myself that I life ain't Scott Pilgrim; we only live once, so may as well and go do something spontaneous.
I might not be as educated in, or as big of fans of the Beavers as you guys are, since they are your affiliates, but I will always look back at my trip to Portland, and experience seeing the Beavers, as one of the better baseball trips that I've ever made.
Thanks for reading, all of ye who have endured this far, and cheers to fun baseball!