This week I’m visiting a friend in Portland, Oregon (who just told me to take my feet off the coffee table). (And it’s not even his coffee table; we’re in a café.)
Naturally, I went to see the AAA Beavers, opting for Sunday afternoon’s battle against the Tacoma Rainiers. It looks as though Salt Lake has the Pacific North Division more or less locked up, but I couldn’t wait to kick back in the stadium nestled in this jewel of a city, plus I was excited to see some of the guys we’ve been hyping here: Jeff Clement, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Charlton Jimerson for Tacoma, and Matt Antonelli for Portland.
Well, it turned out that none of those guys were playing except for Antonelli, who hit .213 this year. I mean, there was Mean Paul McAnulty and his 1.202 OPS, but…no matter. I bought myself a pint of Lagunitas IPA and headed for my field-box seat, eagerly anticipating the emerald-green grass, the open air, the contours of the ballfield and the ivy on the wall.
As a New Jersey native, I must confess pleasure in saying that this place is no Trenton. In addition to the artificial turf and apparent Death Star in right field (actually the Multnomah Athletic Club), there’s an overhang that wraps around the grandstand to protect fans from Oregon’s winter drizzle: The stadium was originally built in 1926 to host football games, and still is home to Portland State football and whatever the professional soccer team is called. But you would think 2001’s $38.5 million renovation might have made the place feel a little bit less like Veterans Stadium West. Seriously, this is the Bus Leagues! Who cares about the 38 new luxury suites?
The effect of the overhang is domelike. It’s dark, and fans, should they try to toss out a cheer or a heckle, sound weirdly disembodied, echoes in a mausoleum. And while Sunday’s announced crowd of 9,491 would be a double sell-out for most minor-league clubs, it felt like just a drop in the ocean in this 20,000-seat joint.
To be fair, the left-field wall, brick and ivy-covered, is a lot nicer than the right-field one, and there’s a handsome hand-operated scoreboard. But by now, with Portland behind 4-0 in the fifth, I figured I’d walk around a little.
Clearance sale on old merch. Red-and-black caps with a Phillies-like P, a meaner-looking Beaver, and a few remaining souvenirs from 2001’s Portland Rockies.
The garlic fries were good.
Lucky the Beaver was the most invisible minor-league mascot I’ve (failed to) come across. Normally those guys are impossible not to find, what with their three-foot heads and accompanying gaggle of kids. Not so with Lucky, who I saw on the field once, and off the field never. Maybe the garlic fries put him off. In his place, I did manage to get a shot of Bullwinkle.
But all my carping aside, all was well as far as the important stuff went. Families sat in the picnic areas while little kids hacked at Wiffle balls mysteriously suspended on a jet of air. And once I stepped outside the gates, I was downtown, mere blocks from the best bookstore in the country. Now to find a book about the evils of Astroturf…