Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 5- Tucson Padres

Believe it or not this hat turned out to be one of the hardest hats to track down over the last year. Even more unusual was where I ended up buying it. The story really dates back to 2008, long before the Tucson Padres were even a glint in anyone’s eye. I was a regular attendee of the then Portland Beavers, the AAA franchise of the San Diego Padres, while at the same time I was a season ticket holder for the then-USL Portland Timbers. Having moved to Eugene the previous year to attend the University of Oregon full time, it became a bit difficult to make the trip north to a lot of games. Yes, I realize we’re talking about summer sports; however, I was taking summer classes, so in your face! 2008 proved to be the last year I attended either team’s games at a high frequency as the hit my wallet was taking due to gas prices was becoming a bit crazy. It was also around this time that the Timbers were being considered for a call-up to Major League Soccer, something I really didn’t think would have such a major impact on the baseball market in Portland.

The AAA All-Star game in 2009 was the last time I attended a game at, then-PGE Park. Something that big was pretty hard to resist. The most notable part of that game was that Oklahoma City RedHawks infielder Esteban German was named one of the “Top Stars” of the game. This was personally amusing to me as I had a brief encounter with him back in 2000 when he was playing for the Modesto A’s and I was the bat boy for the Bakersfield Blaze. (That story will come in another post.) The really interesting thing about the game being played in Portland; however, was that it was supposed to be THE large stepping stone to keep the team in Portland and prove how big of a baseball town Portland actually was. Well, a year after that, the team played its final season as the stadium was now going to be renovated to a soccer-specific park for the Timbers as their promotion was approved.

Since October 19, 2010 the Beavers/Padres have been in a weird state of limbo. The team was supposed to move to Escondido, CA in 2013, thus making their home in Tucson temporary; however, as of May 2011 the plans for said move were put on indefinite hold. On July 30, 2012, after a large legal battle, the team was purchased by a group in El Paso, Texas which will move the team there by the start of the 2014 season once a new stadium has been constructed.

Now, as far as acquiring and marking the hat: I was a bit stewed after the team was sold and moved out of Portland, but not terribly upset as I still had the Eugene Emeralds to visit anytime I wanted only 2 miles away from my house. One night toward the end of the 2011 season I combed through the assortment of Minor League caps that Lids had to offer and came across the Tucson Padres. Needless to say, I was impressed. I’ve always loved the swinging Padre logo, hence why I hat it tattooed on my body. Also, I the color scheme was quite impressive so I put it on my “to get list.” I had all ready placed a 6 hat order a few days earlier so I was in no rush to scoop it up. My size (7 3/8) was available to so I didn’t worry too much about it. About 2 weeks later when I was ready to final get it, my size was gone. Seeing how the season had just ended, I was a bit screwed in hoping that there would be a restock in the near future. So I waited…. an entire year!

Almost everyday I checked Lids’ inventory for a restock with no success. The only other time I came across one was when I went to San Diego to catch a Padres/Reds game with my fellow MLB Fan Cave Top 50 finalist and friend Andy Bishop, at which the stadium store was asking $45 for the hat. Hell no! Months would pass, and still no restock available. I kind of figured the hat would be popular, but not like this. It wasn’t until late August when I was traveling between Pittsburgh, PA, Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY that I finally came across it. Having met and made a few friends with New Era, I was invited to their home office in Buffalo for a tour by retail marketing coordinator Seth Ehrenberg and events marketing manager Jim Wannemacher. At the end of the tour I took a peek inside the Flagship store they had set up. I spent a good 20 minutes canvassing the joint when I finally came across the “holy grail.” I was especially shocked when they had my size in stock. I tried it on and quickly threw it up on the counter. There was no way I was letting that bad boy go.

I really didn’t have any plans on marking my Minor League caps as players come and go too quickly to really add something of note; however, in this case, adding 2011 (their first year) seemed like a good fit. I put a – next to that to mark their final year played, but won’t put the exact date until their move to El Paso becomes a reality. The significance of this also marks one of the shortest stints for an AAA team in any location; something that really surprised me as Arizona is a hot bed for MLB talent. I guess it really shows what I know about the business of baseball.

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