Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 14- Hillsboro Hops

It’s weird to think that it’s only been two years since professional baseball left Portland, September 6, 2010 to be exact. I wrote about that date back on March 6th in my first of several posts about the then-Portland Beavers who are now the Tucson Padres. And while the city has been two years removed from the game I love, it felt like an eternity. A lot has happened in such a short time frame, at least from my perspective: I graduated from the University of Oregon… twice, went to New York City to be a member in season two of the MLB Fan Cave, traveled the country and Canada after being kicked out of the Fan Cave, fell in love with Angie Kinderman (@sconnieangie), went to Europe and made a lot of new friends. Yes, I’ve kept busy, but that still doesn’t mean I didn’t miss having a professional team in the city in which I call home.

From 2007 through the middle of March of this year I lived in Eugene, Oregon, going to school for the majority of the time that I was there. For the first two years I did my best to attend as many Beavers games as I could, but found myself attending more Eugene Emeralds games more and more each year due to proximity. Then, in 2009, the U of O baseball was re-established after a 28-year hiatus. These moments, in conjunction with the back-to-back National Championships in baseball that my school’s rival, Oregon State University, won in 2006 and 2007 were proving to the community and the surrounding states that baseball was finally becoming a thriving, successful sport in Oregon. But alas, the Portland Beavers were out as the newly-promoted Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers, needed a soccer-specific stadium to host their games. Their solution? Renovate and all ready renovated baseball stadium, PGE Park, convert it to a soccer-specific venue and leave the Beavers high-and-dry. Thus, the move to Tucson without a better option.

In May of 2011 buzz began to build about the possible return of professional baseball to the Portland area… sort of. Across the I-5 bridge to the north the town of Vancouver, Washington was scrambling to put together a proposal and business plan to be able to house the Yakima Bears and build a new baseball facility on the campus of Clark College, a junior college I happened to graduate from, in the southern portion of the city. Everything seemed to be in place for the upcoming 2012 season, but the deal fell through, leaving the Bears n limbo. On June 26, 2012 the town of Hillsboro, a thriving suburban just west of Portland, threw voted unanimously to bring the Bears, and professional baseball, back to the Portland area. In October the reality set in as the newly named Hillsboro Hops broke ground for a stadium renovation at Hillsboro Ballpark near Sunset Highway. 

On June 14, 2013, today, the Hops played their first game against Northwest League rival the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Despite the fact that the Hops went on to lose 2-3, the reality is that all of the hard work and effort that it took general manager K.L. Wombacher, the Hops and the town of Hillsboro to put this all together need to be applauded no matter what the result on the field was. Baseball in the big city is back.

This particular hat is one that I sadly don’t own yet. Much like my Oakland Athletics Stars and Stripes post from May 21st, I had to borrow this one to be able to pull it off in time for the season opener. This will explain why there aren’t any marks yet. This is the first cap the Hops wore for their first game in the 2013 season, and will serve as such as their road cap for the rest of the season to go along with their classic grey uniforms. The name itself, the Hops, is comes from the beer ingredient which is grown in abundance throughout the state of Oregon. Believe it or not, most beer you drink comes as a result of Oregon having a hand in it. The name is also part of a three-year collaboration the Hops are doing with BridgePort Brewing Company, the official beer of the Hops.

The Hops themselves are an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, and have been so since 2001. Prior to becoming the Hops, the Bears resided in Yakima, Washington, a town in the southern-central part of the state since 1990. From 1990-2000 they were an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I’ll go into more detail about that later in the year. Notable alumni include Dan Uggla, Conor Jackson, Pedro Astacio and Paul Konerko. It’ll be interesting to see what this young Hops team will amount to in the years to come.

As I mentioned above I still need to get the hat, but I already picked up my marks. Once I get it in my possession I’ll be sure to update my photo. Until then, here you are.

RK: The start of any short season-A season is interesting because it comes right at the tail end of high school graduations, college graduations and Major League Baseball amateur draft. Most of the players on these teams are made up of the Major League affiliate’s recent acquisitions, so there is usually a pretty high turnover rate, so to speak, that comes at this level. Upon looking at the roster for the inaugural season for the Hops there was one name that really jumped out me, for literary and historical reasons mostly. In the 18th round and with the 540th overall pick the Diamondbacks selected Ryan Kinsella out of Elon University in North Carolina. If the name Kinsella doesn’t ring a bell, then you’re clearly not a baseball fan.

Kinsella is the last name on Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams;” in fact, it’s actually the last name of the guy who wrote the original story, W.P. Kinsella. I did my best to find out if the two were related, but my trail went cold. This particular Kinsella is catcher from Warren, New Jersey. He and the Phoenix made it to the final game of their Regional, but fell to the University of Virginia Cavaliers 11-3. Kinsella hit .291 in his two years at Elon including 13 home runs and 78 RBI. He is only the third player with the last name Kinsella to play at the professional level, and the first with that name to play after the release of “Field Of Dreams.”

#15- Hops pitching coach Doug Drabek has been affiliated with the team since the starts of the 2010 season back in Yakima. The following season he was promoted to the advanced-A California League affiliate the Visalia Rawhide before being brought to Hillsboro to help a new, fresh-faced batch of talent compete in their new home as the Hops.

Drabek’s career in baseball dates back to when he was selected in the 11th round of the 1983 amateur draft by the Chicago White Sox. After signing with the White Sox, Drabek was assigned to the Niagara Falls Sox in the short-season New York-Penn League where he finished 6–7 with a 3.67 ERA in 16 games with 103 strikeouts in 103 2/3 innings. After pitching one game for the Class A Appleton, Drabek was promoted to the AA Glens Falls White Sox and was 12–5 with a 2.24 ERA. On 13 August, he was traded to the New York Yankees along with Kevin Hickey to complete an earlier deal made on July 18 for Roy Smalley. Drabek then spent the rest of the 1984 season at AA Nashville. In 1985, Drabek returned to AA and spent the entire season at Albany-Colonie in the Eastern League and finished with a 13–7 record with a 2.99 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 192 2/3 innings. After starting the 1986 season at AAA Columbus, Drabek made his Major League debut on May 30, coming in relief for starter Joe Niekro in a 6–3 loss to the Oakland Athletics. He would spend the rest of the season with the Yankees, appearing in 27 games (21 starts) and go 7–8 with a 4.10 ERA. 1986 would be the only year in which he didn’t wear #15; that season he wore #36. Following the season, he was traded with Logan Easley and Brian Fisher to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante and Pat Clements.

Drabek enjoyed his best years with Pittsburgh, from 1987 to 1992, during which time he regularly pitched over 230 innings and consistently finished in the top 10 in the National League ERA. On August 3, 1990 Drabek had a no-hitter broken up by a Sil Campusano single with two out in the ninth. The hit was the only one Drabek would allow in defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 11-0. He went 22–6 with a 2.76 ERA in 1990 en route to winning the National League Cy Young Award and leading the Pirates to the postseason (where they lost in the NLCS to the Cincinnati Reds). His 22 wins that year were a league high; it was also 7 more wins than his previous single-season mark.

Drabek signed as a free agent after the 1992 season with the Houston Astros. Despite a solid 3.79 ERA and playing for a rising team, he posted a 9–18 record. He improved in the strike-shortened 1994 season to 12–6 with a 2.84 ERA. When play resumed after the players' strike in 1995, however, he was unable to maintain his success and retired after the 1998 season, having compiled a 35–40 record over his final four seasons.


  1. Great article...don't forget Ben Petrick, coach and consultant for the Hops, local boy and former MLBer with the Rockies...

    1. Good call! I'll be sure to add him to the home cap when I scoop that up. Thanks!