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  • Writer's pictureLucian@going2paris.net

The Hillsboro Hops


Bandon, Oregon

June 21, 2021


How can a city the size of Portland not have at least a Triple A baseball team? At least the one team they have has a great name.

The Hillsboro Hops are a Minor League Baseball team in Hillsboro, Oregon, a city in the Portland metropolitan area. The Hops are members of the High-A West as an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They play their home games at Ron Tonkin Field, which opened in 2013.

History


As early as 2011, the Yakima Bears, a team of the Northwest League in Yakima, Washington, started exploring options to relocate after a lack of progress on a new ballpark to replace their below-standard Yakima County Stadium and to escape a declining local economy. Following a failed proposal to move to Vancouver, Washington, the team received an offer to move to Hillsboro, Oregon, in June 2012, with plans to start play in 2013. The city and team reached a deal, with city council approval on June 5, and approval by the league and the franchise on June 8. The city signed the agreement with the team on June 26, with approval by Major League Baseball coming in August. Groundbreaking for a new 4,500-seat stadium took place on September 21, and the team's name, Hillsboro Hops, was announced on October 16. The Hops replaced the Triple-A Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League, who relocated to Tucson at the end of the 2010 season. The Portland area went without minor league baseball in 2011 and 2012.


The Hillsboro Hops' first game was played on the road against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes on June 14, 2013, a 3–2 loss. Ryan Gebhardt had the team's first hit and Brian Billigen earned the first RBI. Their first win came on June 17 in the Hillsboro Ballpark home opener against the Eugene Emeralds. The inaugural home opener was attended by a sellout 4,710 fans, who watched Jordan Parr hit the first home run in the Hops' history.


Barley, the team's mascot, was introduced on June 28, 2013. The Hops set the franchise attendance record in 2014, when their games were attended by 138,732 people. They also won their division and the league championship. The team was managed by J. R. House, whose coaching staff included fellow-former major leaguers Doug Drabek and Mark Grace. Hillsboro swept the championship series against the three-time NWL defending champion Vancouver Canadians. The team set another franchise attendance record in 2015 with 143,412 (an average of 3,774 for 38 dates) while winning a second consecutive league title.


The Hops hosted the NWL All-Star Game in 2017.


On August 28, 2019, the Hops clinched a playoff berth for the sixth straight season breaking the Northwest League record previously held by Vancouver at five straight seasons. They faced the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the divisional round, were they won the series 2–0, and advanced to Northwest League finals for the first time since 2015. In Game 1, Hillsboro entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 3–1 but put up four runs in the inning including a walkoff f3-run home run by Andy Yerzy. The Hops were defeated in Game 2, losing 9–1, but bounced back in Game 3 with a two-run ninth-inning rally to snag the win. The Hops were shutout in Game 4, losing 6–0. Then in Game 5, Hillsboro captured their third NWL title, and their first since 2015, winning the series 3–2.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minor League Baseball season was cancelled. In conjunction with Major League Baseball's restructuring of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Hops were organized into the High-A West along with five other teams previously of the Northwest League. They will continue as the High-A affiliate of the Diamondbacks.

Branding


The team name is a reference to the plant used in beer brewing (Oregon is the second-largest hop-producing US state by volume), as well as to various baseball terms such as the short hop, bad hop, and crow hop. No previous professional or collegiate sports team has ever been called the "Hops". The team's logo includes a hop cone wearing a baseball hat, evergreen trees, and Mount Hood. Team colors are green, navy blue, and light blue. The Hops' mascot is Barley, who is green with a blue baseball cap. (Barley is another plant used in beer brewing.) The team's branding and logo was named by Ballpark Digest as the best in Minor League Baseball for 2013.

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