By Jim • 

Hillsboro Hops start playing this week

The Hillsboro Hops, a newly-minted A-League baseball club aligned with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, opened play June 14 against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Keizer. The Hops, the first new professional baseball club close to the Portland metropolitan area since the Portland Beavers left town in 2010, hope to draw around 100,000 fans over the 72-game schedule in this, the team’s inaugural season in Hillsboro after leaving Yakima for a new start.

The Hops opened their home season Monday for a three-game series against the Eugene Emeralds at their brand-new stadium, which has a seating capacity of 4,500 (3,534 permanent seats plus standing/sitting areas). Groundbreaking for the Hillsboro Park facility began in September of 2012, and final work on the park was completed almost on the eve of the team’s opener.

Looking at site photos of the new facility, which is part of the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex and adjacent to Hillsboro Stadium, a multi-use venue, the stadium is not only attractive and modern but also very functional, with a picnic area, a team store and party rooms, which are located on the second level. Those rooms are available for rent for community events, according to Hops’ officials.

Of course, with a team nickname like Hops, there is also a beer garden at the stadium. But the team mascot is not an oversized Hop with a baseball cap. Nope. It’s “Boomer”, a pleasingly plump bear that kids will love, so expect your kids to gravitate to Boomer for hugs and photo-ops at every ball game. Apparently, the bear mascot is a tie-in from the team’s previous relationship with Yakima, where “Bears” was the team nickname. Personally, I liked the idea of a giant hop with a blue baseball cap cavorting (can hops cavort, even if they’re mascots?) around the grounds.

With Hillsboro aligned in the South Division in the NWL, that brings the division totals to four. The Hops join the Boise Hawks, Eugene Emeralds and the Volcanoes in the division. In the North Division are the Everett Aqua Sox, Spokane Indians, Tri-City Dust Devils and Vancouver Canadians. Teams play across divisions, so fans will get acquainted with many first-year players.

Available at the stadium are a variety of seating options including the $16 lower boxes; field boxes are $14 while field reserved are $11. General admission seating is $7, which includes the “Family Berm”. Lots of promo nights, which most minor league teams offer, are also designed to draw fans to the stadium. Salem-Keizer, for example, offers fireworks on a number of occasions plus special nights for particular communities and a Rotary night, which dedicates a portion of the gate for Rotary’s polio eradication efforts around the world. If you’re worried about parking after making the short drive to Hillsboro, don’t fret: the facility will accommodate over 2,000 vehicles.

In the NWL, almost all teams are composed of mostly first year players, the majority coming from the June draft. So for most D-Backs players in the system, this is their first stop, a shot at climbing the ladder to the Major Leagues. If they succeed in Hillsboro

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