The Northwest League South
The 2013 marks a change in the Northwest League for the first time since the 2000 season – as the circuit moves from an East/West alignment to a North/South alignment. With the move of the Yakima Bears to Hillsboro, Ore. (and becoming the Hillsboro Hops), the NWL aligned the league along the lines the loop had in the mid-90s.
The Hawks will play in the South Division – alongside Hillsboro, Eugene, and Salem-Keizer, similar to the time in which the Hawks were paired with Medford, Bend, and Eugene; while Vancouver, Everett, Tri-City, and Spokane make up the North. Boise will play two three-game home-and-home series within the division, one five-game home-and-home series against the North.
A quick look at the new division –
Boise will open the season against the Eugene Emeralds, the affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Ems got a huge reprieve last night, as the University of Oregon lost in the regional final against Rice – or else the professional club, who shares PK Park with the Ducks, would have been forced to wait until the end of the super-regional round to get the yard prepared for the season.
One of the things I am most looking forward to in Eugene will be their new Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bratwurst. I love a good brat, I love the maple bacon bar that Voodoo is famous for – put the duo together, and it could be amazing. Eugene has also moved their team hotel from along the Willamette River at the Valley River Inn and to the Holiday Inn Express near Gateway Mall in Springfield. Though I loved the ability to take a jog along the river, the proximity for the players to have a postgame meal in the new hotel will be endless.
The Hawks will open their home schedule against Salem-Keizer, the affiliate of the world champion, San Francisco Giants. It will be interesting to see how the brass of the Volcanoes plays up the fact that they all got another ring from the parent club.
Excited to see some different promotions at “The Crater” this season – they will be trying out a Mardi Gras Night, and an 80s Night themed to the music of Journey (Michael Trevino – if you play Don’t Stop Believing all night, I won’t mind). Somehow, someway I will get to the Lucky Fortune – the best Chinese food in the Northwest League.
We do not head to the new outpost, Hillsboro until the back-end of a trip to Vancouver, put it will be neat to call a game from a new yard. The new Hillsboro Baseball Stadium, right along US-26 in the West Hills of Portland, will open in less than two weeks and will be an amazing opportunity for Mike McMurray, K.L. Wombacher, and the whole Hops staff to finally be able to have a packed house every night – something that didn’t happen in Yakima.
It will be interesting to be in a new hotel (a Comfort Suites) and to explore the area near the lodging – and will hope to be able to make a trip to the Nike Employee Store. I also wonder how good the beer will be at the ballpark, especially with a name like “Hops”. Plus, NWL fans will get the chance to hear one of the best radio voices in the Northwest, as longtime Portland Beaver radio-man Rich Burk will handle the play-by-play for the Hops.