Eugene, Oregon is a town of about 150,000 about 2 hours south of Portland. Like many towns in Oregon, it is close to hiking trails with a river running through it, and boasts a variety of local breweries, eateries, and quaint small town charm.
Of course, one big difference is that Eugene, Oregon is the home of the University of Oregon Ducks. The Ducks who are national contenders in many sports but especially known for football and basketball.
The Eugene Emeralds are currently the Low-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. As in my personal life I will soon be leaving sunny San Diego for uh…rainy Eugene?, I recently traveled to Eugene for job interviews and decided to check out an Em’s game while in town.
The Emeralds are lucky in the fact that for a Low-A team, they get to play in a very nice stadium which doubles as the U of Oregon baseball stadium PK Park. Yet you quickly realize that yes, you still are at a minor league baseball game.
After the over-sized mascot in front of the magnifient arches that welcome you to the stadium, you see the outfield walls lined with advertisements. Then, you notice that nearly every inning there is some sort of promotion or activity going on. The night I was there, a grown man was blindfolded and told to crawl on his hands and knees towards a house which the crowd told him hotter or colder. Unfortunately he over-shot the house and didn’t win the $25 (It went to $50 for the next night).
Then there was the Beer Batter for the opposing team. When a certain hitter came up, if he struck out the whole stands would get $3 Craft Beer for 15 minutes. Sadly while I was at the game he did not strike out, and the crowd booed. It was also $1 hot dog night (6 per person limit) which I fully took advantage of. The seats were nice and close and for just $7 you really can’t go wrong on that part either.
Being at this level of the minors is tough for a fan base. If the major league fans think that their players leave as soon as they are good – at least they get a chance to win Cy Young Awards (Jake Peavy) and be in the voting for MVP awards. The Emeralds? As soon as someone shows promise, they are promoted to the next level. Just a month ago as I planned my trip. the 2014 Padres First Round Draft Pick Trea Turner was on the Emeralds. Yet, by the time I got there, he was gone.
The Em’s hold a strong place in Eugene history, as they were originally a Triple-A team for the Philadelphia Phillies. However, they have been the Padres farm team since 2001 and this year went 15-23 in the first half, with a 12-14 in the second half.
I admit, for this game I left early to see more of the town, something I never do at a Padres game. I’m glad I did, as the game ended up going 17 innings and nearly 5 hours until the Emeralds third baseman came in to pitch and lost it in the 17th. Perhaps not a future Jason Lane after all.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I look forward to seeing the Padres future stars when I move up there. If not? At least I can grab $1 hot dogs and $3 beer.