Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. Find more News-Register stories about Linfield College here.
The sun keeps on shining on the Linfield baseball team.
A group of 20 or so players and coaches gathered Tuesday evening in Hillsboro to take yet another bow, this time in front of an announced crowd of 2,935 at a Hillsboro Hops Single-A baseball game.
Linfield head coach Scott Brosius threw out one of two ceremonial first pitches, the other coming from the Portland Timbers’ mascot, Timber Joey. Said an attendant wearing a Hops polo and standing just in front of the home dugout on the first base side: “It’s a slow night if we don’t have at least two first pitches.”
In between the first and second innings, the players and coaches stood down the first base line and were introduced to the crowd. It was a night of smiles, backslaps and laughs almost three months after the Wildcats won their first NCAA Division III national championship with a 4-1 win vs. Southern Maine.
“It was fun to get out here with the guys,” graduated senior Jordan Harlow said. “This was a great welcome they gave us, and it was great to see Bro throw.”
According to senior Tim Wilson, Harlow made the good-natured bet that Brosius would bounce the first pitch like Timber Joey did.
“Harlow was saying Bro was going to spike it,” Wilson said with a laugh. “I said no way and bet him $20, but he backed out of it pretty quickly.”
Good thing for Harlow, because Brosius delivered a solid throw, which even though it was high, still popped the glove.
“Like he was throwing batting practice,” Wilson said.
Throughout the crowd, the purple and red of Linfield College was well represented. Players, coaches, friends and fans took up an entire section down the first base line. The reminiscing spilled over onto the concourse above the seats, but much of the talk was about the future. Wilson said he’s recently moved to Beaverton and starts an accounting job in October. Right after the season he said he started training for the upcoming MLB draft, but after no team called and follow ups for a tryout fell through, he resigned himself to moving on from baseball.
“Things really didn’t end for me (after the season),” he said. “But the call didn’t happen.”
Harlow stayed around baseball as well, but in a different capacity. He helped coach McMinnville’s summer league baseball team with coach Darren Bland, and he said he recently accepted a job at McMinnville High School to teach English. Along with that is a coaching job helping out with the freshman football team as well as coaching baseball in the spring for the Grizzlies in some capacity.
Tuesday, Harlow stood on the concourse at Hillsboro Ballpark, looking out over the brand new stadium. A baseball game was going on in the background, but as is often the case during Minor League games, the action was secondary to the conversations floating around in the stands. He was watching players compete at the next level, and he said he talked with Wilson and a few others of his former teammates earlier in the game about whether or not they thought they could hold their own against the professional pitchers.
“A part of me likes to think so,” he said. “But, I mean, these guys are really good. It’s really just a thought.”
As the game plodded on (Hillsboro ended up losing 3-0 to Salem-Keizer), the lights buzzed to full brightness, illuminating the spotless ballpark built just behind Hillsboro Stadium. Sitting on the edge of the Portland metro area, at first moving a team to this part of town seemed a little out of place. After almost a full season out in the land of Intel, though, it’s obvious it’s a perfect setting for Minor League Baseball. There are two “party decks” for rent that sit on either side of the press box, and low bowl seating rings the field. Out beyond the left field fence, a berm rises for people to sit out on. The berm rings around the entire outfield fence, giving some unique perspectives of the field, especially at sunset and right at dusk when the hills hide the sun.
“It’s a great little ballpark,” Harlow said.
In short, Hillsboro Ballpark is everything fans should want from a Single-A venue. Good location, easily accessible even from places like McMinnville, and it provides a good atmosphere.
After the seventh inning stretch, a few members of the Linfield baseball team started making their way for the exit. So did some of the many people who made the trip from McMinnville. It won’t be the last time that the Wildcats will congregate, though. Wilson said the team would be back together Sept. 21 for Linfield’s home football game vs. Cal Lutheran, where, he said, players will receive their championship rings.
“It will be great to be with the guys one last time,” he said.