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All Star Coach - Congrats Jeni O'Neil!

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All Star Coach - Congrats Jeni O'Neil!

Congratulations to the 2017 All Star Coach Winner, Jeni O'Neil who takes home $5,000 for her athletic program! Read more about Jeni at the link below. 


Jeni O'Neil

Girardi, Reynolds advocate for baseball in Portland

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nbcs

Girardi, Reynolds advocate for baseball in Portland

Harold Reynolds and Joe Girardi were on MLB TV Wednesday and they both think Portland is a viable option for MLB expansion. Girardi first lays out a plan to make baseball into a new western and eastern conference alignment but then adds that he could see the league adding two teams to make divisions more balanced. One of those two teams could be Portland. 

"I think we need another team in the Northwest, so, Portland"

Check out the full segment in the video below (Girardi mentions Portland around the 1:40 mark).

The Portland Diamond project, of course, took notice.

 

The Oakland A's have a ballpark problem and Portland might be able to solve it

The Oakland A's have a ballpark problem and Portland might be able to solve it

As the Portland Diamond Project studies potential sites for a new ballpark in this town, there's a big worry in the back of my mind:

How easy is it going to be to find a site in this town that doesn't end up mired in controversy and red tape?

In Oakland, where the A's have been searching for a potential location for a new ballpark (and a way to pay for it) for quite a while, a problem has popped up in regard to a possible prime location. The waterfront Howard Terminal site has been identified as a possible place for the ballpark but a mysterious group has emerged to attempt to block such a move:

However, with Howard Terminal still under consideration, a group that bills itself as Protect Oakland’s Shoreline Economy is stating its opposition to idea of a new ballpark at that location. It is unknown exactly who is behind the group, but this comes after the A’s saw a previous proposal–one to build at a site near Laney College–collapse late last year in the midst of neighborhood opposition.

And the reasons for the opposition, outlined in a mailer, sound eerily like some of the same ideas that could be brought forth in Portland:

The mailer ticks off a list of drawbacks to the proposed move, including “severe traffic impacts” to nearby warehouses and neighborhoods and the “hundreds of millions of dollars” in taxpayer-funded infrastructure that will be needed.

The flyer even argues that an A’s waterfront ballpark would force the homeless to move their street camps to make room for fan parking and describes the team’s plan for an overhead gondola to ferry fans over the nearby railroad tracks as “silly.”

In a place like Portland, a waterfront location would be attractive in so many ways and there are locations being studied that would be a big improvement to the site and its economy. But I worry that various groups in this city would attempt to block it, if for no other reason than it's kind of what happens in Portland. You are going to find somebody against everything -- no matter how beneficial it could be to the city.

I have a solution, by the way, for Oakland's stadium problem and it's a little unconventional. That city just doesn't seem able to come up with financing or an ownership group willing to finance, a new ballpark. I'm afraid the only way to get something done down there is for the town to lose its team. But stay with me here, it would lose its team but gain one, too. For years, franchises have used the threat of moving to another city to push municipalities into financing a new stadium.

Why not take that one natural step further?

The A's ought to sell to a group in Portland but stay in Oakland as a lame duck franchise until a ballpark is built here. Major League Baseball should then promise Oakland an expansion franchise as soon as a new ballpark is constructed in that area. Oakland would still have baseball, Portland would, too -- and MLB would have solved its "Oakland problem" as well as be on its way to a successful expansion plan.

For a city that is soon to lose the Warriors and Raiders, this could likely provide the impetus to build a new ballpark. I mean, you can't suddenly be stripped of all your big-league franchises.

Boom! It would be a win-win-win for Oakland, Portland and Major League Baseball..

New A's season-ticket program perfect for team with thousands of empty seats

New A's season-ticket program perfect for team with thousands of empty seats

Talk about a drastic change in selling tickets to your team -- the Oakland A's have come up with something very interesting for next season.

Instead of season tickets, the A's are selling memberships:

In a release, the Athletics said that A’s Access provides all members with general admission access to every 2019 regular season home game, a reserved seat plan, and benefits exclusive to members, such as concessions discounts.

People are talking about the option of being able to sit in differing areas throughout the season as a key feature of this plan but the real advantage is that members will receive tickets to EVERY game at a very low price. The option to upgrade to better seats for specific games is also available.

The A’s have already gotten experimental with flexible attendance options for fans this season, with the introduction of the Treehouse, behind the left field bleachers. The 10,000-square foot area — with a redwood patio deck, bar and lounge seating and two full-service bars — doesn’t have assigned seats, and was introduced with a $120 annual payment, good for tickets for the entire season. Now, a fan can buy a $29.99 monthly subscription, which gets them into any game, so if the A’s play 15 home games in a month, and a fan goes to all of them, admission works out to about $2 per game.

I would make several points about this "membership" plan:

  • The Oakland A's are the perfect team to try this approach -- they have thousands of empty seats to fill and not many regular buyers. They can afford to virtually give away seats they probably wouldn't be selling, anyway.
  • This sort of plan probably wouldn't work very well in hockey or basketball. Those sports play in indoor arenas with a limited seating capacity, making ticket flexibility much more difficult. Those sports also feature a schedule where marquee teams may visit just once per season and the ticket demand for those games would make it very difficult for "membes."
  • What does Oakland have to lose? The A's rank 28th in the major leagues in home attendance at 17,772 per game.
  • This reminds me of what a lot of minor-league teams do --- price tickets very low and hope to make their money on food and alcohol. But in this case, Oakland has also discounted concessions a great deal.
  • As a fan, this would be a plan almost impossible to resist. Even if you used your "membershp" for less than half the games, the cost is low enough to justify the purchase.
  • If the team doesn't sell thousands of these plans, it would be a problem. When you are practically giving away tickets it would be very embarrassing if  nobody wanted them.

 

Slumming it at Safeco Field

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USA Today Images

Slumming it at Safeco Field

BY BRIAN HIGHT

Every baseball season since my wife and I moved to Seattle, a little over five years ago, we have made a point to attend at least one Seattle Mariners home game, usually a mid-week day game as she likes pretending she is playing hooky from her computer and data intensive job in market research, working for one of the team’s, not to be named, sponsors. Let’s just say, they know where you are watching the game, via Twitter hashtag.

The odd thing about this semi-tradition, if you can call a five-year ritual a tradition, is that my wife comes pretty close to loathing sports, which makes for a challenging relationship with someone who writes for a sports site. But, she does really enjoy attending baseball games. I didn’t’ say watching baseball games. I said attending baseball games.

So, a few weeks ago, as the opportunities for mid-week day games on the Mariners schedule were dwindling down to one in July, one in August, and none in the short week of September, she asked me if I’d like to go to the Mariners / Giants game on Wednesday, July 25th. My initial reaction was hesitancy. For those of you who attend major league baseball games or, for that matter, virtually any professional sport, you know that a single game outing can set the bank account back three figures, even with it’s just two of you. God help those with children.

Then the “catch” came. We would be sitting in the afore not really mentioned, but alluded to, employer’s suite and doing so as a friendly comp for all of her hard work. Oh yea? Sure. Let’s go.

How Most of Us Take in Ballgames

My previous experiences at baseball games have evolved from attending minor league games in Memphis, Tennessee, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The parks are quaint, for the most part. Redbirds Park in Memphis is routinely named to lists of best minor league parks in the country, with its throwback styling, reminiscent of Camden Yards. Dickey Stephens Park, which is actually located in North Little Rock, a completely different municipality from Little Rock, is nice and clean. But, locals still lament the retirement of Ray Winder Field, an Arkansas fixture which garnered charity auction bids on everything from bleacher seats to dugout rails. Driller’s Stadium in Tulsa shares much of the former ambience of Ray Winder, if not the reverence.

I was fortunate enough to attend a game in the old Yankee Stadium for my first major league game. It was pre-9/11 and smack in the middle of the four World Series win run. Sitting in the second deck in right field with an obstructed view that blanked out Paul O’Neil, I could only dream of the left-handed home runs that had landed roughly where I was sitting. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Reggie.

But to be honest, the place was a little run down and seemed antiquated. And, what could you expect from a stadium built in 1922-23 and renovated in 1973-76? I haven’t been to the new stadium. My loan applications for single game seats keep getting turned down and with the hindsight of nostalgia I miss the old place. After all, it was my first.

For the first “splurge” to a major league park, my fairly new bride and I attended a San Francisco Giants home game. For the record. I love Safeco. It is a beautiful ballpark. But, AT&T park, situated on the San Francisco Bay, is awesome. Anywhere a baseball can be hit into the ocean is going to top most other ballparks.

We sat on the third base side among a huge contingency of Oakland Athletics fans and I spent most of the A’s half of innings transfixed on left field where one Barry Lamar Bonds resided. Even despite the steroid controversy, Bonds was, in my opinion, the greatest left-handed hitter of all time. I stop short of greatest hitter of all time because Ted Williams served his country for three years in WWII and almost two years in Korea, forfeiting, or sacrificing, putting up the gaudiest numbers imaginable in baseball history.

The view was great. The ballpark food was just starting to evolve into the delicacies we might take for granted now and was delicious and cutting edge for the time. I loved that the ushers wouldn’t let you go to your seat during the half inning, less you distract fans from the game. And did I mention the San Francisco Bay? I think we went back to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero and drank Napa Cabs and glowed in the experience. At least that’s how I remember it.

The next big-league park extravaganza was in Denver for a Colorado Rockies game. To say that at the time it was a culture shock to pass marijuana shops on the walk to the game would be an understatement. Today, in Seattle, it seems so passé.

Club level, which has become our bare minimum these days (we don’t attend that many games), was cool because of the presence of televisions in the section. Truth be told, my vision is quite poor and the experience of watching a baseball game is exponentially richer on an HD TV than at the ballpark, but the ballpark is special.

I have no idea who the Rockies played that day. I don’t know who won. It was just a really pleasant experience in a particularly stressful time in our lives and we spent it at a baseball park.

How the Other Side Lives

Fast forward through four consecutive seasons of attending at least one Mariners home game, all but one during the day, the night game to see Derek Jeter on his farewell tour. We had begun to consider ourselves a bit of a Mariners jinx. All the games we attended, the Mariners lost. Maybe we should have stayed away in 2016. That one game could have mattered in the playoff race.

So, Wednesday there’s the Giants game. Something came up at my wife’s work that couldn’t wait, and we didn’t get to the ballpark until the sixth inning. To be fair, it was a fast paced, low scoring game. The metal detector wasn’t set too high, not TSA high, not even close, so I didn’t even have to take off my belt, just empty my pockets. The elderly usher cheerfully told us where to go for the elevators to the suite level and the attendants on the elevators were friendly and engaging. When the doors to the elevator opened I thought we had been deposited into a Ritz Carlton.

This is not MY experience of ballparks. Carpet? Wood and granite? Polite and helpful people eager to get you stuff? What? This isn’t Ray Winder Field or even the Bronx Zoo. This is different.

In the suite itself, there was, I’m guessing, a 47-inch TV on the wall, leather chairs, a refrigerator disguised in the wood cabinetry, a coffee maker, and all the accoutrements you’d need to prepare a meal, if you so desired. More than one of my wife’s corporate co-workers who had been fortunate enough to attend games in the suite previously, lamented that the games are usually catered, but because peons like us were there, we’d have to go get food from vendors. (They actually didn’t call us peons. And they were just like us. Literary license makes that sentence flow better).

The outside seats were essentially leather office chairs, with swivel and tilt. No hard bleachers here. And a long table for eating (or working, I guess) spanned each row. There would be no dropping hot dog toppings in your lap while balancing your food in mid air in this section.

For the sixth and the top of the seventh, the woman to whom I am related by marriage and a whole lot of indulgence in baseball furiously pecked out emails on the touchscreen of her iPhone. Once the work fire was reasonably under control, we set out for eats. For those of you with significant others, you know that deciding where to dine can sometimes be the most trying decision of the day. But, after a few starts and stops, we landed at the epitome of ballpark food. The cuisine that says America like no other. Did we get a hotdog? No. Did we get a hamburger? No. BBQ? Considered it, but no.

Chinese Dumplings. Steamed Pork Buns. Fried Rice. Locals will recognize Din Tai Fung as the dumpling soup chain from Taipei that took the city by storm a few short years ago. They have primo real estate at Safeco, on the main concourse in the food court behind home plate. And just like in the restaurants, the food is amazing, and the line isn’t nearly as long as it usually is in Bellevue or downtown.

Back in the air-conditioned suite, we worked up a sweat on spicy pork and bok choy dumplings. Significant other skillfully consumed her chicken fired rice with chopsticks, while I relied on my hands to wolf down the steamed pork buns. Is this not what you do at baseball games?

The 2-0 Mariners margin had been erased and was now 2-2. Clean top of the inning and the Mariners pulled ahead in the bottom of the eight. Edwin Diaz came in giving the opportunity to point out that a Mariner led the majors in saves. My wife pretended to be interested. She has to do this a lot and it’s one of the reasons I love her.

And in the end, the Mariners won.  A first for us in person.

The Take Away

I’m not too proud to say that I think I may be spoiled now. After luxury and comfort and even semi-private restrooms, I’m not sure I’m ready to mingle with the rabble that I was just two short days ago. It’s hot in the sun. It’s not in the suite. The seats are hard “out there.” They’re soft and comfortable for the 1%ers. Juggling food and drink with out spillage is a challenge even in the $90 seats. Not so much in the suite.

Oh, well. For at least one day, I got to soak in a ballgame in luxury. Tonight, I’ll just watch on the TV. Oh. And I found out the same company that employs my wife and sponsors a Mariners segment on Root Sports, also sponsors the Giants. Hello San Francisco.

It's time for Rip City 3-on-3

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Rip City 3-on-3

It's time for Rip City 3-on-3

Thousands of basketball junkies will descend on the Rose Quarter this weekend for the annual Rip City 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

Players of all ages and skill levels will participate for a chance to be named champs. Teams will play no fewer than three games, with pool play determining seeding for the elimination brackets.

But the tournament isn’t the only thing going on. The event will include, per the official website:

- Toyota Youth Skills Challenge: Toyota Youth Skills Challenge is a timed basketball obstacle course that includes dribbling, passing and shooting stations open to kids 8th grade and under. Qualification rounds take place at certain times at the Trail Blazers Community Court. Click here to view.

- Shot 360 3-Point Shootout: Test your shooting against the best shooters in Portland! Start in one corner and move from station to station around the 3-point arc until you reach the other corner in a timed contest. Brackets are separated into ages 13-17 and 18+. Qualifications rounds take place Saturday and Sunday. Finals take place Sunday afternoon. Click here to view.

- Sprite Slam Dunk Contest: Don’t miss the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on Sunday, July 29th at 12:15 PM. Bring your monster hops and maybe you’ll be crowned the Rip City 3-on-3 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Champion. Pre-register at the Les Schwab Info Tent. Walk-ups are allowed.

- Nike Youth Basketball Clinic: Fun and skilled basketball instructional clinics for young fans at Rip City 3-on-3. These clinics will consist of 30 minutes of basketball instruction led by Trail Blazers youth basketball coaches for youth ages 7-14. Sign up and participate at the Trail Blazers Community Court – Operated by Shoot 360.

- BlazerDancers Clinic: Join the BlazerDancers as they take time this weekend to show your young athlete some new moves. We will be hosting free BlazerDancers Clinics at the Trail Blazers Community Court for ages 7-14.

The action begins Saturday, and you can catch the NBC Sports Northwest team on Court 2 at 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:00 pm.

For more information visit RipCity3on3.com

Former Duck Wyndham Clark sets sights on the PGA TOUR

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USA Today

Former Duck Wyndham Clark sets sights on the PGA TOUR

Portland, OR - The WinCo Foods Portland Open, the final event of the Web.com Tour, is just around the corner. Players will take to the famed Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, August 16-19, with a chance to make the PGA TOUR on the line.

One of the players that will be showing his skill at Witch Hollow golf is former Oregon Duck and 2017 Pac-12 Player of the Year Wyndham Clark. Clark currently sits in 9th place on the Web.com Tour Money List and is guaranteed to earn his PGA TOUR card following the WinCo Foods Portland Open.

Our Serena Winters was at media day earlier this week and had a chance to catch up with Clark in this exclusive interview. 

For more information on the WinCo Foods Portland Open and to buy tickets, visit www.WinCoGolf.com

A great bit of reading even if you were not a member of "Generation Murph"

A great bit of reading even if you were not a member of "Generation Murph"

I don't often use this space to send readers elsewhere to read someone else's work. But there's good reason today -- a piece so well-written and close to  home that I can't resist. It's the best long-form sports story I've read in a long while, perhaps because it's about one of my favorite people..

In the latest ESPN The Magazine, Wright Thompson perfectly captures Dale Murphy and what he meant to a generation of baseball fans that Thompson calls "Generation Murph."

I've known Dale Murphy since he was a young catcher playing for the great Mike Clopton at Wilson High School in southwest Portland. I have many of my own Murph stories, some of them rooted in the fact that my son, Will, grew up like so many other baseball kids -- living and dying with the Atlanta Braves on the Superstation, WTBS. Will was luckier than most, though, because he got to sit in with me during a few interviews with Murph. At one time he had several Murphy autographs and every Murphy baseball card ever produced.

Once, during Murphy's heyday with the Braves, Clopton, his son Kevin, Will and I took a weekend trip to Atlanta to catch the Braves in person. For the kids, it was a trip of a lifetime. Except two of the three games we were scheduled to see were rained out. Murph knew how disappointed the kids were after the Sunday game was washed out and so he invited us all to his home Sunday night. I could tell almost immediately that there were other things planned for the Murphy family on that evening, but Nancy, his wife, was patient enough to allow us to take the tour of the house, chat for a little while and even have the kids pose with Dale for pictures with his two MVP trophies.

The impact Murphy had on my son? Well, when he recently got an award for valor from the Department of the Interior, I think the most excited Will got was when Murph -- all these years later -- tweeted a congratulations to him.

Thompson captures the spirit of the entire Murphy family in his work and also speaks to a topic that's been important to me for years -- Murphy's possibility of getting into the baseball Hall of Fame:

There's no precedent at work, or one to be set, by his candidacy. He's an outlier. He finished his career in the steroid era, the exact kind of player who would have benefited greatly from some anti-aging elixir. His decline happened as the Bash Brothers were born. He remembers sitting in the Braves' clubhouse with Glenn Hubbard and talking about players juicing. Hubbard turned to him and said, "You know how many home runs you could hit if you got on steroids?"

If baseball wants to wash itself clean from steroids, the best way to do it isn't to keep Bonds out of the Hall but to let Murphy in. Induct cheaters but also celebrate Dale Murphy for his 398 home runs and for the dozens he did not hit. He finished just two short of 400, and only four eligible players not linked to steroids have 400 or more homers and are not in the Hall. None was ever MVP. Murphy's recognition is a vote about the culture we want. That's the point Chad Murphy made five years ago in an open letter to Hall of Fame voters. He titled it: "Making the HOF Case for Dale Murphy, or, The Guy Who Changed My Diapers."

In Dale's last year of regular eligibility, his kids all got involved in big and small ways. They tweeted and gave interviews. Chad's letter went viral, and his argument helped drive Murphy's vote percentage higher than it had been in 13 years. Taylor Murphy started an online petition. He printed the names and gave them to Dale, to say: All these people love you. His children's table-pounding felt like the greatest validation of Dale's choices about focusing on his family instead of his fame. In the end, getting in didn't matter nearly as much as seeing how much his children wanted him to get in.

"What the kids did, it was the most emotionally moving time for me as a father," he says. "All those years of saying our family comes first ..."

"... it was about the Hall of Fame," Nancy says, "but it was more about how much they loved him."

All I can say is, whether or not you are a baseball fan -- or better yet, a member of "Generation Murph" -- you need to take the time to read this story about a Hall of Fame person, if not Hall of Fame baseball player.

Portland Diamond Project hopes to have site announcement in 4-6 weeks

Portland Diamond Project hopes to have site announcement in 4-6 weeks

Thousands gathered in downtown Portland on Saturday over the course of Portland Diamond Project's five hour MLB to PDX rally. The event was held at Baseballism and featured new apparel, giveaways, and Q&A sessions with Portland Diamond Project (PDP) and the National Champion OSU Beavers Baseball team.

The biggest news of the day came from PDP Managing Partner Mike Barrett, who as part of the Q&A indicated that they are narrowing in on a site location for the new stadium:

"You get your favorites, and that's what we're down to now...We think within four to six weeks hopefully we can come out and announce a site."

The crowd on hand gave a round of applause when Barrett put a timeline on the site announcement. Portland is on a short list of Commissioner Rob Manfred's list for expansion cities, as reported in a recent Sports Illustrated interview

Others in the mix include Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville, Mexico City, Montreal, and maybe even Vancouver.

Still unknown is the possibility of franchise relocation as both the As and the Rays have been rumored as potential teams that will need to be relocated. 

The support for the PDP and its MLB to PDX effort has caught a lot of momentum in the last several months. Unlike previous attempts, this group is organized, connected, and appears to have the ear of Commissioner Manfred. Barrett noted that MLB has been impressed with how organized the MLB to PDX movement is and they are likely the furthest along in the process compared to other cities. 

"Baseball wants to be wanted," Barrett said as part of the Q&A. "And now we know it is wanted (in Portland)."

You can follow the Portland Diamond Project on Twitter and check out their website or more details on the movement. 

Jamie Hudson: A Las Vegas first for me

Jamie Hudson: A Las Vegas first for me

LAS VEGAS - You can do just about anything you want in Sin City. Zip line over downtown, drive race cars, jump off the Stratosphere, or even swim with sharks.

One of the more basic experiences that has so far escaped me, was betting on a sports event. With the recent Supreme Court decision which allows sports gambling to be legalized on a state level, I figured I'd better get this sports betting stuff figured out before it makes its way to Oregon!

While in Las Vegas for NBA Summer League I set out to get my money down on live sports.

The first step was to meet up with a local expert, so I found Todd Furhman of the Bet The Board Podcast. He's also a former odds maker at Caesars and the guy knows his stuff. 

We met up at Top Golf Las Vegas to talk about a wide range of gambling topics and you'll see those features rolling out of the next several months (we talked NBA, College Football, and NFL). 

But the top priority was placing my first wager. 

I talked with Todd, did a little research, and made my way to the Sports Book just in time to bet UFC Fight Night 133.

It was quite the experience, and I'm certain it won't be my last sports bet.