Canadian Roommates, Former Hops, Portland Mavericks Returning — Oh My!
Canadian Roommates at the Tonk? Former Hillsboro Hops players starting in the major leagues? The Portland Mavericks returning to the field? It has been a busy week. Either one of these headlines are deserving of their own article but too important to wait another week. All of this and the Hillsboro Hops are only two weeks away from starting their first season at the High A level. So, they all get to share the spotlight together.
Let’s Get Started: Canadian Roommates
The Vancouver Canadians are coming! And staying! The world pandemic has affected Canadian baseball
teams more than teams from the USA. For one, they can’t go home. If they do, they can’t come back. When you play in a league where you are the only team in Canada, that makes it hard to play the game.
The Canadians parent ball club, the Toronto Blue Jays, have already faced a similar problem since they are the only Canadian team at the MLB level. The Blue Jays have made arrangements to play their home games in Florida as do the Toronto Raptors (in Tampa) of the NBA. So, the Vancouver Canadians started looking for a home away from home.
Up step the Hillsboro Hops. The two clubs made arrangements for the Canadians to play their home games at the ‘Tonk’ in Hillsboro – home of the Hops. If the Canadian-US border opens during the 2021 season, all three Canadian teams can return home and pick up where they left off. But, until then, the Hops will have new Canadian roommates.
Let’s Get Started: Portland Mavericks
The Mavericks Independent Baseball League (MIBL) is coming soon. MLB eliminated the Volcanoes along with 40 other teams last offseason. A result of the contraction of the minor leagues. The solution? The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes created their own original way to play baseball in 2021. Instead of joining another league already in existence or assemble one from spare parts, the Volcanoes created their own league from scratch.
The new league will be run by commissioner Jack Cain, a familiar name around the Portland area. Jack owned the former Portland Rockies (1995-2000). After the Rockies, the Portland Beavers returned and Jack became the Senior Advisor and Special Assistant for the Beavers. Among many awards, Jack was named Sporting News Executive of the Year in 1995.
Four New ‘Old’ Teams
In a unique vision, fans will see history repeat itself. All four teams have a tie to a past team. Two have the shortest connections. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes last played in 2019 as a member of the late Short Season A Northwest League. The Volcanoes now pick up in the new MIBL. NW League fans need not worry however. The old Short Season A Northwest League is now the new High A Northwest League.
The other short connection is the Campesinos de Salem-Keizer. The Campesinos also last played in 2019 as a part of the old Short Season A Northwest League — as a part of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Many minor league teams play a portion of their season under a Spanish name similar to their English one. In this case, Campesinos in Spanish means “peasant farmer” in a nod to the important role the Hispanic community plays in the local agricultural industry as well as in baseball. Only now, they have their own identity apart from another team. They are whole.
The longest connection in history goes back over 80 years. The Salem Senators first played in 1940 and the franchise last played in Salem during 1989. The first time around, the team lasted from 1940-1942 and then took a break for World War II. When peace time returned, so did the Salem Senators, playing from 1946-1965. Their final run was from 1977-1989. During those years, there were a few name changes such as the Angels and Dodgers when they became a farm team of those respective organizations.
In an interesting sidenote, the Salem Dodgers (1989) moved to Yakima, Washington and became the Yakima Bears in 1990. Later, those same Bears (2012) moved to Hillsboro and became the current Hillsboro Hops (2013).
Finally, 2021 sees the new Senators return to competition.
The last team and namesake of the league are the Portland Mavericks. Those who follow the Hops are familiar with the Mavericks as the Hops occasionally donned the Maverick red to play a game in honor of their spiritual ancestor in the Portland area A level baseball. If you are not familiar with this legendary team, you can catch up by reading an article I wrote from 2018.
You can also catch the critically acclaimed documentary on Netflix: The Battered Bastards of Baseball.
Starting New Era
The Mavericks are the spiritual leaders for this new venture. “We have an unique opportunity to bring baseball back the way it used to be,” said Volcanoes CEO Mickey Walker. “Kind of like the old glory barnstorming days of baseball… Many fans remember the Portland Mavericks with great fondness… We’ll have open tryouts and select the best players from across the country. This will also provide a place for local athletes to aspire to play someday.”
The first game will be the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes vs the Portland Mavericks on May 13th, at 6:35 PM. Last game of the season is Sunday, August 29th. Playoffs will follow. Game nights are Thursday through Sunday for 16 weeks. “We’re even bringing back afternoon baseball,” added Walker. You can get season or individual tickets now. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-390-2225.
Those interested in playing can get on the ‘player watch list’ by sending their information to email@example.com.
Businesses interested in sponsoring a team or player should contact Mickey Walker at 503-779-3389.
Let’s Get Started: Former Hops Now Playing Major League
The Hops now have several former players successfully making the 25 man rosters of a few teams. Seven have already logged time at the major league level in 2021. Here is a quick look at some familiar names:
Taylor Clarke (2015, 3rd round)
Taylor has already had five relief appearances for the D’Backs this year. In 7.1 innings, Clarke struck out
seven. He made his debut two years ago on 4/20/2019.
Beginning his MLB career as a starter, Taylor faltered. Since being moved to a relief position, Clarke has claimed a solid role with a current ERA of 3.54. To read more about Taylor Clarke and his outlook for the 2021 season, check out Keegan Thompson’s review at the azsnakepit.
Kevin Ginkel (2016, 22nd rd)
Ginkel has 53 strikeouts in only 46 major league innings so far in his early career. He is already continuing that hot start with seven K’s in seven innings for 2021. Ginkel is in his third year at the major league level.
Mainly appearing as a relief pitcher, watch Kevin strikeout Brandon Crawford to end the game and earn the save in a 6-5 win.
Riley Smith (2016, 24th rd)
Riley made his debut last year and made six appearances in relief. He ended up with a 2-0 record with a 1.47
ERA. This year, Smith has picked up where he left off adding another win to his totals without a loss on 4/10 against Cincinnati.
Riley was called up by the Dbacks to begin the season and settled in nicely. Listen to a post game interview with Riley, manager Terry Lovullo and Tim Locastro.
Pavin Smith (2017, 1st rd)
The young man is already starting most games in right field for the Diamondbacks. A solid hitter, he is known for having more home runs (13) than strikeouts (12) during his senior year at Virginia.
Now at the major league level, Pavin is scoring every sixth plate appearance. Watch his solo home run to right just a few days ago on 4/15.
Alex Young (2015, 2nd rd)
Like draft mate Taylor Clarke, Alex has also made five appearances in relief for the Diamondbacks. He is
averaging one strikeout per inning.
To read about Taylor’s thoughts of playing through the pandemic in 2020, check out Steve Gilbert’s short interview.
For Other Teams:
Brad Keller (2013, 8th rd)
In Kansas City, Brad Keller returns as one of their aces. Having first hit the MLB mound in 2018, Brad has notched a 21-23 record before the start of the 2021 season. Brad played for the Hops in 2014 after making his pro debut the year previous with the Missoula Osprey.
This season started with a slow start. But, Brad has gone back to pounding the strike zone instead of finessing the corners and has regained his overpowering success. You can read more about Brad in Megan Garcia’s “Keller’s New Mechanics ‘fun to watch’”.
Dansby Swanson (2015, 1st rd)
One of the biggest success stories for the Hops alumni, Dansby Swanson is leading the way. Formerly an overall #1 draft pick in 2015, Swanson has been the starting shortstop for the Atlanta Braves since 2016. He has already amassed almost 2000 plate appearances in over 500 games at the major league level. Add to that almost 500 hits, 231 RBI and 51 home runs and, as a result, Dansby’s so far short career looks like it will be a long one. Dansby played for the Hops in 2015.
Watch his post game interview on 4/15 as he talks about his game-winning, walk-off RBI single for the Braves.
Quite a few more are close to making a major league appearance this year, but not there yet. However, the season is still young. Check out my column next week when I look at what former Hops might be next in the big leagues.
P Eduardo Herrera traded to the Kansas City Royals for CF Nick Heath. With Ketel Marte on the injured list, the Dbacks found themselves short-handed in the outfield and traded for a promising young outfielder.
Hops fans will remember Herrera from the 2019 Championship game when the Hops won their third title in seven years. Eduardo came on to close the win and earn the save.
Canadian Roommates Come, Portland Mavericks Going
With new Canadian roommates, former teammates making it to the big show and spiritual mates moving onward, it has been a busy week. All of this plus the Hillsboro Hops start their new season as a High A ball club in just two weeks. Take a deep breath and get ready. Next week: Who’s Next? Former Hops on Their Way Up among other news.