Sunday, July 16, 2017

Everett AquaSox 3 at Eugene Emeralds 4 (Northwest League) - July 15, 2017

The final stop on the Oregon portion of my trip was Eugene, home of the University of Oregon Ducks, as well as minor league baseball's Emeralds. The Ems have been around since 1955, and even spent 3 years in the PCL as Philadelphia's top farm club. Since 1974, they have been members of the Northwest League, and affiliated with several different clubs; now they belong to the Cubs.

The Emeralds use PK Park as their home diamond, which is also home to the Ducks baseball team. Often when an NCAA ballpark doubles as a minor league facility, many of the usual amenities are missing, but that is not the case here.

Parking is $5, though you can park on streets nearby for free and stroll over, which many fans do. If you are looking for a pub nearby, O Bar is a Ducks-themed establishment about 10 minutes away: I parked on the street midway between the bar and the stadium to minimize the post-game walk.

Tickets are $15 for premium boxes (the first few rows), $12 for regular boxes, and $9 for general admission. There are several ticket windows here, more than I have seen at any other ballpark, so no waiting.

Before I made a purchase, I looked around and spotted a couple who were trying to give away two tickets. I offered to take one off his hands, but he wanted both to get used, so he gave me one on the condition that I try to give the other one away. Within a couple of minutes, I saw a gentleman approaching alone and asked him if he needed a ticket. He did, so I handed him the extra ticket, my duty done. The seats turned out to be down low behind the plate, quite a lucky find for me.

Inside, the single seating bowl lies beneath the main concourse, with Kelly green seats all the way around.

The bleacher area is down the left field line, behind a small picnic area. I did not make my way over here to take a picture.  However, the picnic area is an indication that this is not a normal NCAA park, because beer is sold here! A good variety, including two types of IPA from local brewer Ninkasi, which are $5 before 6:45, meaning get there early as the price goes up to $7 after that (though if the beer batter strikes out, they are $3).

A much larger picnic area can be found on the left field concourse. In the background behind the fence is the home team bullpen.

Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks play football, is visible behind first base. I doubt I will ever see a game here, but it sure looks like a nice stadium.

The sun sets behind first base, so again I got my shadow on the field. Note that most of the stadium is in the shade by the time first pitch is thrown at 7:05.

In terms of features, the Road to the Show board has more names than I have seen at any level, not surprising given the history here..

There are also banners for particularly famous Ems, including Mike Schmidt, who played here in 1972.

The Emeralds are the defending Northwest League champions, their first title since 1980, hard to believe in an 8-team league. They even had the trophy on display.

The starting lineups are posted, but guarded by a large Sasquatch, who is relevant as he appears in one of the team's logos.

The university team is represented by a couple of busts of past Ducks managers on the concourse: Mel Krause on the left and Don Kirsch on the right.

The mascot is Sluggo, who did not make his way down to my section, so you'll have to settle with an inflatable version that is posted outside.

Overall, PK Park is the best NCAA/MiLB dual-use stadium I have seen. The Emeralds are not a second-tier tenant here, and with excellent concessions and beer choices, this venue is just like any other minor league park. I don't know how it compares to a Ducks game, but this was one of the better experiences on this trip. Eugene is definitely a great college town, even in the summer, so make your way there and check out the Ems!

The Game

Everett (Seattle) was opening up a 5-game set after taking 2 of 3 in Tri-City, where I saw them on Wednesday. Steven Ridings (29th, 2016) took the mound for the AquaSox against Jose Albertos, an 18-year-old out of Mexico, making his second start at this level. The Emeralds scored two in the first on three singles, and added another pair in the second on a double by Aramis Ademan. Everett got one back in the third when Eugene Helder (playing in Eugene!) singled home Chris Torres, who had tripled. In the 5th, with Albertos still on for the Ems, the AquaSox strung together three singles and a Helder groundout to get within one. Both starters were removed after 5 innings, and both bullpens were stellar, particularly Eugene's, with three pitchers combining to yield just a walk in four innings as the Emeralds prevailed 4-3. Unfortunately, the scoreboard was turned off by the time I tried to take a picture.

The game took 2:45, but with only 244 pitches thrown, a very slow pace of 1.48 PPM. Ademan went 3-4 with the 2 RBIs to garner my player to watch award.


Oregon is wine country as well, and the mascot race featured 3 types of grape: red, white, and raisin. I'd like to see these guys race against Barley from Hillsboro!



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