Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Going, going, Oregon: Previewing a ballpark trip

Traveling writer's itinerary includes Exploding Whales, Canada
April 27, 2023

This article is excerpted from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, which you can subscribe to HERE. Each Thursday brings a new installment filled with Minor League Baseball business and culture news.

This article is excerpted from the latest edition of the Ben's Biz Beat Newsletter, which you can subscribe to HERE. Each Thursday brings a new installment filled with Minor League Baseball business and culture news.

My first Minor League ballpark road trip of the 2023 season begins next week, marking my 13th season of travel for In that time I've been fortunate to visit every Minor League stadium, as well as dozens more that are no longer part of the affiliated landscape.

To kick things off, I'm embarking toward a quartet of Minor League locales I haven't been to for a decade or more. It's time for this northeasterner to head northwest!

Within the following itinerary, click on each ballpark name to read its corresponding Minor League Ballpark Guide. Visit the Minor League Ballpark Guide landing page for a searchable map of all Minor League teams, which can be filtered by state and parent club. Plan your Minor League road trip today!

May 6: PK Park, home of the Eugene Emeralds
The Emeralds are hosting Spokane on Saturday, except they won’t be playing as the Emeralds. May 6 will be the second of four “Exploding Whales” games in Eugene this season, honoring that time in 1970 when the nearby town of Florence, Ore., attempted to remove the body of a beached sperm whale by blowing it up. I’m planning to visit Florence before attending that evening’s game; hopefully I’ll also have time to catch up with Bag Man, who I met during my last visit to Eugene in 2012.

Visiting with Bag Man in downtown Eugene, Ore., in 2012.

May 7: Ron Tonkin Field, home of the Hillsboro Hops
The Portland-area Hillsboro Hops gained sentience in 2013, upon relocating from Yakima, Wash. (which, ironically, is the No. 1 hops-producing region in the country). I visited Ron Tonkin Field that inaugural season, during which I had the pleasure of witnessing the first rain delay in franchise history. It’s hard to believe that 2023 marks the Hops’ penultimate season at Ron Tonkin Field, but it’s true. In 2025, they’ll move across the street (more or less) to a larger, more amenity-laden facility.

At Tacoma's Cheney Stadium, a statue of namesake Ben Cheney sits in the stands.

May 9: Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainiers
Though not much remains of the original structure, 63-year-old Cheney Stadium is the oldest ballpark in all of Triple-A. The last time I visited, in 2012, I communed with a statuesque iteration of stadium namesake Ben Cheney and sang “Billie Jean” atop the dugout. Who knows what’s in store this time around, when I absorb, to the fullest, a Tuesday evening contest featuring the Rainiers and the Reno Aces?

May 10: Nat Bailey Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canadians
It will be an honor and a delight to finally return to Vancouver, home of the only Minor League team not located in the United States. That would be the aptly named Canadians, of course, who operate out of fantastically charming Nat Bailey Stadium. When I visited Vancouver in 2012, it was an absolute whirlwind of a time. I ran in a sushi race, danced with the grounds crew, rode in a car around the perimeter of the warning track and documented the consumption of some truly formidable food items. Clearly, I’m gonna need a Designated Eater.

The Vancouver Canadians' "Yard Dog" utilized metric system measurements.

Of course, Designated Eaters will once again be a part of my road trip coverage. For those unaware, the Designated Eater is an individual recruited to eat the ballpark food my gluten-free diet prohibits. If you want to be a Designated Eater in Eugene, Hillsboro, Tacoma or Vancouver, then send an email to [email protected] by May 4 and tell me why you’re the best candidate for the “job.” (There’s no pay, but you do get free food, a t-shirt and a small but satisfactory portion of internet notoriety).

Tom "The Lizard" Lorenzo served as St. Paul Saints Designated Eater in 2022.

Broadly speaking, my goal with 2023 ballpark road trip coverage is the same as it’s always been: To highlight what makes each team unique. But there is room for new ways of doing things within this vague mission statement, and that will be a priority for me this season. Your suggestions regarding people to talk to, things to pay attention to and places to see (in and outside the ballpark) are always welcome, for this and all my trips. Thanks for following along, and hope to see you on the road!

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.