Of Cabbages and Kings: Minor league ball is a hoot

LOGO Of Cabbages and Kings

If you are hungry for baseball, a game is two hours away. The Hillsboro Hops is a Class A minor league team in its inaugural season. My wife and I took in the Hops’ game with the Spokane Indians on Sunday.

The charms of minor league ball are at least threefold. The park is intimate. The price is reasonable. The players are relative unknowns, so they try hard. In minor league ball, every at-bat is an audition. So is every ground ball. We observed six Major League scouts looking for the next great thing. They had clip boards, speed guns and one wielded a video camera.

We paid $14 to sit eight rows behind home plate. There were 4,002 of us at the game, including lots of kids.

The Hops beat the Indians 6-5 in the 13th inning. If a base runner hadn’t been sucked into a trick play, the Hops would have won in 11 innings. And that is another great thing about Class A ball: these guys are still learning the game’s fine points.

The Hops roster includes an outfielder who grew up in Cuba, two from the Dominican Republic and two Venezuelans.

Food is appealing as well. The Zenner hot dog is quite good. Bridgeport beer and ale is available. There are unconventional offerings such as the Caprese sandwich. The Hops stadium staff is most helpful. One went out of his way to tell me how one gets to the stadium by light rail (there is a shuttle to a nearby station).

•••

Neal Maine is a regional treasure. If we needed a reminder of that, my wife and I got it last Thursday on a tour of the Stanley Marsh. There were 30 of us on the walk sponsored by the North Coast Land Conservancy.

Seeing the marsh with Maine’s interpretation was like hearing an art historian interpret a painting. The field in front of us looked ordinary, until Maine pointed out the sedges and clovers and explained how a fresh water marsh changed entirely when it was flooded with salt water.

Bird life was abundant. We saw a cedar waxwing nest in a mass of blueberries, western bluebirds, a juvenile eagle and a savannah sparrow,

There was a lot of philosophy imparted as we walked the circumference of Stanley Marsh. Of the land conservancy he said: “We don’t have a list of what we are against.” Instead, they try to be cooperative with land interests who can help the cause of conservation.

Rather than place an emphasis on naming plants, Maine said the most important thing is to “read the landscape.”

The morning’s finale was seeing two beaver ponds. The handiwork of Oregon’s state animal is impressive. Said Maine:?“We’ve been too engineered about this project. I’m of the opinion that we ought to ask the beaver.”

•••

Summer theater is one of this season’s pleasures. I think the first play I saw as a child was at the old Gearhart Hotel, when the Mark Allen Players put on theater in the round.

The Coaster Theater of Cannon Beach is a reliable purveyor of summer stock. On Saturday night my wife and I saw A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the Stephen Sondheim musical.

This was very funny. The music of a Sondheim production is difficult, because the melody isn’t provided by the orchestra or, in this case, the piano accompanist; it comes from the singers. In other words, the voice is another instrument. The Coaster cast acquitted themselves well.

— S.A.F.

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