PDX doesn’t have a MLB team, but our minor and collegiate baseball teams still give your family a chance to root for the local boys of summer. We took the kids to check out The Portland Pickles and The Hillsboro Hops. Read on to see how we did.
Back in elementary school, I “played softball.” I am putting that in quotes, as my finest memory was doing the hokey pokey in right field while my best friend joined in from third base.
While I did not quite have the stamina for playing softball, I do enjoy watching a ballgame. So my kids and I recently headed to Walker Stadium in Lents to catch a Pickles game — Portland’s own collegiate-baseball-level team.
As we entered the stadium, we found ourselves face to face with all the best of baseball. And by that I mean, of course, the food. There are hot dogs fresh from the grill, beer, ice cream served in miniature batting helmets, crackerjacks and, naturally, pickles. After choosing our meals of varying degrees of [un]healthiness, we took our seats.
There are no bad seats at Walker Stadium. From our seats halfway up the bleachers, just above the Pickles dugout, we could see the action perfectly and had a great view of the scoreboard as well. That was a big help as I tried to explain the rules of the game to the kids.
After two innings, it became clear that my 6-year-old daughter had inherited my level of patience for the game. (“So … all they do is play with a ball?”) However, spirits were exuberantly raised by the entertainment at the end of each inning. In addition to the team mascot, Dillon the Pickle, (who roams the stands for plenty of photo ops), there was an assortment of ZOOperstars — like Nolan Rhino and Derek Cheetah, costumed in blow-up, squishable attire. Each ZOOperstar had a different act, from dancing to harassing the players.
The kids’ favorite, hands (pants?) down, was Mike Rainbow Trout, who somehow managed to “consume” a member of the Pickles staff, bringing him into the costume. Soon a shoe was spit out. Then another. Then a shirt, pants, and finally the staff member himself, who ran out clad only in brightly polka dotted underpants. “Now that’s entertainment!” my oldest exclaimed, nearly crying from laughing so hard. The ZOOperstars aren’t at every game, so check ahead if you want to see them.
The verdict: My oldest was all-in by the end. He was rooting for the Pickles like a lifetime fan — which hey, I guess he basically is at age 8. The younger two came for the baseball and stayed for the mascots — but still had an awesome time.
The tickets are super affordable at $13 each (or $7 per spot on the family- friendly berms), but the cost of food adds up quickly. (But if you go on Sunday nights, kids get a free hot dog, water and fruit.)
There are perfectly adequate bathrooms of the non porta-potty variety — key for families.
There is no shade in the bleachers. (My youngest was lying down on the step of the bleachers at one point to try to shield himself from the sun.) Bring a hat and don’t forget sunscreen.
Lents playground is just across the field, and is a great place to take a break from the action.
Where: Walker Stadium at SE Holgate and 92nd Ave.
When: Games run through August.
See website for details: portlandpicklesbaseball.com.
Hop To It: The Hillsboro Hops
– Julia Silverman
By the close of my son’s Little League season this June, I thought I’d had my fill of baseball. Two practices plus two two-hour games per week for two months straight — can you blame me?
And yet, when Ben and I headed out to a Hillsboro Hops game on a perfect mid-July summer’s eve, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that there was room in my heart for yet more baseball.
The Hops, a single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, have been playing at the spiffy Ron Tonkin Field on the edge of town for five years now. No, it’s not major league ball, and thank goodness for that — there’s room to stretch out in the bleachers, instead of being packed in like a sardine, and if your kid wants to be on the arena’s big screen, he or she just needs to stand up on the bleachers and do their best Fortnite floss, and the camera will find them.
The team has gone out of its way to be super-family-friendly, with $7/person seats available on the “Frontier family berm” overlooking left field. (Bring a blanket, and note that on a sunny day, this is the last area of the field to get some shade.) Shadier bleacher seats go for $16 per person. When kids get wiggly, there are several inflatables set up in a kid zone just past center field, including a giant slide and a bouncy house with a basketball hoop inside.
Dinner options are pretty typical stadium fare with a few lighter options, like teriyaki rice bowls and soft tacos with chicken. There’s even a hot dog topped with a huge scoop of mac ‘n cheese for those with extra-hearty appetites. As you’d expect from a team called the Hops, there’s plenty of beer on offer, too.
And what about the baseball? The level of play was surprisingly good; the night we were there, the Hops blew out their opponents, 11-0, and the happy crowd roared its approval. My son, a fledgling Little League pitcher, had fun calling balls and strikes with surprising accuracy, and we both liked speculating on which of the players we were watching might someday be headed for the big leagues.
Add in plenty of silly contests and entertainment sandwiched in between innings (Whipped cream eating contest — no hands allowed! Ice bucket challenge!), regular appearances by Hoppy, the team’s mascot, and the time-honored singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame to mark the 7th inning stretch, and we were sold. After all, you can never really have too much baseball.
Parking costs $5 per car, cash only. It’s a bit of a haul from downtown Portland, especially if you’re heading through rush hour to make a 7:05 game start. You can take the MAX blue line to Orenco Station and pick up a free shuttle bus to the stadium from there.
Bring a baseball mitt! Players routinely tossed foul balls to hordes of kids waiting in the family berm area.
Don’t miss the cool art installation out front, which lights up when your kid cranks its gears.
Serious fans should consider signing up for the “Short Hops” club, for kids ages 3-12, which is free to join and gets your kiddo perks including autograph sessions with players and giveaways every game.
If you’re planning on eating at the ballpark, consider buying a family 4-pack of tickets; $49 gets you four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas and a family-sized popcorn. Available at area Safeway and Albertson’s only.
Where: Ron Tonkin Field, 4460 NE Century Blvd., Hillsboro.
When: Home games through Labor Day weekend; find out more at hillsborohops.com.