The Hillsboro Hops will not be playing baseball at Ron Tonkin Field this year.
Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that due to the pandemic, it will not be providing Minor League Baseball affiliates with players for the 2020 season.
Hops president K.L. Wombacher anticipated the news would be coming and took steps to prepare for the future.
“We kind of saw this coming for about a month or so,” he said. “For us, the news was a kind of closure so that we could officially move on and focus our attention on 2021 and doing a deeper dive into our operation and make sure we take this extra time ... and try to become better.”
The Hops are a Class A Short Season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team is usually comprised of players within the Diamondbacks organization who have been assigned to the minor leagues for development.
Canceling the baseball season is a significant financial blow to the Hops organization, which relies on ticket sales, sponsorships, concessions and merchandise. So Wombacher and his staff looked at alternate ways to bring in revenue.
“We’re putting more emphasis on our e-commerce, so driving retail is going to be important and also finding new ways to hold events at the ballpark,” Wombacher told OPB. “It could be corporate rentals, opportunities to take batting practice, it could be movies in the ballpark.”
No baseball season will also have a significant impact to local businesses. According to Wombacher, the Hops bring in roughly 130,000 people to the ballpark every summer.
“That’s a significant amount of people who could be shopping in Hillsboro, going to dinner before the game, supporting local businesses,” he said.
But despite the setback, Wombacher has a positive attitude as he looks ahead to next season.
“It’s a chance to refocus, it’s a chance to build deeper relations with the fans and try to stay relevant throughout the summer and just make sure they know how much they mean to us and they’re helping us get through with their support,” he said.
While the Hops’ season is over, summer baseball in Oregon is not completely lost. The Portland Pickles will have a shortened season beginning this month as part of the newly formed Wild Wild West League.
The Pickles and three other teams, the West Lynn Knights, Gresham GreyWolves, and Portland Gherkins, will play at the baseball field at North Marion High School, with a second venue still to be announced.
Opening day will be July 11 and will conclude Aug. 12 with a championship game.
Tickets will be sold in limited quantities and social distancing rules will be enforced.