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On The Job: Athletes

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Oregon is home to several sports franchises, including two minor league baseball teams, a junior league hockey team and of course, Portland’s major league soccer team: the Timbers. In the next installment of our On the Job series, we’ll hear from athletes from three of Oregon’s professional sports teams.

Timbers players are officially off duty, having just completed post-season training. New Zealander Jake Gleeson is looking forward to 2012 when he hopes to get a little more time on the field. At the moment, the 21-year-old is the team’s backup goalie. He was recruited from a youth soccer team in New Zealand two years ago. He already had his eye on the U.S. after garnering interest from some college recruiters, but he decided to put off school when he got the chance to go pro.

Josh Hanson made a similar choice when he decided to play hockey for the Portland Winterhawks shortly after finishing high school in Alaska. He was able to graduate at 16 and he was recruited by Ivy League schools, but chose to join the Winterhawks instead. Josh says it was a tough choice, but he was drawn in by the caliber of players on the junior league team. Players for the Winterhawks are all under the age of 20, and many of them join the team before finishing high school. Classwork is a part of the daily routine for the players, whether they’re attending high school or taking online college courses.

Mark Pope is also balancing a promising career in the world of sports with getting a college degree. He’s determined to graduate from Georgia Tech, even after accepting an offer to play minor league baseball for the Eugene Emeralds in his junior year. He says he wants to have a backup plan, and that’s why he’s continuing to pursue a business degree. But baseball is where his real passion lies. He’s been playing since he was five years old. Mark hopes to pitch for the San Diego Padres, the major league team that draws players from the Emeralds. Right now, he’s looking for an off-season job in Athens, Georgia before he returns to Oregon in the spring to live with his teammates at a Eugene hotel.

What’s your experience with sports teams in Oregon? Are you a fan of the Timbers, Winterhawks or Emeralds? Have you ever played major or minor league sports? Did you have a chance to play but choose a different path instead?


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