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Portland shouldnt be afraid to go pro

SOAP BOX •ÊWe're not a one-coffeehouse town, so why limit ourselves to one major sport?

In the Walt Disney film 'The Rookie,' which is based on a true story, Dennis Quaid plays the role of 35-year-old Jimmy Morris, a high school science teacher and baseball coach in a small Texas town. Actually, Morris was a major league baseball player. He just didn't know it yet.

In a pivotal scene in the movie, Morris chastises his players for giving up in a lopsided loss to their opponent. One of his players responds, suggesting Morris had also given up by abandoning his dream of pitching in the big leagues. You see, the kids saw something in their coach that Morris didn't see in himself. They knew he was destined for Yankee Stadium, not the biology room.

Just like Morris, the City of Roses is destined for the major leagues. We just don't know it yet. Portland, it seems, is stuck between Seattle and Mayberry RFD. We desire national recognition, but we cling to small-city comforts. We truly do not understand our civic calling.

Perhaps Portland is frightened of becoming a Seattle, bustling with traffic and congestion. Perhaps we fear the loss of our parks and treasured green spaces in the rush toward greater urbanization. Possibly the tired old argument of baseball versus schools is to blame. For whatever reason, River City is hesitant to reach for the brass ring that is major league baseball.

Why is it that some Portlanders are comfortable, even proud, of their status as America's largest city with only one major league team? Would we be equally proud if the city offered only one Italian restaurant? Or one pub and coffeehouse? How proud would we be if Portland offered one and only one city park? Don't get me wrong. I love these amenities, but there's only so much beer and coffee a man can drink. Eventually the word baseball must come into play.

Naysayers will argue: 'We don't need baseball.' I agree. We don't need baseball. We also don't need Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall or Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We don't need the Oregon Zoo, Saturday Market or the Eastbank Esplanade. We don't need any of these things, but doesn't this type of civic diversity enhance the 'quality of life' we so value?

So what ultimately is Portland's highest calling? I would suggest it is all the above: good schools and clean parks, Saturday Market and Pioneer Courthouse Square, Italian restaurants and the Oregon Zoo, a coffeehouse and brew pub on every corner. And yes, the sights and sounds of major league baseball should fill the air of Portland's warm summer nights.

Morris eventually made it to the major leagues, fulfilling his highest calling. Now it's Portland's turn: Are we willing to reach for the brass ring? Are we truly committed to improving the 'quality of life' for all citizens? Are we willing to accept our civic calling?

Yes, Portland is most definitely a major league city. PGE Park is nice, but Portland is destined for Yankee Stadium.

James A. Murphy lives in Cedar Mill and works in the insurance business. He attended Jesuit High School and Portland State University and has been a baseball fan since he began following the Portland Beavers in 1971.