Hillsboro Hops honored by Baseball America
Congratulations to the Hillsboro Hops. Not this time for performance on the field, but rather for winning Baseball America's 2017 Freitas Award which is given to the best operating franchises in the minor leagues.
The Hops were the short season/rookie league recipient of the award, joining organizations like the Fresno Grizzlies, Reading Fightin' Phils, and Charleston RiverDogs who were honored in Triple-A, Double-A, and low Single-A classifications.
Hops General Manager KL Wombacher took particular pride in the award because he sees it as a direct reflection of the organization as a whole, and a "team" honor opposed to an individual recognition.
"For us, it you look at the teams that have won it in the past, it's a real honor to be in that company and a validation for the five years we've spent in Hillsboro," said Wombacher. "We've got a great fan base, a great ownership and a great front office, and this speaks to that."
The Short Season Single-A franchise which just finished its fifth season in Hillsboro since moving to Washington County from Yakima, has been nothing short of a success since arriving in 2013, winning two Northwest League championships and creating an unrivaled minor league environment reflected by the teams impressive attendance numbers.
In 2014, a year in which the Hops won the NWL Championship, the team averaged more than 3,100 people and more than 90-percent capacity for both their divisional and championship series games, during a time organizations historically struggle to draw due to football's return and school being back in session.
The Hops played host to the 2017 NWL-PBL All-Star game at Ron Tonkin Field, and since the team re-branded and changed its name to the Hops after its move to Hillsboro, they've been one of the leaders among all minor league clubs in merchandise sales.
An affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the parent club has frequently entrusted the Hops with top draft selections. In 2013, Arizona sent top picks Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair to Hillsboro to begin their careers. In 2015, first overall selection Dansby Swanson debuted with Hillsboro. A year later, Arizona's top selection Anfernee Grier began his career with the Hops, and in 2017, Pavin Smith was also sent to Hillsboro. In all, seven Hops players have been promoted to MLB rosters.
Much of which Wombacher believes is a credit to the city of Hillsboro, and something the community should be proud of.
"This award honors everything we've done as a group and community," Wombacher said. "We wouldn't have been given this award if not for the fan support we get in Hillsboro. So I hope the fans take pride in it."