On Monday, Forest Grove Mayor Peter Truax and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey, who ofen find themselves debating the finer points of transportation funding formulas and metropolitan density goals late into the night, found a far more enjoyable way to spend an evening: tallying runs.

The pair attended the first home game ever played by the Hillsboro Hops.

The Class A minor league baseball team opened its inaugural homestand with a 12-0 shellacking of the Eugene Emeralds.

Win or lose on the field, the benefits of having a professional baseball team just 12 miles down the road from Forest Grove are already evident.

According to an economic and fiscal impact study from Johnson Reid, LLC, a Portland-based real estate development consultancy, construction of the new ballfield at the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex has pumped roughly $2.6 million directly into western Washington County’s economy, while visitors coming to the games are expected to provide roughly $7.1 million in direct and indirect economic benefits in 2013 alone.

Even beyond the economic value, having a baseball team is likely to spark a stronger sense of identity for Washington County, as local service groups, sports clubs and extended families gather to root, root, root for the home team. That brings people (including politicians) and communities closer together. And having a team here is sure to inspire some friendly rivalries with other Northwest cities, such as Salem, Eugene, Everett and Boise.

Further, there is something special about watching these “kids” play in what usually is their first professional season. (The oldest Hop is 24-year-old outfielder Yogi Perez-Ramos. Two of his teammates are still teenagers.)

They hustle for every ground ball, and are still thrilled when someone asks for an autograph after the game. In a state where collegiate baseball is on the rise, the Hops could provide a little extra inspiration for the many teams around the area, from Little League to high school, as the opportunity to take in a live game and chat with minor league players can make the dream of perhaps someday starring in the World Series more tangible for a young athlete.

Before the Hillsboro Hops’ first game was even played, the new baseball team had nearly 5,000 “likes” on Facebook, and the groundbreaking for the new stadium in October proved more enticing than the classroom for a couple members of the Forest Grove Vikings baseball team.

Clearly, the team is doing a lot of things right, and making a positive impact in a way that transcends athletics. For instance, Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin, who is the Troop leader of Boy Scout Troop 213, is making plans for his boys to camp out at the stadium after an upcoming Hops game.

With all the positive energy this organization is creating — and because so many of us grew up enjoying the game of baseball — we want to express our appreciation to the Hillsboro Hops as we enthusiastically welcome the team to our community.

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