A Forest Grove youth baseball team enjoys its first outing to see a minor league game

They had to put off their plans for a day, but it was still worth the wait.

Originally, the members of Forest Grove’s Junior Baseball Organization Midget Federal team were going to attend the Hillsboro Hops’ home opener last Monday at Hillsboro Ballpark.

Stephanie Couture, whose 9-year-old son Brendan plays on the squad, planned to buy the tickets. But just a couple days before tickets went on sale, the team got an updated season schedule.

The bummer: A rainout game had been rescheduled for the day of the Hops’ home opener.

As Couture pointed out, attending the Hops’ Opening Night would have been special. After all, it has been three years since the Portland area has been home to a professional baseball team.

But last Tuesday, the boys made due anyhow, enjoying themselves at the short-season Class A ballclub’s second-ever home game, which took place on a cool and breezy evening in Hillsboro.

Brendan and two of his teammates, Kaden Clute and Dillon Bateman, took some time out from watching the game to talk about their experience.

“It’s pretty cool to see them, because they’re pros and they’re really good,” noted Kaden, 9 and a Cornelius resident. “You can learn a lot and see different things, and it’s just amazing to see that.”

All 12 members of the team were able to attend the game, as well as the players’ families. Their seats — and it is a challenge to find a poor one at Hillsboro Ballpark — were along the first base line, just a toss of a baseball from the Hops’ dugout.

“I think they’ve done really well,” said Brendan, who lives in Forest Grove. “They’ve got some good hits and they’ve got caught but almost scored a run with bases loaded.

“The pitcher’s done really well, and I think all the fielders have done really well too.”

The Hops eventually lost the game 2-0 to the Eugene Emeralds, but that did not seem to stop the boys from having a good time. Earlier in the night, they got to go down on the field and chase a costumed rabbit across to the third-base side.

“It was really fun. I found out about that today,” Brendan said. “Dillon and I were just playing catch while we were waiting to get into the stadium. A lady came up to us and asked if we wanted to run on the field, and we said, ‘Sure.’”

And late in the contest, the boys chanted and cheered for the home team with obvious glee and enthusiasm.

So despite the one-day delay and having to miss Opening Night, the evening was a special one. To attend the game — as no doubt, countless of youth teams will do over the course of the summer — the Forest Grove squad got a rare day off from practice and the chance for some quality team bonding.

“You don’t get much time just as a team to do something different than baseball,” Kaden said. “It’s just always baseball.”

In fact, the team did play that rainout game on Monday, and they had another game scheduled for Wednesday. The boys see each other practically every day during a given week, Couture said, even playing tournaments on weekends.

“Your baseball team and all the parents and the kids, you become a family for three months, and they spend 10 to 20 hours a week together, every single day (for) three hours,” she explained. “This is their life.”

So last Tuesday was a bit of fun, even for the more quiet Dillon, 10, who did offer that he was enjoying “watching (the Hops) play.”

So were the Coutures, who will definitely be back. Stephanie Couture — who said she will be singing the national anthem at a Hops game next month — said she and Brendan used to go to Portland Beavers games and were sad when they left town.

Couture said she and Brendan recenty took a trip to Boston that included a stop at Fenway Park, where the Major League Red Sox play. But now he, his teammates, and ball players across the Portland area have a pro team of their own, even if it is a minor league one.

“It’s great for the boys to come out here and give them something to look forward to and to say, ‘That’s what I’m going to do someday,’” Couture said. “They all started out this young.”

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