Sammy Hagar, Laundry, and the Eugene Emeralds

“There’s only one way to rock!” yells Sammy Hagar from next door, and who am I to argue? The Red Rocker once wrote a protest song decrying the rate of speed at which motorists are allowed to travel the highways of this great land. The man has a conscience.

It’s 8 a.m. Tuesday and we’re out of clean clothes. The laundry room is next to the kitchen, which is next to the fake-scrambled-eggs-and-crank-your-own-raisin-bran buffet.

There’s only one way to rock.

Later we will head to Newport, on the coast, away from the sweltering heat of Eugene. But for now, Sammy, laundry, and last night’s Emeralds game rattle in my head like so many wild pitches.

My notes are useless. They tell me that Padres 17th-round pick Trae Santos is big and that Hillsboro Hops left fielder Yogey Perez-Ramos has the best name ever.

Wynton Bernard, the kid from Poway, apparently impressed me but I can’t remember why. The heat could be getting to me. The heat, or the Reuben sandwich at the place where The Bier Stein was supposed to be.

True story: The previous night, after a game at Hillsboro Ballpark, I popped into a taproom for some Two Kilts Cocoa Porter. I was decked in Hops gear, and the bartender asked if I played for the team. I’m 44 years old. Dude got a big tip.

The trouble with baseball at the lowest minor-league levels is that you will see pitchers who jerk their heads and telegraph their sliders. You will see first basemen who stretch before the shortstop has released the ball. You will see umpires who may or may not be watching the same game as you.

But one fan’s trouble is another fan’s charm. While strangeness occurs on the field, we soon lose ourselves in the sounds of the stadium organist.

Our program identifies him as Jonathan Bilenki. He regales us with rousing renditions of familiar tunes from The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, J. Geils Band, Three Dog Night, The Kinks, UB40, Johnny Cash, and more. If Chickenfoot ever needs a keyboard player, they could do worse than hire this cat.

Also, there is the beer. It’s local and delicious. We opt for offerings from Ninkasi (named after the Sumerian goddess of beer) and Oakshire. The choices in Hillsboro were good as well, but the brews here better suit my palate.

True story: Before Sunday afternoon’s game in Hillsboro, the stadium announcer identified the visiting Salem-Keizer Volcanoes as an affiliate of the San Diego Giants. As I prepared myself to be offended on behalf of America’s Finest City, the Giants fan sitting next to me threw a fit. Good enough.

The Emeralds won, 4-0. Padres 11th-round pick Erik Schoenrock allowed one hit over seven innings. From my notes on the former University of Memphis southpaw: “pitched well, junkballer.”

We had hoped to see first-round pick Hunter Renfroe, but he didn’t sign until the day after we returned to San Diego. How very rude.

True story: I once had to rent an amp a few hours before a gig while my Marshall was being ignored by a lazy technician at another shop. When I went to pick up the rental, the guy helping me was interrupted by a phone call. He excused himself and disappeared for several minutes. “Sorry,” he said upon returning. “That was Sammy Hagar.”

Once our clothes have dried, we stroll through Alton Baker Park and across the Willamette River to the Fifth Street Public Market. We break our fast on marzipan-filled almond croissants, gooey coconut macaroons, and a steaming cup of locally roasted Wandering Goat Coffee. We spend the next few hours eating, drinking, and walking our way through the Market District. Never at the same time, of course; we are dangerous, not crazy.

After enjoying as much of Eugene as possible, we venture west, to cooler climes. What Newport lacks in baseball teams it more than makes up for by not being 99 degrees, as it is when we leave Oregon’s second largest city.

Speeding along OR-126 to Florence, with memories of Eugene solidifying in my mind, I am struck by two truths. First, this place is gorgeous. Second, I can’t drive 55.

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Have you ever fallen in love with a minor-league town? Leave a comment, send an email (, or hit me up on Twitter (@ducksnorts).

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  • After the true story about being interrupted by the Sammy Hagar phone call I thought, “aww – this totally should have been the end of your story!”

    I was wrong. Cool ending. Cool story. I’ve got to get to Oregon sometime.

  • SDPads1

    Welcome back GY! I’m insanely jealous of your trip….and of you being interrupted by a phone call from Sammy Hagar.

  • ChrisD

    Great story, Geoff. Likewise, AJM, I need to get to Oregon…