PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A local baseball group held its annual banquet this weekend and KOIN 6 News was there to ask members about their predictions for Portland’s professional baseball future.
The banquet was hosted by the Old Timers Baseball Association of Portland Saturday at the Multnomah Athletic Club.
Board member Ivan Kafoury said the group was started 85 years ago for the Portland Beavers — a minor league team that represented Portland in the Pacific Coast League.
Back then, the Old Timers simply helped baseball players stay active in the off-season.
Today, Kafoury says, the group consists of 50 board members who raise money for Little Leagues, Babe Ruth Leagues and college scholarships for baseball players.
“We’ve got several ball players who’ve gone on to Major League Baseball that we helped get through college,” Kafoury said.
One of the speakers at Saturday’s banquet, Darwin Barney, was one of those people. He was awarded a scholarship from the group in 2005 before he started school at Oregon State University.
Barney went on to play in the MLB for 8 years and earned the National League Gold Glove at second base in 2012.
Kafoury said these annual banquets are largely dominated by members reminiscing about the past.
“Everybody wants to talk about their lives, how good they were,” he said.
But the Portland Diamond Project — a private group working to bring an MLB team to Portland — is still a very valid topic.
“They’ve got a piece of property that they’ve actually got an investment in now, which is the starting point,” Kafoury said. “I don’t think the money is any object to them.”
Kafoury said he doesn’t agree with Oregon House Majority Leader Ginny Burdick’s plan to repeal a potential funding source for the MLB stadium in Portland.
Burdick doesn’t want the tax on players’ incomes to be used exclusively toward financing the ball park.
“If we have the baseball team come here and we get $150 million of payroll out of the baseball players — that helps pay for the stadium, makes a lot of sense,” said Kafoury.
Kafoury even (jokingly) suggested an alternative.
“We figured out our treasurer, Glen Miller, is so good with figures and money that we’re gonna have him convince the Portland Diamond Project that he can get Mexico to help pay for the baseball stadium,” he said. “We’ll see how that works out!”
As for a potential name for a future Portland team, Kafoury likes the idea of keeping it Portland-based. He suggested something to do with the city’s craft beer culture, like the Hillsboro Hops.
Whether-or-not MLB will ever come to Portland remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the love for the great American pastime is very much alive in the City of Roses and many people are keeping their eye on the ball.