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Eugene set to honor former home after fire

Former Ems baseball legends help team pay homage to Civic Stadium
July 21, 2015

Minor League teams are known for the creativity of their gameday promotions. On Tuesdays this season, we preview the most intriguing for the week ahead. If you'd like a particular promotion to be considered for this feature in the future, please send it to [email protected] with the subject line: "Promo Preview" or send a Tweet  to @bensbiz, hashtag "#promopreview."

The city of Eugene has become synonymous with flashy uniforms and eye-popping facilities, but on June 29, the community bade an unexpected and devastating farewell to one of its original sports centerpieces.

Civic Stadium, home of the Eugene Emeralds in the Pacific Coast League and Northwest League from 1969-2009, burned down that day in a loss that shocked and saddened the city and the Minor League world. As the Emerald Valley figures out its next steps, the 76-year-old facility's former tenants will pay tribute to the venerable ballpark as the city begins to turn the page toward building the next community sports hub. On Friday, the Emeralds will celebrate their old home with Eugene baseball legends and area baseball fans.

"Fans and local community members are obviously still shaken up by it," said Emeralds general manager Allan Benavides, a member of the Eugene Civic Alliance nonprofit group that had just acquired the stadium two months before the fire with plans to incorporate it into a community sports complex on the site. "I think there's still a lot of disbelief that it's not here. It's still one of those things that, after all these years, I can't believe it's gone. There's still a sense of sadness about it."

Although the city's mourning has been emotional, the Emeralds are ready to lead the psychic recovery. Friday night's festivities -- originally slated to be '70s Night as part of the club's ongoing 60th anniversary promotions for 2015 -- will now place Civic Stadium at center stage. Former Eugene star Bob Boone, a member of the Triple-A Ems in 1972, will be on-hand to sign autographs and reminisce on local radio about his time with the club.

The Emeralds will also feature video tributes to the ballpark and the town from Phillies legends Larry Bowa (who played in Eugene in 1969), Greg Luzinski (1971), Mike Schmidt (1972) and also from Mike Sweeney (1992-93) who came through Eugene while in the Royals system. The night won't stop there.

"We've got some special merchandise in the ballpark," Benavides said. "We're asking fans to submit photos and memories and that kind of stuff that we can share on social media, and later in the season, Wilson is actually doing a Civic Stadium jersey for us that we'll wear in August."

Long-time Emeralds GM Bob Beban, who led the club for 27 years and finished his tenure in Civic Stadium's final year, will throw out the first pitch Friday night and address the crowd. The Emeralds' aim is primarily to remember but also to begin the climb out of the literal and figurative ashes.

"People wanted to save that site and that ballpark, and we were involved with that, trying to preserve that history," Benavides said. "Now that it's gone, the emotion has changed more toward what's the future now? That site is going to be used for something else for the community, for sports, for local youth.
"Now the vision for the site has turned to look toward the future and what the site can do for the community."

Best of the Rest

Lake Elsinore Storm (California League)
Forget Your Ex Night, July 23

The Storm have been a lock to appear in Promo Preview for the last few weeks because they keep churning out gold like Thursday's event, which will feature a "Newly Single" section, Do-It-Yourself Voodoo Dolls, a Seventh-inning Group Hug and the option to donate your ex's old stuff to charity. Presumably you should already have that stuff -- don't go snooping around to acquire your ex's things for donation. But it's time to dust the potato chip crumbs off your sweatpants and get to a Storm game. Your baseball soulmate could be waiting.

Lynchburg Hillcats (Carolina League)
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Night, July 23

Carmen Sandiego (I never figured out why that last name is one word) was a children's media juggernaut in the 1980s and 90s, spawning books, computer games, movies, TV series and the unlikely ascendence career of a rock acapella group. Hillcats fans will get their chance to pursue the animated criminal mastermind -- and one assumes some V.I.L.E. henchmen -- at Lynchburg City Stadium. The Hillcats won't be featuring an appearance by Rockapella -- the group whose Wikipedia page (really) lists their history in three stages: Pre-Carmen Sandiego years, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Post-Carmen Sandiego Years -- but that certainly doesn't mean you should deny yourself the 4:45 to listen to them blast out the theme.

Albuquerque Isotopes (Pacific Coast League)
Dukes Retro Night, July 25

Albuquerque underwent one of the most successful Minor League identity transitions in recent memory when the long-revered Dukes departed town in 2000, and the Simpsons-inspired Isotopes took the field in 2003. The 'Topes will pay homage to their PCL forerunners on Saturday in their annual throwback game. Former Dukes outfielder Charlie Manuel will be in attendance to be inducted into Albuquerque's Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Isotopes will take the field in "special mustard-yellow throwback Dukes jerseys." Oh, and their primary logo for the evening is a Minor League gem.

Hillsboro Hops (Northwest League)
Randy Johnson Hall of Fame bobblehead giveaway, July 27

The Hops are taking the unusual step of giving away a bobblehead of a baseball legend who once appeared in a game for another team in the Northwest League, but since Hillsboro didn't have a team when Randy Johnson made a rehab appearance for Everett in 1996, no harm, no foul. The Big Unit will be immortalized in his D-backs uniform, holding his Hall of Fame plaque as the Hops honor one of their parent club's legends. In case you're wondering: no, it does not come with an exploding pigeon.

Quick Hits

July 23: Pick your professional wrestling poison when Jerry "The King" Lawler visits the Cedar Rapids Kernels and the Lancaster JetHawks play host to Bret "The Hitman" Hart. … Red Sox fans in the Beef State, turn away. Bill Buckner makes an appearance at Werner Park for the Omaha Storm Chasers.

July 24: All things pork product are usually reserved for Lehigh Valley, but the Harrisburg Senators will be showcasing bacon bingo at Metro Bank Park. … Few active players -- and fewer to yet make their Major League debuts -- get their own bobbleheads, but Atlanta farmhand Braeden Schlehuber joins that limited-edition fraternity when the Mississippi Braves give away his likeness.

July 25: From active player bobbleheads to fictional player bobbleheads, the Akron RubberDucks will hand out Major League-inspired Pedro Cerrano bobbles to the first 1,000 fans at Canal Park. … The Asheville Tourists continue the celebration of the 100th anniversary of their team nickname with a 1984 replica jersey giveaway.

July 26: If you love monkeys riding dogs and herding sheep, you have the Wilmington Blue Rocks to thank. The club that brought Team Ghost Rider to Minor League fame brings the act back for 2015. 

July 28: The Bowling Green Hot Rods will be hosting "Happy Birthday to the Hamburger!" which is accompanied by no corresponding explanation and therefore is even more tantalizing than one would imagine. … The Reading Fightin Phils look back on Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez's 2009 Reading rehab start in with a bobblehead to the first 2,500 fans ages 15 and up.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.