Reporting 1 is a class I took during my third year at the University of Oregon — taught by Instructor Lori Shontz. We reported on events around campus and were coached regarding style and storyline. Each story was revised based on Instructor Shontz' feedback. This story was written about the UO Baseball Fan Fest that took place at PK Park on May 22.
Baseball culture at PK Park
Half of PK Park was covered in shade as young kids hung on the net of the backstop awaiting their turn to hit a ball into the field. Others hopped, shuffled and waved their mitts in an attempt to catch grounders and pop flies that came from the hands of University of Oregon Baseball players.
Keaton Welch, 7, wandered amongst the athletes and asked for autographs. If he were on the UO baseball team, he said he’d prefer to be the catcher — “You get the ball on almost every play.”
PK Park opened its gates to the public on May 22 for an hour-long Fan Fest designed to connect UO players with their supporters. Donors, season ticket holders and UO Baseball fans milled about the stands, mingled with athletes and munched on complementary hot dogs.
Attendance at the park dropped to a new low during the 2017 season, with an average of 1,514 spectators — the total capacity is 4,000. Lee Herteg, assistant director of promotions and game day experience, said most of the struggle with attendance has to do with the team’s wins and losses.
“I can push our games, but if you have a personal relationship with a guy on the team, you’re more likely to show up,” said Herteg.
In the past, the Fan Fest was only for donors. But this year the second annual event welcomed everyone. To kick off the festivities, UO Baseball Head Coach George Horton stood near home plate and thanked attendees for their loyalty and support.
“Hopefully somewhere along this journey we have made you proud,” he said.
Season ticket holders Harry Adamo and Andy Smith sat at the top of the stands along the third base line — legs extended and arms crossed, they observed the activity on the field and exchanged opinions about the Ducks’ performance this season.
“Hit the freakin’ ball,” said Smith.
Both men have been season ticket holders since the park opened in 2009; they’re die hard fans.
The Oregon baseball team finished the 2018 season three games under .500, with a record of 26-29. Adamo thinks it’s going to take longer than people originally thought for the team to see overwhelming success.
Adamo has followed the sport of baseball for more than 60 years. He was 8 years old when the Giants and Dodgers moved out west from New York in 1958 — a moment in history he credits as the birth of baseball culture.
“It’s not a violent game,” said Adamo. “You don’t have to worry about physical well-being… unless you’re hit with a 90 mph fastball.”
On the field below a crowd gathered around Herteg for the raffle; prizes consisted mostly of gift cards and UO Baseball gear.
Donor Tom Bowen and his wife sat politely in the stands, three rows behind the dugout. They smiled and raised their arms when their ticket number was read aloud as the winner of a UO batting helmet.
Bowen was born in 1935 and played catcher for the UO team during the 1950s. His whole life has revolved around the game. He remembers being a kid and playing on a field with a rock, piece of cardboard and sweatshirt as bases — he’d pretend to be Lou Gehrig while his buddy acted as Babe Ruth.
Now Bowen gives generously to the Ducks — his name is on a wall in PK Park as one of the donors for the field. As he talked, his wife, Jean Bowen, kept interjecting to brag about him and all his baseball accomplishments — which include coaching the Sheldon High School baseball team from 1974-1990, and earning a place in the Oregon high school baseball coaches Hall of Fame.
“It’s wonderful to sit at a baseball game,” said Jean, “I have an expert that can explain it all.”
Braden Stutzman, redshirt sophomore and catcher for UO, said it was refreshing to see a group of boys from a local little league team out on the field. Being able to play at all ages and levels makes the game pure, he said. “Same game, just a different scale.”
On game days there isn’t much interaction between the spectators and the team, said Herteg. That’s why the Fan Fest was put on — to keep season ticket holders, donors and the public invested in, and interacting with, the players, he said.
Welch attended the Fan Fest with his dad and his little league team, Sheldon Babe Ruth. During the raffle, his dad won him a UO glove — the moment they realized Herteg read their ticket number, they started hugging everyone who was standing in close proximity.
Adamo attends two-thirds of the games; he and his wife sit in the last row of section five, just under the awning and out of the rain. He said the college kids that show up to games aren’t real fans — they just come for the beer.
Smith looked at him and laughed, “But we still come for that too, don’t we Harry.”