On April 14, I sent an email to K.L. Wombacher, General Manager of the Hillsboro Hops. The Hops are a short-season Single-A (Northwest League) farm club of the Diamondbacks. The Brewers are one of only eight MLB teams to not have a Short Season team, which is a level between Advanced Rookie (Helena) and Single-A (Wisconsin.) In terms of having teams to send their draft picks to, the Brewers may feel that they are satisfied with Helena and the AZL (Maryvale) Brewers--indeed, most MLB teams are happy with only two Short Season/Rookie/Complex teams. With that said, there are nine MLB teams with both Short-Season and Advanced Rookie; eight of which also have a Complex (AZL or GCL) team. Sure, the Crew may not "need" another team, but it would be cool to have one. The Hops relocated from Yakima, Washington (as the Bears) to the Portland suburb of Hillsboro before last season. They built a shiny new field, created a fantastic mascot(named Barley), and played host to one of the most absurd baseball stories of 2013. Wouldn't it be fun to have the Brewers using the Hops to provide flavor to our farm system? Here is a direct copy of my email to Mr. Wombacher:
I'm a Hillsboro Hops fan from Wisconsin. I've been on the Hops bandwagon since you unveiled your awesome brand a a few years back, and I even had the chance to attend a Hops home game last summer with my wife and daughter while we were in Oregon for a wedding. It was a beautiful July day and I was impressed with how well the organization has coalesced in the short time you had to put it all together.
Anyway, I'm writing today to get your take on something administrative. I saw that your PDC with Arizona expires after this season, and I just want to throw in my two cents on behalf of my beloved Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew does not currently have a Short-Season A team, and it may be worth a phone call when September rolls around. Doug Melvin, our GM, is a great guy and he has been very cooperative with our current farm clubs. He attended a groundbreaking for Nashville this off-season and it is likely that the Crew will stick with Huntsville, even as they are moving to a new city after the season.
Here are three good reasons to consider the Brewers:
1.) I know that there are a lot of San Francisco Giants fans in the Portland area, and at the Hops game last year I saw a few people wearing Giants hats. Arizona is a divisional rival of the Giants, and I wonder whether they are an ideal partner. The Brewers play in a different division than both the Mariners and Giants.
2.) The Brewers have a passionate and loyal fan base and we keep tabs on our farm clubs and communicate through online channels such as Brew Crew Ball and other forums. Many of us purchase milb.com game-streaming subscriptions to watch the Sounds and Timber Rattlers, as well as radio streams of the Manatees. The Hops would have a new fan-base in the Midwest.
3.) Both team nicknames are beer-related! This connection would be recognized by baseball followers from coast-to-coast, and I bet your local Oregonians would appreciate the nickname serendipity.
Please give this some consideration.
Al in Wisconsin
It's important to carefully choose words in a situation like this. For what it's worth, I do believe that Doug Melvin is a great guy, but I was also careful to omit any mention of the Brewers' recent prospect track record. On the following day, April 15, I received a friendly reply email from Mr. Wombacher:
Thanks for the email. Actually, our team owners are fans of the Brewers so they would love it.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of factors that go into the affiliation decision. At this time, we very happy with our Dbacks partnership.
Given the team names though, it would be a great fit. Thanks for the great thoughts and taking the time to reach out to us. Last year was our first in the Portland area so thanks for coming out to a game.
We are looking forward to a great year 2!
So, the team owners are fans of the Brewers! That's promising, right? Then, on April 18, this story came across the wire. Well, KL, if you're reading, I want to let you know that I am very disappointed with this news. Apparently the Hops have noticed that the D'Backs are in pole position for the top pick in next year's draft, and a name prospect will come through Hillsboro. "...we are very happy with our Dbacks partnership." Is that so? I don't think every member of your organization is happy.