Hillsboro's series with Tri-City canceled, but team gets work in
No games, no problem for the Hillsboro Hops, who made lemonade out of the lemons dealt them prior to last week's six-game series with Tri-City.
COVID-19 complications forced the cancellation of the teams' series scheduled for Sept. 7-12 at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, Washington. The Dust Devils have now been forced to cancel each of the last eight games, going back to the final two of their series with Spokane Aug. 31 through Sept. 5.
Hops manager Vince Harrison — whose team never traveled to Pasco — said they managed the week as best as possible in an effort to continue the work in the absence of games. He said they played simulated games (limited intrasquad scrimmages), did bullpen work, and worked extensively on baserunning.
"For the most part, we did things like normal," Harrison said. "Guys worked out beforehand, went through their cage routines, got defensive work in, and then we played the simulated game, so we tried to keep it as normal as possible."
Tri-City's COVID-19 issues lingered throughout last week and into Monday, forcing the cancellation of the initial game with Hillsboro. But what was a single-game cancellation announced Monday night, Sept. 6, had turned into a series cancellation by late Wednesday, Sept. 8.
Harrison said the bulk of his team has been vaccinated, and the team as a whole has gotten used to protocols that have been in place since late March. Vaccinated players take temperature checks every day upon arrival to the stadium and answer a brief questionnaire on an app provided the players individually. Unvaccinated players do the same, but they are also obligated to take a saliva test multiple times throughout the week.
"It's really just become part of the norm," Harrison said. "It was one of the first things we did when we got to spring training, so we've gotten used to it, and it's really just part of the routine now."
The Hops will lace 'em up for the last time this week when they face Vancouver as the visitors in a six-game series with the "home" Canadians Sept. 14-19 at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro. Harrison said that despite the team's disappointing win-loss record, he's had a blast managing in Hillsboro this season and will remember everything from the stadium to the town, the players — a number of whom have graduated to Double- and Triple-A — to the crowds, and most importantly, the organization, which he described as second to none.
"The front office and the people here have definitely lived up to the hype of Hillsboro," Harrison said. "The feedback we've gotten from people coming in and out of town has been great, and they love the atmosphere that's been created here."
Harrison took note of some of the top-performing players that have come and gone from the Hops this year, including Andy Yerzy, Buddy Kennedy, Luis Frías, Ryne Nelson, Mitchell Stumpo and many more. Sure, he'd like to win more games, he said — but in the end, it's about development and he said he and his staff have been happy with the results from that perspective.
"Everyone wants to make the playoffs, and it's fun to play in the postseason," he said, "but at the end of the day, guys are getting better and growing, and that's part of the big picture. Watching our players get better and move on has been great."
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