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COLUMN: After 4 years of hope for a MLB team in Portland, the dream seems to be going by the wayside like others before it.

COURTESY PHOTO: BARRY SMITH - Plans are continuing to be refined for the potential of enticing MLB into Gresham.

What happened to our baseball team?

Yes, Hillsboro has the Hops, Portland has the Pickles, and 80 miles to the south the Oregon State Beavers were competing this past weekend for a spot in this year's College World Series. But it's been four years since the Portland Diamond Project tantalized us with the real possibility of either an existing or expansion Major League Baseball franchise landing in the Rose City, and the silence of late has been deafening.

It started with an announcement, continued with stadium land agreements, and they even brought celebrities like Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara on board to build momentum.

It was going to be Oakland's Athletics. Or possibly the Tampa Bay Rays. And if not one of them, an expansion-team-to-be-named-later. But it seemed inevitable based on the level of smoke coming from what had to be a hefty fire fed by the enthusiasm of a group — and city — itching for a bigger piece of this country's major sports pie.

Yet now, four years after they gave us hats, jerseys and stadium renderings on the Terminal 2 site on the banks of the Willamette River, the MLB rug seems to again have been pulled from beneath the feet of myself and people like me who thought this might be the one.

There are likely a lot of factors in play and I'm certainly not questioning the people behind the effort to play ball. Their motives seem genuine, and their enthusiasm is admirable. But with every passing day, the sounds of Major League bats cracking, balls flying, and gloves popping seem to be going gently into that good night.

Sadly, this is not new to long-time Oregonians. For decades now we've been teased with nearly every wannabe sport/team.

There was the USFL Breakers, the indoor soccer Pride, the roller hockey Rage, women's basketball Power and Fire, going further back the Steel and Forest Dragons who rocked the indoor grid iron as part of the arena leagues that have come and gone over time, and lest we forget the indoor lacrosse team—the LumberJax—who played four seasons in the Philly-based National Lacrosse League.

Additionally, I'm reminded of the numerous occasions in which the tease of big-league baseball, football and hockey teams have been dangled above us, tantalizing us all with the possibility of something more, only to be left with the status quo.

You know, the Delta Dome which was proposed to lure the Oakland Raiders to Portland in the mid-1960's.

There was the Oregon Stadium Campaign which had the City of Portland involved in creating a presentation for a committee in charge of relocating the Montreal Expos in 2003. Which of course ended up as the Nationals in Washington D.C.

The Florida Marlins were said to be looking at Portland in 2007.

And both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL have been over the years rumored to be at least considering a move to PDX.

But none have made the move, leaving us forever as the professional sports' "Charlie," while "Lucy" repeatedly moves the ball.

I know, it's not over 'til it's over, but with every passing day momentum seems to be slipping for Portland, while gaining steam in places like Las Vegas and Nashville — the latter of which was just reported by ESPN to have an investment group in place led by former MLB star pitcher Dave Stewart.

Additionally, Nashville has become an increasingly attractive tourist destination, while over the past five years Las Vegas has successfully integrated into both the NFL with the Raiders and NHL with the Golden Knights, proving professional sports can not only work, but thrive in "Sin City."

Meanwhile, Portland's reputation as a viable destination continues to suffer based on its continued struggle with homelessness and rising crime rates.

In the Portland metro area, homicides have soared in recent years. Portland tallied 91 homicides in 2021, shattering a record set in 1987. The number of shootings in Portland has also tripled since 2019, shining a spotlight on a very violent and visible crime indicator.

Every city has its share of problems, and certainly circumstances of the past few years have dictated such in areas across the country, but Portland's have been in the spotlight of late and that certainly isn't and won't help the cause.

Will there ever be a Major League Baseball team in Portland? Maybe, after-all "ever" is by definition a very long time. But I'm bummed by what I'm hearing and discouraged by what I'm not hearing. So much for playing ball.


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