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The Hops return for the first time in over 600 days Tuesday night, and that's a win any way you slice it.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wade EvansonPlay ball!

It's officially baseball season in Hillsboro. Yes, the major league season has been underway for a month, but locally, fans of the game got a little shot of "normal" when the Hops brass, new manager and a handful of players greeted the media — virtually, of course — this past Monday, a day prior to their opening-day game with Everett.

This isn't just about fastballs, double plays and round-trippers, or even hot dogs, beer or the seventh-inning stretch, but also about getting back a bit of what was taken from us a little over a year ago.

We all lost a lot this past year. School was taken from our kids, jobs were seized from many, freedoms we take for granted disappeared, and most sadly, lives were lost, and all due to COVID-19. In their place came masks, virtual meetings and tutorials, hand sanitizer, outdoor dining, and repeated disappointment from days turning to weeks, weeks turning into months, and months becoming what has now been more than a year since life as we always knew it was turned upside-down.

This isn't entirely new. After all, this country has seen hard times. Wars, depressions, assassinations, civil unrest, and yes, even pandemics have crossed our or our ancestors' paths, and that's just in the past century. But in recent times, nothing has wreaked quite the havoc that our most contemporary coronavirus has over the past calendar year, and that's why even the smallest of victories now seem so large.

It shouldn't seem weird to see limited fans at a golf tournament, indoor dining shouldn't feel awkward, and people shouldn't be at such odds over people walking their dogs with or without masks. But it does, is, and strangely, people are, and that unquestionably sucks.

The Hops had been planning around 25% capacity for the last couple of months. Three weeks back, that was reduced by the governor's office to 15%, and this past week, they feared they were another announcement away from playing with no fans at all. The prospective news was maddening to the franchise, frustrating to their fans and perplexing to everyone who could only simply wonder what was next?

Minor league baseball isn't like a restaurant or bar, or even like you or your friend's Fortune 500 company. They can't "go" takeout, deliver their product or allow their employees to work from home. Without games, there aren't fans, and without fans, there isn't ticket revenue, concession sales, parking receipts and likely limited merchandise transactions. And this isn't the NBA or NFL — there's no billion-dollar television contract to lean on in lieu of the gameday revenue that only partially contributes to the bottom line for this country's biggest sports and their franchise owners.

It has been more than 600 days since the Hops won the 2019 Northwest League Championship with a 3-1 Game-5 win over the Tri-City Dust Devils Sept. 11, at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, Washington. That's 20 months since they got a hit, threw a pitch, stole a base or even had someone wear the uniform, but most notably, since they made a dollar — which all changed Tuesday night.

That should be celebrated. Regardless of your level of angst over the ongoing pandemic, or your feelings pertaining to how things have been or are being handled politically, a local business is again back in business, and that's a step in the right direction. It may not seem like much, but it's something in the wake of what's become a whole lot of nothing.

And that's something we should all agree on.


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