The Portland Pickles

By Steve Tsilimos | Posted 17 days ago

Over the past few years, MLB has changed some rules to speed up the game in an attempt to attract more young fans to watch professional baseball at the parks or on TV. Many people my age or younger think that baseball is boring and would tell you they would rather watch paint dry than watch a game on TV (I do not share this view).

MLB can solve its problems, like sailors hundreds of years ago trying to save their crew from scurvy, through the ancient art of fermentation. Yes, pickles can save the day once again.

The Portland Pickles are a college baseball team that plays in the West Coast League, which is a wood-bat league. Going to a Pickles game is not a normal outing at the ballpark where you have grown to expect the same boring nine innings. A trip to Walker Stadium is guaranteed to be filled with surprises and a whole lot of fun for everyone.

“The Most Fun Someone Can Have in Two Hours”

As Ross Campbell, the general manager for the Portland Pickles, told OSDB, “We are trying to create a fun atmosphere at the park that has something for everyone to enjoy.”

In 2015 the Portland Pickles Baseball Club was born with the goal of creating a unique family-friendly ballpark experience. With the goal in mind, Pickles games have become the wacky, eclectic event that perfectly encompasses Portland and its people.

As a Midwesterner, I have not had the chance to partake in a game at Walker Stadium. So, I went straight to the source of someone who has been going to games for years, their GM.

“The atmosphere at our games is a [email protected]#*ing party. It is the most fun someone can have in two hours, not only in the city of Portland but maybe ever,” Mr. Campbell nonchalantly responded when I asked him to describe what it’s like to go to a Pickles game.

So how does the front office of the Pickles create the most fun for people of all ages and with different interests? They take a typical baseball outing and add in many different elements to make it unpredictably entertaining. To create fun for everyone, they have used typical party antics like live music and craft beers, along with crazy promotion nights like free tattoos and exploding whale night.

“People want to be a part of it because it's the biggest party in Portland. That's what our approach is, making sure everyone there has something to relate to and have fun with,” Campbell said. “We do not want to just have baseball fans, it’s a bonus to be a baseball fan. A ton of our fans come to check out the show and the crowd. Our fans love the Pickles on the field just as much as they love the atmosphere off the field.”

Dillon T. Pickle – The Perfect Pickle Does Exist

Since the Pickles are independent and in a league that allows, they have taken calculated risks to push boundaries to become a pioneer on and off the field. Their frontman and their biggest attraction and largest risk, literally and figuratively, is their seven-foot mascot – Dillon T. Pickle.

Dillon is more than a mascot, he is the ringleader of the wacky action that takes place at Walker Stadium in Portland.

“Dillon is the biggest liability a team could ever have, but he’s worth it. Because he is able to take the blame for everything we do,” Campbell said about his favorite pickle. “Dillon has grown a persona and has become a cult icon, not only in Portland but across the world. He's been in eight countries, he's been on the field at a CD Leganés match in Spain. There is always something crazy he is plotting, so we have to keep an eye on him.”

Dillon made national news when he was lost, then found, then kidnapped. The 17-day hiatus from the team where he went missing due to a Delta Airlines screw-up and an 8-day kidnapping seemed to take the once innocent gherkin to a street-hardened pickle.

The team’s owners do not want to come out and say it, but they have seen a change in their old friend. The eight days on the street seemed to bring out the dark side of the pickle.

Dillon hasn’t come out and said anything because he is a pickle, and pickles can’t talk, but he showed that anything goes this past season.

Before he was missing, Dillon made a huge splash on Twitter with his takeover of the Pickles’ account with this post below. Dillon’s escapades are clearly a perfect extension of what the Pickles are achieving in the sporting world.

An Event for Everyone

The Pickles averaged sell-out numbers this year at their games which is about 3,000. I am fully aware that those are nowhere near MLB numbers. Even so, can MLB teams learn something from the Pickles?

“I think 90% of what we do can be applied to an MLB-level team, just in terms of connecting to the community and being a voice that is not just a big brand and a baseball team but really engages with the fans and does things they want. Of course, you take away the 10% of the things we do that are over the top of what the MLB would allow,” said Campbell when asked him about a league like the MLB changing its approach.

“There are a bunch of different things that organizations can do to connect with the community and bring in a wider fan base and provide something for everybody at each game,” He went on to say. “It isn't just when your team is winning you want to have all of

your fans come check it out, but it's when you're not winning when you have to figure out how to sell tickets.”

Practically every MLB team’s attendance at the games is directly correlated with their record that year. As teams fall out of the playoff race, their attendance rate follows. It is very rare to find someone at a baseball game that is there just to check out the happenings at the ballpark.

“That's where we found a good spot, it doesn't matter what happens on the field at our games, it doesn't matter who we play. What matters is that we provide a really fun atmosphere for our fans that we can ultimately market to other fans and show them how much fun we have,” Campbell confidently said. “Here's who the pickles are, and you should all be a part of it because we provide something for everyone, and we are inclusive and want any demographic to come to check it out.”

I couldn't agree more with the Pickles GM. In today’s world, it is more important than ever to try to be very inclusive of everyone. Sports are great at bringing people together, but it’s usually not fun for the whole family, both members of a couple or a whole group of friends. Sports fail to provide something for a lot of people who are not competitive and did not grow up watching them.

The Pickles have solved the issue of the date night where one member wants to go watch sports, but the other has no interest in sports. Now that same couple can go catch some baseball while getting involved in a party with activities that should entertain even the most boring people.

Picklefest – Gherkins Win the Wild Wild West League

Although every Pickles and Gherkins (the Pickles “farm” team) game is a party, they found a way to take it up a notch. Even with nights during the regular season like Roller Derby Night and Keep Portland Weird Night, Picklefest finds a way to top them all.

Pickle Fest is a full-day party that takes the excitement at Walker Stadium to the next level. During round two of Picklefest, the playoffs of the Wild Wild West League were held, and the Gherkins took home their first title. Picklefest featured 15 different craft breweries, different live music, a DJ, a pool, and a slip n slide, along with other different activities.

The Gherkins' first championship was followed by a celebratory parade through Portland. The championship parade was the perfect stage for Dillon to steal the show and for some of his Pickle antics.

Drink the Brine and Join the Community

The Pickles finished this past season with a record of 36-18, which earned them their first playoff berth since 2018. Combine that with the Gherkins' first championship, and that equals a bright future for Pickles baseball. Although it’s good for them to find success on the field, it really doesn't matter because, as their GM made very clear, it’s not just about baseball.

It won’t be long until people realize that the Portland Pickles are America’s team and that no other sports team even matters. Dillon is the leader of a sports revolution that Twitter will help bring the world. The brine is perfect for drinking, so drink up and enjoy the show. Pickle Nation is growing, and I am excited that I get to be a part of this wacky community of people, and so should you.

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