Fun facts for all six High-A West teams

Minors' smallest league features six teams, two countries, famous alumni and sushi

April 21st, 2021

After undergoing a substantial reorganization, Minor League Baseball is embarking upon a new era in 2021. There are now 120 teams competing in 11 newly named leagues, comprising four levels of play (Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A). This is the eighth in a series of league-by-league articles, highlighting one unique fact about each team.

The High-A West, comprised of six former Northwest League teams, is the smallest league in all of Minor League Baseball. The Northwest League was a short-season circuit, so all six of these newly classified High-A teams now have longer schedules and feature a higher level of play. Three of the teams (Eugene, Spokane and Tri-City) are entering the season with a new parent club; meanwhile, the Hillsboro Hops will host Vancouver Canadians' home games at the start of the season due to the current closure of the United States-Canada border. What follows is one unique, and often strange and surprising, fact about each team.

Eugene Emeralds
San Francisco affiliate since 2021

The Eugene Emeralds were established in 1955 as a charter member of the Northwest League, but that's not the only league this venerable organization has operated within. From 1969 through 1973 the Emeralds played in the Pacific Coast League, serving as the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was during this period that the Emeralds featured their first and thus far only Hall of Fame player. Mike Schmidt played 131 games for the 1972 Emeralds, hitting 26 home runs and compiling a .960 OPS. He ended that season in Philadelphia, where he hit the first of what would be 548 home runs at the Major League level.

Everett AquaSox
Seattle Mariners affiliate since 1995
On the sidewalk outside of Everett's Funko Field, a plaque can be found marking the approximate landing spot of Ken Griffey Jr.'s first professional home run. Griffey hit this now-historic dinger on June 17, 1987 as a member of the visiting Bellingham Mariners. (The AquaSox are currently a Seattle affiliate, but at the time, Everett was aligned with San Francisco.) The home run, a three-run opposite-field blast to left field off Gil Heredia, occurred in the fourth inning of Griffey's second professional game. He went on to hit 14 home runs over 54 games for Bellingham.

Hillsboro Hops
Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate since 2013
Hillsboro's "Hops" moniker speaks to the prevalence of the craft brewing industry in the greater Portland area, of which Hillsboro is a part. The team was established in 2013, having previously existed as the Yakima Bears. The Hops name would have worked just as well in this former location, however, as the Yakima Valley produces approximately 75 percent of all the hops grown in the United States.

Spokane Indians
Colorado Rockies affiliate since 2021
When it comes to the weirdest baseball cards in Minor League Baseball history, one could certainly make the case for the Spokane Indians' "Mall Ball" sets of 1987-89. The cards featured players posing at the local NorthTown Mall, which sponsored the cards. Highlights include Bruce Bochy at a tobacco store, Steve Lubravitch with a cardboard cutout of Whitney Houston and Pedro Aquino surrounded by literal fans. The Indians, a San Diego affiliate from 1983 through 1994, won the Northwest League championship in each season in which a "Mall Ball" set was produced.

Tri-City Dust Devils
Los Angeles Angels affiliate since 2021
The three cities referenced in the Tri-City Dust Devils' name are Pasco, Richland and Kennewick. All three of these Washington state locales have hosted a Minor League team bearing the "Tri-City" geographical signifier. The Tri-City Braves, Atoms, Angels, A's, Padres, Triplets and Ports played at Sanders-Jacobs Field in Kennewick from 1950 through 1974. The Tri-City Triplets played on Richland High School's baseball field from 1983 through 1986. The Dust Devils, established in 2001, play at Gesa Stadium in Pasco.

Vancouver Canadians
Toronto Blue Jays affiliate since 2011
Vancouver is sometimes referred to as the sushi capital of North America. The city's official tourism website says that this is due to the "combination of an engaged Japanese community together with top-quality fish and seafood." The Canadians, who serve sushi at the ballpark, have staged a nightly sushi mascot race since 2008. Over the years, competitors have included Chef Wasabi, Ms. BC Roll, Chop and Stix, Kappa Maki and Sadaharu Soy.