Emeralds keep Eugene weird on Portlandia Night


Perhaps nowhere in North America do residents wear their collective oddities as a badge of honor as in the state of Oregon. The phrase “Keep Portland Weird,” originally a call to support local businesses, has become a rallying cry for the entire state.

The town of Eugene, Oregon, home to the short-season Class A Eugene Emeralds, is more than 100 miles south of Portland, but the Ems will take to the field tonight on Portlandia Night wearing flannel shirts and skinny jeans. Portlandia, a sketch comedy TV show on IFC, frequently lampoons Oregonians’ affinity for the hipster garb.

IFC and Broadway Video, the show’s producer, have been fully on board with the promotion since the get-go. “When we reached out to them—we’re this little team in Eugene, Oregon—they took our call. We’ve been planning this for months. They loved it,” Benavides said. “IFC sent us DVDs from every season that we’re going to be handing out to the fans, stickers, cookbooks, vinyl records.”

The show’s star, Fred Armisen, will welcome fans with a recorded message, which is something of a coup for a low-level minor league team. “I think people are going to be blown away that he sent us clips,” said the team’s general manager Allan Benavides. “He can’t be here because they’re shooting, but we’ve got the main star talking to our fans via the video board.”

Ems-RiceThe promotion has been getting a fair amount of media attention, which Benavides credits to the uniform’s skinny jeans, modeled here by catcher Ian Rice.

“If you look at the jersey, it’s a flannel, sublimated design. There’s nothing crazy about the jersey, right?” Benavides said. “The whole thing is the pants. When we looked at the jersey and we were talking about it, we were like, ‘God, we’re just missing something.'”

The jerseys were designed in house, but the team worked with athletic gear company Wilson to create the pants. The first renditions looked like blue baseball pants, according to Benavides, but the end result was just what the Ems were looking for. “The last round came through, they were faded, they were tight, you could see the pockets,” Benavides said. “They were unbelievable.”

All that hard work paid off, as the team got exactly the reaction it was looking for.

“I’ve gotten calls from people all over and they say, ‘My God, those are the ugliest jerseys,'” Benavides said. “We weren’t trying to design the prettiest jerseys.”

And that reaction isn’t just restricted to fans, according to Benavides. “The best part about it is the players see them and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, are you kidding me?”

While Eugene and Portland are two completely different places, the Emeralds feel that Portlandia perfectly represents their essence. “It’s the Northwest,” Benavides said. “It’s eccentric, it’s weird, it’s counterculture. It’s a lot of what we think we are, kind of how we look at our business.”

The jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit a local charity—a group of veterinarians that provide services to homeless people’s pets—so fans should bring their checkbooks and be ready to cheer their favorite sports ball team to win the contest.

The Emeralds tweeted out this pregame photo from the clubhouse:

CNbfnCQUEAA08I5Oh, and their logo? They put a bird on it: