Oregon’s Passion for MLB

In every conceivable measurement that can be applied to an area without its own MLB team, the Portland area has exceeded even the most lofty expectations for demonstrating an affinity for Major League Baseball.

In 2001, the Portland TV market generated a stunning 4.3 cable TV rating for Seattle Mariners’ games, a better mark than 19 MLB cities recorded for their own teams – including the Yankees, Cubs and Giants. Most impressively, the Portland region then produced a 4.5 rating during the 2002 season, when the Mariners failed to make the playoffs.

After tickets to the March 29, 2002 Mariners-Padres exhibition game sold out in 15 minutes, 20,000 MLB fans packed Portland’s PGE Park, while thousands more tried to catch a glimpse from outside the ballpark. The weekday afternoon game drew the highest daytime TV rating in the history of Fox Sports Net in Portland.

Oregon’s burgeoning passion for MLB is not specific to the team 175 miles to its north. The Portland market recorded the seventh best TV rating in the nation for the 2002 World Series, the 3rd best mark excluding those cities with a regional interest. Portland’s 22.5 rating for Game 7 doubled the rating of the Washington D.C. market as 240,000 area households tuned in for the game.

According to ESPN.com’s recent SportsNation survey, Portland has the highest level of MLB following (72%) of any city without an MLB team. ESPN.com offered the following analysis: “The Portland Expos? Portland is the largest metro area without an MLB team, and the city’s sports fans seem primed – 16% name baseball as their favorite sport, more than in any other city without a major league team.”

Oregonians have long embraced baseball, from the Pacific Coast League that rivaled MLB in the middle of the 20th Century to the Portland Rockies and Beavers of the current era. In fact, Portland is the only charter member of the Pacific Coast League that does not have Major League Baseball.

The Portland market is abundantly ripe and Oregon’s passion for MLB is overflowing. So, how do we get to Opening Day?