PORTLAND, Ore. — The field where they play the Little League Softball World Series used to be a pasture. For milk cows. It was a dairy farm. The proprietor’s wife got tired of her grandchildren busting up her roses with baseballs. She told her husband to build those them a baseball field. So he did.
That was more than half a century ago.
What is now Alpenrose Stadium, a dollhouse of a park on Portland’s southwest side, is home to softball with a smiley face. They still process milk here and churn out Baskin-Robbins ice cream to much of the Northwest.
The 52-acre site is home to “Dairyville,” a mocked-up frontier town on Storybook Lane, where a sign notes that the place “finds its roots in the mystical past” and that it is “hopefully dedicated to the promise of a happy future where dreams really come true.”
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They show cartoons at the village Opera House on Saturdays. Each spring they have Easter egg hunts on the rye-grass field. There’s a pony barn, an ice-cream parlor and a gazebo show called “Rusty and His Puppets.” The softball players, when they arrive, each get roses from a little girl wearing a cow dress.
Heck, Atlanta Braves icon and Portland native Dale Murphy played Little League ball on this very field.
If there is a more wholesome venue in youth sports, it would have to have a carousel, a lemonade stand and a church picnic in center field.
“The kids see it as a treat to play here,” Jamie Sims said of the area umpiring staff. “This is a piece of Americana.”
Pam Lincecum, whose daughter Taylor Brown plays for the Southeast team from Warner Robins, which opened play against a hometown club Thursday, said, “It has a feel to it.”
“It looks like a dream,” said Robyn Edwards, an umpire’s wife from Kentucky. “It’s a wonderful, beautiful place.”
The rye-grass outfield is ringed by a fresh-painted fence of forest-green fir slats. A ridge line on the horizon is home to towering Douglas firs.
“It’s really eye-appealing,” said Carl Cadonau Jr., the dairy’s 65-year-old co-president who, as a boy was one of the grandchildren the field was built for. “Grandpa, when he was 85, he still used to come down in his golf cart and watch games every night.”
The place may hold 2,000 spectators if you count standing room. It is intimate and cozy and the epitome of easy-going. The Alpenrose Dairy slogan? “It’s Family.”
They even personalize their logo, a simple red rose in a circle, to match the colors of the teams playing in each game. They paint the flowers in the dirt behind home plate.
“These are big moments for these kids,” Cadonau said. “I myself remember going out onto that field 50 years ago.”
Cathy Workman, the Series media coordinator, recalls going to the farm as a first-grader and milking a cow. She also remembers visiting with her daughter when she, too, was a grade-schooler.
“It’s heaven here,” she said.
“This is hallowed ground,” added Carrie Matsuo, president of an area Little League who is also a Series volunteer. “The nation is dotted with beautiful complexes, but you can’t build a place like this now.”