Out of the Park

Baseball Fans in Boston, Chicago, and Cooperstown Gear Up in Merch from a Portland Company

We may not have our own MLB team, but Baseballism’s founders are going big league.

By Marty Patail April 11, 2020 Published in the April 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

One Portland apparel brand’s next big play? An Iowa cornfield.

Yes, Field of Dreams came out in 1989—but the actual field where Kevin Costner played ball with ghosts has never been hotter. Up to 115,000 baseball pilgrims make the trip to Dubuque County every year.

This spring, Baseballism will erect a permanent retail store in a 3,000-square-foot barn steps from the original field. If they build it ... well, they’re already coming.

Not bad for a brand that started out in a Beaverton garage. Founded in 2006 by four former University of Oregon ballplayers, Baseballism was conceived as a youth baseball camp in Eugene, giving away free T-shirts to its players. The camp lasted only two years, but the T-shirts exploded.

The company opened its first retail location in North Portland in 2013 and aggressively expanded from there, plunking down stores right next to some of Major League Baseball’s most hallowed grounds, from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to Fenway Park in Boston.  

Cofounder Jonathan Jwayad says they are fast running out of baseball meccas: “Fenway? Check. Wrigley? Check. Scottsdale, Field of Dreams, St. Louis. There’s just not many left.”

Despite its coziness with MLB, Baseballism doesn’t target fans of teams. Its apparel, gloves, and bags promote a pure love of the sport itself, removed from rivalries and win-loss records. T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with relentlessly upbeat Insta-ready motivational phrases tout the sport as a state of mind (“Live Life Like a 3–1 Count” and “Sunny Days and Double Plays”) and nod to the sport’s pantheon of great players and vital films like Major League and A League of Their Own. “My love for this game comes from playing it and from coaching it, and seeing kids go out and experience the game,” says Jwayad. “There are millions of players and parents and fans of baseball that respect that lens.”

That ethos fits like a glove in Portland—a baseball town without an enduring baseball team. The Webfoots, the Mavericks, the Rockies (?!?) have all come and gone. The longest-lived and most successful team, the Portland Beavers, had several minor league incarnations before hightailing it to Tucson in 2011. Currently, the upstart Portland Pickles, who play in Lents, and the Hillsboro Hops enjoy an intense, cultish following, while the Portland Diamond Project’s efforts to secure a major league stadium site are bogged down in an excruciating seventh inning. But for Jwayad, this is all background noise. He says the sport’s popularity should be measured in participants, not spectators.

“Last year there were 15 million kids, boys and girls, that played more than 13 games. And that number continues to rise,” Jwayad says, citing a study by the Sports Fitness and Industry Association. “The game is still growing.”

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