Showdown on the Kickball Field: Portland Welcomes the Newest Trail Blazers
By make it better
Never before has the requisite press conference welcoming the newest Trail Blazers carried more weight. Not only was this press conference at the Regence Boys & Girls club in the New Columbia neighborhood an opportunity for Portland community and media to meet the three newest Trail Blazers, Raymond Felton, Jon Diebler and Nolan Smith, but it was also an opportunity for Raymond and Nolan to represent their rival Alma Maters in a friendly competition. Immediately following the press conference, the three new members of the Trail Blazers family were slated to engage in a kickball contest hosted by Trail Blazers community partner Playworks, a national nonprofit organization that supports learning by providing safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity to schools at recess and throughout the entire school day. Raymond, representing the North Carolina Tar Heels, and Nolan, representing Duke, were each assigned a team of kids to coach to victory while Jon Diebler, sporting the scarlet and grey of Ohio State University, adopted the neutral position as pitcher for the what was sure to be a hard-fought battle.
The press event took place on the black top basketball court of the Regence Boys & Girls Club in North Portland. The conference began just after the two kickball teams, which were comprised of kids from the Boys & Girls Club who were rewarded for recent good citizenship and comportment, sang a spirited rendition of Happy Birthday to the three players (Raymond celebrated his birthday on Sunday, June 26, Jon’s was still to come on Wednesday, June 29, and Nolan will light the candles in late July). The kids presented the players special Trail Blazers cupcakes from Trail Blazers partner (and epic practicitioner of the baking science), Beaverton Bakery. Following the brief celebration, the players joined the Portland media for the formal press conference welcoming them to Portland. The three athletes handled the questions like professionals, but clearly their minds were on bigger, weightier matters.
At the designated time, Raymond, Nolan, and Diebler donned their respective collegiate hats and Playworks t-shirts in preparation for the competition. Jonathan Blasher, who runs the local chapter of Playworks, had the kids warmed up and ready to go when the Raymond, Nolan, and Jon arrived on the field. Raymond’s team, the Tar Heels, kicked first, serving notice, both that Jon’s rolls were no match for the Tar Heels feet and that the Blue Devils were in for a long day. Every player on Raymond’s team kicked before Nolan’s squad came in for the chance. The game was called after one inning when it was determined that the frozen treats from the ice cream truck were far too tempting to ignore. In the end, no one kept score (although Rayond’s team clearly won), but most importantly everyone had a great time. The newest Trail Blazers got to meet some of their future fans, and everyone walked away with ice cream.
The Trail Blazers want to thank our friends, the staff of the Regence Boys & Girls Club, Playworks and the good people at the University Park Community Center for hosting us to a great day of fun and refreshments.