The Portland Beavers may have new ownership in 34-year-old Merritt Paulson, but 63-year-old Jack Cain will remain a fixture with the minor league team—even if nobody's real clear on his job description.
Technically, Cain is a senior adviser. But Cain's job is pretty much to be Jack Cain: operations adviser, community contact person, fan greeter, storyteller.
In minor league baseball, where owners seem to come and go almost as fast as the players, it's guys like Cain who stick around and make teams go. He owned the short-season Single-A Portland Rockies, and even tried to retire after selling that team to make way for the Triple-A Beavers in 2000. He won't say how much he made on that sale (nor what he makes now), but he did spend the following summer on his yacht in British Columbia.
"It was so much fun," he says, "but it was expensive! I thought, 'Wait a minute, I sold my business, but I want to keep some of it.' That whole year and a half of retirement, I was extremely bored. I had the cleanest car in the neighborhood, because I washed it every day."
He returned to the Beavers as assistant to the president in 2002 when Portland Family Entertainment owned the team. And when the Pacific Coast League took over the troubled franchise in 2004, Cain suddenly became president and general manager again—a month after telling his wife, Mary, she could retire from teaching ballet. "Good thing she's very understanding," he says.
In April 2005, there was another ownership group led by Sacramento developer Abe Alizadeh. And now, as of June 1, Paulson.
Through it all, you can find Cain on game days walking the stadium hallways, chatting with staff, greeting fans with a laugh and a story and a line...even if he doesn't recall exactly whom he's speaking with.
Cain can tell with a glance at the seats behind home plate if any major-league scouts are in town. He bounces an ice cube off a beat writer's head for a laugh.
He tells stories about the time he took a financial bath on a post-game Village People concert ("I had no idea who they were, but they were cheaper than the Beach Boys") and when ex-Beavers outfielder Xavier Nady, now with the Pittsburgh Pirates, destroyed the G on the custom-neon PGE Park sign with a game-winning home run. "Cost us five grand to fix that thing," Cain says, "but it was worth it!"
As for Paulson and the future of Portland baseball, Cain is every bit the optimistic ambassador and salesman.
"When I first met Merritt, the first words out of my mouth were, 'This is a gold mine waiting to happen,'" Cain says. "This is the biggest market in minor league baseball, and the third-biggest stadium. Our attendance has climbed every year since 2004, and our sponsorship has gone way up since then."
He sees Paulson as just what the team needs: an energetic young owner who will live in town.
"He'll be here to go to the Rotary Clubs and be the face of the organization," Cain says. "I've put in a lot of 18-hour days, but he's young and energetic."
Question is, does Cain still want to be part of the Beavers? And does Paulson have a job for him, whatever the title?
"Absolutely," Paulson said during the Beavers' 8-2 loss Sunday to Omaha. While insisting he will be in "serious evaluation mode for a couple of months" and refusing to promise there will be no changes, Paulson adds: "Jack is a great asset to the organization. He's Mr. Portland Baseball. It's a unique job description that only somebody like Jack could fulfill."
Cain doesn't sound like he wants to sail off to retirement again. He plans to keep doing what he's doing, whatever you call it.
Gesturing out at a sunny field with players warming up, Little-Leaguers parading around before the game and fans taking their seats, Cain says, "I come to work at a ballpark! How bad can it be?"