Hensley Meulens is going to be an astronaut. Kinda.

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Just heard this one:  A disc jockey, a pilot, a baseball player and a supermodel all get shot into outer space. The disc jockey says to the supermodel, “hey, come here often?” and then she says …

Oh. Wait. It’s not a joke, Here’s MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, reporting on Hensley Meulens’ wild ride:

He went on to share details about the upcoming space mission, which will take place in 2014. Meulens’ space ticket came courtesy of Space Expedition Curacao, which is in the process of acquiring a commercial spaceship. The initiative will eventually allow the public — for a very hefty price tag, of course — to purchase a ticket for a quick trip to space.

The first 100 flights, though, have been set aside for a group of so called “Founder Astronauts.” Meulens will join three Dutch celebrities — a disc jockey, an air travel pioneer and a supermodel — on flight No. 1. That announcement was made on April 12.

Since this is a a Curacao-based thing, I assume that Andruw Jones is the backup.  But, since Meulens is the San Francisco Giants’ hitting coach — the same San Francisco Giants that can’t hit their way out of a paper bag these days — I’m guessing his schedule will be wide open come 2014 to make that flight.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”