The springtime cliché is that April showers bring May flowers, and I’m sure that is the case for many people and places. For me, April brings the AAG Annual Meeting and usually early-season baseball games. As covered in a post previewing my trip (read it here), early April meant leading a field trip of fellow geographers to attend a Portland Sea Dogs game and meeting up with baseball author Josh Pahigian (Twitter: @JoshPahigian).
I had hoped to have about 20 people sign-up for the field trip, but alas only seven people besides myself registered for the trip. So instead of riding in a bus, I ended up renting a minivan and driving to the venerable Hadlock Field with six passengers. So after parking in a nearby lot, I was eager to have my photo taken with the statue outside the stadium.
|Me with the Slugger the Sea Dog statue outside the stadium.|
Although the rest of the field trippers had never been to Hadlock Field, it was my second visit as I attended a Sea Dogs game in June 2007 during a road trip with a friend from graduate school. However, this was my first opportunity to blog about a visit to the ballpark, so I did my best to treat it like a brand new experience.
But before entering the park, I needed to get a photo of the main entrance.
|Main entrance to the stadium.|
After entering the stadium you quickly see the Eastern League standings above a concession stand.
|Eastern League standings entering play on Friday, April 7.|
Not far from the league standings was the Opening Night rosters for the Sea Dogs and visiting Reading Fightin Phils. Minor League Baseball‘s Opening Night was Thursday, but heavy rain across New England led to the cancellation of Thursday’s game.
|Lineups for the Reading Fightin Phils and Portland Sea Dogs for Friday, April 7.|
We arrived at the stadium about 30 minutes before first pitch, so instead of exploring in search of food I opted to take a seat and watch the end of Opening Night ceremonies. Following the conclusion of the national anthem I headed over to a spot behind home plate so I could capture the game’s first pitch.
|Portland Sea Dogs starting pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz delivering the first pitch
to Reading Fightin Phils second baseman Scott Kingery.
I watched a bit of the game from our seats near home plate before exploring the stadium in detail. So I captured some pictures of the grandstand and a few action photos before going in search of food and beverage.
|A collection of players who appeared in a MLB game appear in another area of the suite boxes.|
While enjoying the game, I took a few pictures of the outfield, which is notable for a handful of reasons. The primary reason the outfield at Hadlock Field is well-known is because of the “Maine Monster” in left field, which is a 37-foot replica of the famed Fenway Park Green Monster. The Sea Dogs built the wall after becoming a Red Sox affiliate before the 2003 season.
|The Maine Monster includes a Coca-Cola bottle like the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston.|
In right field, the stadium features something that is unique to Maine: a L.L. Bean rain boot. The outdoor recreation company is headquartered in Freeport, Maine, which is a 20-mile drive from Hadlock Field.
|A view of right field, which includes the home team’s bullpen, and a L.L. Bean rain boot.|
From my spot behind home plate I got some excellent action photos that capture the dichotomy of Minor League Baseball: a hot, young prospect (Rafael Devers) and a former Major Leaguer trying to resurrect a stalled career (Mike Olt). Devers is rated the Red Sox’s No. 1 prospect and No. 14 in all MiLB according to MLB Pipeline while Olt last played in the Majors two years ago.
|Sea Dogs designated hitter Mike Olt was a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2010.|
|Sea Dogs third baseman Rafael Devers signed as a teenager with the Red Sox.|
Eventually I went in search of a local craft beer and food, but I found some franchise history along the way. The first stop was the Portland Sea Dogs Hall of Fame.
|Outfielder Brandon Moss and manager Todd Claus, inducted into the Sea Dogs Hall of Fame in 2016,
helped lead the Sea Dogs to the 2006 Eastern League championship.
The second stop was the Road to the Show, which lists all 268 former Sea Dogs who have played in a Major League Baseball game.
|The Road to the Show lists the 368 former players who have made it to MLB.|
The third stop was the team photo wall, which is along the concourse behind third base.
|Every team photo from the Sea Dogs’s history.|
After checking out the concession stands on the concourse, I heeded the advice of Portland-resident Josh Pahigian and opted for food at the Shipyard Grill. The grill is off the concourse down the third base line near the visitors’ bullpen and serves a selection of local craft beers (notably the sponsor, Shipyard Brewing) and some grilled meats.
|The Shipyard Grill along the third base line.|
I hoped to find a lobster roll or something else particularly unique to Maine and New England, but unfortunately it was not quite in season. So I opted for my default and picked the most unique encased meat option available: an Italian sausage.
|The Italian Sausage, which sits on top of a bed of grilled peppers and onions.|
For my beer, I chose the Shipyard Export Ale. Shipyard describes it as “a classic brew which leads the way as a drinkable, well-balanced, flavorful ale.” As I noted on my check-in on Untappd (User: geoSteven), it paired very well with the Italian sausage. It balanced the spices of the Italian sausage quite well, but was neither too light nor too heavy of a beer.
I closed off my stomach with a sweet treat: a Shain’s of Maine SeaDog Biscuit. It may sound fancy, but it’s a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich. There are two variety, the classic or one that is half-dipped into chocolate. Per the suggestion of the venerable Josh Pahigian, I went with the half-and-half variety. It was a chilly night, but the SeaDog Biscuit did not disappoint.
|A Shain’s of Maine half-and-half SeaDog Biscuit.|
After filling my belly, I continued to explore the ballpark and took a few photos from the third-base side of the stadium. One provides a larger perspective about the stadium’s location within downtown Portland while the other illustrates the weather on a Friday night in Portland.
|A view of the grandstand from third base with the Portland Exposition Building abutting the stadium on the first base line.|
The Portland Exposition Building, which opened in 1915, is the second oldest arena in continuous operation in the United States. It is also home to the NBA D-League’s Maine Red Claws.
|Early season baseball games in the Northeast lead to players bundling up in heavy coats,
as the Reading Fightin Phils sip coffee while wearing heavy parkas.
Back in my seat I got to talk all things baseball with Josh and the geographers who came to the game with me. It was great getting to chat with some extremely knowledgeable baseball folks, but I got giddy as a schoolkid when the SeaDogs mascot Slugger came by. Naturally, I had to get my picture with him.
|Me with Slugger the Sea Dog.|
Back to the action, the game was an exciting pitcher’s duel with the teams trading runs and entered the seventh inning tied 2-2. Thankfully Sea Dogs right fielder Aneury Tavárez belted a two-run homer to right and gave the home team a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish. The homer also meant the fans would be treated to an appearance of the lighthouse in center field, which celebrates every Sea Dogs’s home run. I was too slow with the camera to capture the shot, but as Portland held on for the win I got to see the lighthouse again to celebrate the Opening Night victory.
|The center field lighthouse that appears to celebrate Portland home runs and victories.|
With an appearance by the lighthouse completing the gameday experience at Hadlock Field, myself and a group of road-grizzled geographers prepared for our drive back to Boston. I owe a big thank you to Josh Pahigian for joining us at the game, as I know myself and others enjoyed talking baseball with him throughout the game. Although I hoped to take a larger group on the field trip, I have to say six was an excellent number because it allowed us all to explore and talk while getting to soak in a great experience at one of my favorite ballparks in Minor League Baseball.
Final Score: Reading 2, Portland 4