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Life On The Farm

4/27/09
Life On The Farm
Paul Chick

Growing up and living in Massachusetts I was lucky enough to attend dozens of games at Fenway Park. Now that I’ve been in Maine for the past 10 years the trips to Fenway are typically only an annual ritual. But fear not! Beautiful Hadlock Field awaits! Hadlock Field is the home of the Double A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the Portland (ME) Sea Dogs.

This past Saturday afternoon we spent a glorious day at the ballpark. Uncharacteristic warm temperatures around 70 degrees and bright blue skies greeted an overflow crowd of more than 7300 on this late April day. Unlike Fenway, parking is not a premium and just $5 in one of the several lots nearby. $8 for the adults and $7 for the kiddies scored us nice grandstand seats along the 3rd base line in Section 214. As we waited in the concession line prior to the game a friendly young man in a Sea Dogs polo came over and asked my daughter and her friend if they’d like to be on the field to play musical chairs. Of course they agreed and he wrote down their names and told them to come over next to the Sea Dogs dugout after the 3rd inning. Speaking of concessions the popcorn chicken is my personal favorite just ahead of the soft serve in the miniature Sea Dogs helmet. The choice of adult beverages is quite extensive also…Casco Bay, Sebago, Sam Adams, Harpoon, Shipyard, Red Hook & Geary’s among the local flavors.

One of the first things you’ll notice entering the stadium is the Maine Monster, a replica of the left field wall at Fenway Park. Constructed after the 2002 season to coincide with the change in affiliation from the Florida Marlins to the Red Sox the wall is complete with a Citgo sign and Coke bottles. The affiliation change was a huge boost for Portland. Rooting for players who may one day don the teal of the Florida Marlins is not quite the same as following prospects to Fenway for New England baseball fans.

Japanese right-hander Junichi Tazawa started the game for Portland against the Connecticut Defenders (SF Giants affiliate). Tazawa, who will turn 23 in June, is reminiscent of Dice K in his delivery and demeanor on the mound. This is his first season of pro ball anywhere after pitching in the Japanese amateur ranks. Tazawa was staked to a 4-0 lead in the 1st but couldn’t hold it and left shortly after allowing a 3-run blast to LF Bobby Felmy in the 5th. Manager Arnie Beyeler visited the mound after the homer with, I thought, the trainer. Turns out it was the translator for Tazawa. Managers have a tough enough time getting a straight answer from English speaking pitchers when the proverbial, “how ya doin’, feelin’ OK?” conversation starts. Who knows what Tazawa is saying to the translator? He probably has an agreement with his translator. “Any time the manager comes out, regardless of what I tell you, just tell him I said I feel great and I can get this next guy out!” Obviously the guy has potential since the Sox are starting him out at the Double A level. Hopefully he can develop into a major league starter.

Oh yeah back to the musical chairs! After the 3rd inning we headed down to the area next to the Portland dugout as previously instructed. Of course the minor league experience includes many different between innings activities. We were allowed to sit in a nice bleacher section at field level next to the Sea Dogs dugout with a great view of the field while we waited for the big moment! After the 4th inning the girls went on the field to battle 2 other youngsters for the musical chairs title of Portland. The staff carries out 3 giant inflatable baseball glove chairs and the fun begins. Sadly my daughter Grace is eliminated first. But her friend Emily is the winner! They each receive a general admission ticket to a future game and Emily wins a Sea Dogs baseball cap. And we’re allowed to stay in the choice seats!

While sitting in our choice seats I notice a Japanese fellow with a press pass and a rather large camera. I point at his camera, then at the mound and say to him, “Tazawa!”. He nods in agreement but must be thinking, “gee I hope all Americans aren’t this stupid”. Hey, Japanese guy with camera and a press pass, Japanese pitcher…not much gets by me!

During the 7th inning stretch my daughter asked me “why is there a 7th inning stretch?” “Hmm, I really don’t know but I’ll look it up”, I told her. So I did. Seems to me it originated with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings…check the following link and come to your own conclusion…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh-inning_stretch

The Sea Dogs eventually fall 7-4 to the Defenders but a great time was had by all. Hadlock Field is a fun place to take the family and watch the stars of the future without needing a 2nd mortgage.

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