The Padres star was never affiliated with the Red Sox (or hasn’t been — yet), but Sea Dogs fans don’t need an explanation. They get it.
"We have a diehard fan base here," Cameron said.
The first 1,000 fans to enter Hadlock Field on Thursday night will be given an Adrian Gonzalez bobblehead, but it has nothing to do with trade rumors that have surrounded the Padres first baseman in recent years. It has nothing to do with the possibility, however remote, of him ending up in a Red Sox uniform by July 31, 2010.
The promotion is simply celebrating the career of one of Portland’s most successful alumni.
"Mostly, we just wanted to do it to celebrate [Gonzalez’s] time here," Cameron said. "Just given the small possibility the Red Sox might go out and get him made it a no-brainer."
Back in 1992, Portland as awarded one of two Eastern League expansion franchises, and in 1994, the Sea Dogs debuted as an affiliate of the Florida Marlins. In 2003, after a nine-year relationship with Florida, the Red Sox struck a deal to make the Sea Dogs their Double-A affiliate.
That was a day that changed the franchise forever – for the better.
"It was a major deal, going from the Marlins to the Red Sox," Cameron said. "Being in heart of Red Sox Nation gave us a whole new marketing standpoint. Fans could follow [the players] from Portland to Boston, and that really made big impact. When players were [being promoted] to the Marlins, people would lose track of them."
Red Sox fans have a unique opportunity to watch the franchise’s prospects grow and advance throughout the minor leagues. Fans are geographically close enough to Lowell, Portland and Pawtucket to begin forging a bond with draft picks at the very beginning of their development, presenting a unique marketing opportunity that was not lost on the Sea Dogs.
"The day the announcement came out, it was a brand new baseball team," Cameron said. "Season ticket sales increased dramatically, average attendance from 2003 on has steadily increased, we’ve had advertising companies calling us constantly. [The move] had major impact, from a business standpoint."
What some fans may forget, though, is that back in 2002 – during the final season of the Marlins’ and Sea Dogs’ partnership — Gonzalez called Portland home for a season.
"We want to remind people he did come through here, and he did have an awful lot of success," Cameron said.
In 138 games with the Sea Dogs, a 20-year-old Gonzalez hit .266 with 17 homers and 96 RBIs. Soon thereafter, he was packaged in a deal to Texas in July 2003 before being shipped off San Diego in 2006. Now an All-Star first baseman, Gonzalez has been the subject of constant trade speculation, which hit its highest point at last year’s trade deadline. The Red Sox were in the market for a power-hitting first baseman, and although Gonzalez’s name was frequently in the mix, they ended up with catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez.
The rumors didn’t stop there. During this year’s offseason, the Red Sox were looking to add a corner infielder, and although they would’ve liked to add Gonzalez and stick Kevin Youkilis at third base, they ended up signing a different Adrian: Beltre.
Though the Red Sox have scored the most runs in the American League and rank second in home runs and fourth in batting average, it’s always a good time to add another bat, and the Gonzalez rumors have yet to die. There’s still time before next week’s trade deadline, and who knows? Before then, Gonzalez could end up wearing a Boston uniform.
After all, Portland does have a history of bringing bobbleheads to life inside Hadlock Field. The last time it happened was on Aug. 25, 2008.
"We did a "Clay Buchholz Bobblehead Day, and he ended up getting sent back down to the minors and pitching in Portland the day we gave away his bobblehead," Cameron said.
Maybe Adrian Gonzalez Bobblehead Day could be the thing that brings the All-Star back to Red Sox Nation for good.