If you have ever been to Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine during the summer time to watch the Sea Dogs play, it will come as no surprise to you that the Boston Red Sox extended their Player Development Contract with them for an additional two years on Friday.
This means the Sea Dogs will continue to act a the developmental prism that sent five players from their Opening Day roster to Fenway Park by the end of the season in 2010.
Portland lies In the heart of "Vacationland," where thousands of Red Sox fans travel each summer from all over New England to dine on the freshest red lobster in the world, shop along the cobblestone roads of the Old Port, and to check out some of the finest young talent the Boston organization has to offer.
Thanks to the imagination of Charlie Eshbach — who recently upgraded from General Manager to President of the Sea Dogs — Hadlock Field has fittingly developed some of the finer features of Fenway Park to best prepare the Sea Dogs for what will be in store for them in the coming years and add a distinct charm to the ballpark.
When the Sea Dogs and Red sox first announced their first PDC in 2003, Eshbach organized the construction of the "Maine Monster." The wooden wall stands 37 feet high in left field just as the "Green Monster" in Fenway. However, the Maine Monster rises 315 feet down the foul line from home plate (5 feet further back than Fenway), and at 160 feet long it is 80 feet shorter in length than the Green Monster.
There is even Morse Code that appears in the Maine Monster with the initials of Sea Dogs owner Dan Burke and his wife, much like the Green Monster that has the initials of Thomas and Jean Yawkey.
What about seats on top of the Maine Monster?
"Well, it took the Red Sox 91 years to install the Green Monster Seats, so we’ll have them up in about 84 years," joked Chris Cameron Assistant General Manager of the Sea Dogs, who later explained that railroad tracks behind the Maine Monster were one of several issues that made such expansion unlikely any time soon.
In 2003, the Sea Dogs renamed their skyboxes after former Red Sox greats such as Ted Williams, Dom Dimaggio, and Dwight Evans.
Over the years, Eshbach and his team have added several nuances to Hadlock just like the Maine Monster and the Sky Boxes. They have added the U.S. Cellular Pavillion in right field where the seating is modeled after the Green Monster seats in Fenway.
Jerseys are hung above the stands behind home plate with the names and numbers of former Sea Dogs who are currently playing with the Red Sox.
Certainly, the Sea Dogs will be pleased to add a highly anticipated new addition to the wall when Adrian Gonzalez — who played for the Sea Dogs in 2002 when they were the double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins — makes his Red Sox debut.
There has always been a buzz for the Sea Dogs in Portland, even when they were the Marlins affiliate from their inaugural season in 1994 to final season in 2002. But since 2003, the buzz has developed into a load roar, as Portland has always been a strong northern supporter of Red Sox nation. After all, Maine was originally part of Massachusetts during Colonial times.
When a former Sea Dog gets the call to the big leagues, the entire city of Portland becomes enthralled in the excitement. Video updates from the Red Sox games are placed up on the video board in between innings during Sea Dogs’ games, and no moment causes more calamity than when a recent call up comes through for the Big Club.
One such example was on Aug. 6 when Ryan Kalish, who began the season with the Sea Dogs, hit his first Big League homerun (in Yankee stadium no less). In between innings of a game against the Richmond Flying Squirrels the video went up and 7,368 people went bananas. Perhaps more special than the reaction from the fans was that of the Sea Dogs’ players who all stood outside the dugout jumping around and giving high fives in elation as if Kalish had just hit a game-winner in their game.
Portland is no stranger to moments like this one. The Sea Dogs and the community are a family rooted by seven years of passion and success. A relationship that strengthens the web that has made the Red Sox fan base amongst the most unique and tight knit communities in sport.
The relationship between New England and the Red Sox has spanned generations, which is something the Sea Dogs and the city of Portland hope they will continue to be a part of and direct contributor to.
It has been a beautiful marriage between the city of Portland, the Sea Dogs, and the Red Sox over the past seven years and with a contract extension that will go through 2014, a 10-year anniversary celebration will, deservedly, soon be in the works for 2013.
Who knows, maybe the Sea Dogs will celebrate ten years by finding a way to put up those Maine Monster seats after all.