A soft Jarren Duran liner disappeared in the glove of Fisher Cats third baseman Cullen Large on Labor Day 2019, giving visiting New Hampshire an 8-7 win in 10 innings over the Sea Portland Dogs.
Since then, Hadlock Field has been without professional baseball.
A 610-day drought is set to end Tuesday night when those same Fisher Cats return to Portland for the opening day of Double-A Northeast, a 12-team league replacing the nearly 100-year-old Eastern League.
By Monday afternoon, the familiar sounds were back: baseballs hitting mittens, fungal bats slapping grounders and pop flies, chatter that flowed like birdsong, in Spanish and English. Resplendent in clean red jerseys and white pants, 28 young men frolicked over the emerald grass and khaki-colored dirt of Hadlock during their first training in Maine as members of the 2021 Sea Dogs.
“Being back in the ballpark, being back at the clubhouse with all the guys, putting the United States on, everyone is buzzing,” said Thad Ward, the scheduled starting pitcher on Friday, who spent a lot of the time. last year training at home instead of playing ball. “The chemistry of the team is excellent. We are all really looking forward to it. “
Ward grew up in Fort Myers, Florida looking for the Red Sox. At 10, he even served as the bat boy for a memorable spring training match. Fellow Florida, Triston Casas, is a first baseman who is considered the best prospect in the Boston minor league system.
“My first impression of the park is that it is beautiful,” said Casas. “Getting to take balls off the ground on this surface is really nice … and I have a few targets in the right field to aim for the moment of the game.”
Sea Dogs first-year manager Corey Wimberly put the team through a lively practice on Monday that included outfielders learning to play balls off the wall, infielders snatching grounders and pitchers covering the first base. He also included a few fun moments, like asking a few players to show off how they might greet him (as a third baseman) during a home trot.
“I just like to be prepared,” Wimberly said with a smile. “We have boppers on our team, guys who can potentially hit a lot of home runs.”
No one surpassed the madness of outfielder Jeisson Rosario, who spread his arms as if in flight before launching into a cartwheel and backflip after rounding third.
“He’s pretty athletic,” Wimberly said. “I hope this is the last time he’s done this, though. Anguishing. “
As for the baseball stadium itself, the familiar red-white and blue bunting will give an air of pageantry to the occasion. Efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus include new plexiglass barriers around the canoes and visiting the enclosure, meaning player-fan interaction will be infrequent, if not impossible.
“Getting that interaction with the fans before the game, signing autographs, talking to the fans, interacting with them a bit, I feel like that’s part of the game that I’m going to miss for a little while,” Casas mentioned. “I hope it’s not too long ago.”
Slugger, the mischievous mascot of the Sea Dogs, will walk away from the playing field. The same goes for the fans involved in the between-round promotions and almost everyone except the players, coaches and officials.
Thousands of seats are closed with plastic ties to ensure six-foot social distancing between pods with a capacity ranging from one to eight. Fans will be required to wear masks, both when entering the baseball stadium and at all times, except when actively eating or drinking.
As far as concessions are concerned, the prices have not changed but the supply has changed. Fans can order food, drink, or souvenirs from their smartphones (or traveling dealerships carrying tablet computers) and have the goods delivered for them. Offers are available on the team’s website.
The mask’s tenure is by order of Major League Baseball, while the elimination of the lines at the concession stands comes from the state. To comply with potential demands, the Sea Dogs are running Opening Day as if it were a midsummer sale, even though only 2,087 seats are currently available for games this month.
A larger capacity of 7,368 park seats could be available in the coming months, if vaccinated sections or a reduction in the six-foot distance requirements come into play. Tickets for all May games remain available. June tickets have yet to go on sale.
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