It started like any other baseball game would on a beautiful summer afternoon. The crowd hurriedly piled into their seats with various drinks and snacks, the national anthem was sung, and “play ball” was shouted by a local youngster.
While it’s a traditional opening, I felt the intangible magic of baseball more at Hadlock Field than I would at a major league park. It’s everything that is right, possibly forgotten, about baseball.
The Sea Dogs took the field and prepared for the bats of the Harrisburg Senators. My brother and I tried to figure out where Harrisburg is while the Dogs pitcher shakily delivered the first few pitches. As a pop fly is caught by our center fielder, a stranger sitting a row ahead informs us that it’s in Pennsylvania. A few friends are made in the top half of the opening inning, as the Sea Dogs managed to get out of an early jam.
Then the Dogs came up to bat. The first couple of pitches from our Pennsylvanian foes resulted in a home run from Nate Spears! The crowd erupted as the ball sailed over the wall, causing a smoke-emitting lighthouse to emerge from center field. I screamed “Sea Dogs and then you don’t!” as Spears rounded the bases. Please, feel free to use that line if you want.
The end of the first inning signaled the arrival of everyone’s favorite walking harbor creature, Slugger the Sea Dog. As far as mascots go, I feel like Slugger does a lot of work. He dances, walks through the crowd, rides on the back of a car, and races a child around the bases every game. Slugger does a great job of getting the fans, especially kids, involved in the game.
The game continued and the Sea Dogs started to fall behind the Senators. The crowd didn’t turn though, we were kept in good spirits by the love of our team and the mini-games played between innings. They ranged from a hot dog catching contest to musical chairs. The crowd cheered heavily for the contestants, especially during musical chairs.
My brother took notice of the bat boy. The kid was bat-collecting poetry in motion. We cheered him on as he flawlessly returned the bats. The bar has been set high for future bat boys, to say the least. I hope the scouts took notice.
Six innings in and it didn’t look good for the Dogs. I surveyed the crowd to see what their reaction was. I saw strangers talking, families laughing together, and a young man selling Sea Dogs biscuits. I witnessed the birth of a small community that was founded on the love of baseball. It was a sight that warmed my heart.
With an inning left, and the Dogs down, my brother yelled to Slugger as he was walking by. He told him to get out there and fix the situation. Slugger looked at him and merely shrugged his shoulders. I can see his point, I guess. He already did the YMCA, what else can a giant walking harbor seal do?
The final out is called, our hopes crushed. The Dogs lose this game 4-8. We say goodbye to our new friends and began to exit the field. While talking near the entrance, I noticed a young man in a Sea Dogs uniform. It was the bat boy! I yelled to him and signaled for a high five. Naturally, he did not leave me hanging. My family started cheering for him, and everyone else leaving followed suit.
That’s right, an ovation for a bat boy.
The smile on that kids face summed the game up perfectly. There is nothing better than a Sea Dogs game.
Chad Pennell has been a Portland native for the past ten years, and plans on never leaving. He is a student at Southern Maine Community College in the New Media program, specializing in digital imaging. He also writes a comic book opinion blog for Portland-based comic shop Coast City Comics. You can follow him on Twitter @Chadventure.