If you’re a Portland Sea Dogs season ticket holder, or you’ve just been longing to hear the crack of the bat as it heralds in the real beginning of spring, have no fear: next Thursday, April 6, the ‘Dogs play their season opener against the Reading, Pennsylvania Fightin’ Phils at Hadlock Field (271 Park Ave), despite the recent late-season snow here. There was some question as to whether a postponement would be necessary. Heavy snow-removal equipment would have gouged up the field, and melting was all that could be hoped for. Enter Massachusetts company Sports Turf Specialties. As they have done at Fenway many times, they applied a layer of sand treated with dark dye to the remaining snow at Hadlock. The simple mechanism is that the black sand absorbs sunlight, increasing snow-melting heat by a significant factor and revealing a bare, if squishy, baseball diamond.
As to what’s going to be happening on that field, the 2017 season promises to be an exciting and productive one for the Sea Dogs. The favorite Red Sox prospect to watch is Dominican Rafael Devers, a third baseman who batted .326 during the second half of last season, with a .906 OPS (on-base plus slugging) percentage. He's made strides defensively too. Coaches have noted how well he turns a slump around through hard work and receptiveness to their guidance, and they have high hopes for him to be called up. That day will be determined in part by how successfully current Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval can return to form in the third year of his five-year, $95 m contract.
Other names to watch are shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin, a workhorse with top-notch glove skills; first baseman Nick Longhi, a 21-year old with a .282 lifetime batting average (and .744 OPS); and fellow Floridian, outfielder Danny Mars. Chances are good that one or more of these men will sooner or later get their paychecks from the MLB. In any case, their combined talent, along with the abilities of the rest of the Sea Dogs, should get fans excited to see the opening game.
And what about the opposing team? Well, we don’t know how hard they’ve been training, but they have been busy redesigning their batting practice hats to feature their mascot, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. Will that be enough to defeat Devers and the ‘Dogs? Go find out.