Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Portland Sea Dogs and new friends

This past Friday (July 5), I drove six hours south to Portland, Maine, on what would be the hottest weekend of the summer (to this point). The car air conditioner helped a great deal, but it took me an hour to figure out how to make the hotel's air conditioner work properly. I could hear in the back of my mind a relative saying decades ago, "Now I know he's Italian," when I had difficulty figuring out how to turn a shower on and off. It was the start of a very interesting weekend.

Friday night and Saturday morning were up to my own devises. Friday night, I checked out the pool (indoors regrettably). The usual family with five kids dominated the place including the parents in the hot tub. Does every hotel have a family like that?

I thought I would go to the deep end and be relatively out of the splash zone. But there was this guy there with his trainer. What the heck they were doing at a hotel pool is beyond me. So this trainer's sole function was to bark orders like a drill sergeant while holding a leash attached to the trainee. That's right, a leash. The trainee would try to swim as hard as he could while the trainer held the leash in resistance barking away like some mad dog. Between the splashing and the barking, I soon gave up in disgust.

The hotel had two ice machines. Since the place had three floors, why would it only have two machines? Neither worked the entire time I was there. The hottest weekend of the summer and I had no way of cooling off my Coca-Cola. Der.

Anyway, I chatted on Twitter and followed the ballgames and went to sleep. In the morning, I called down to order breakfast.

"How will you be paying for that, sir?"

"Cash," I answered.

"If you are paying cash, you will have to come down and get it."


"That's the rule."

So I gave her a credit card number, which the gal repeated in full blast to hear over the noise in the background. Forty people could have written down the number.

Things were not going so well to this point. The restaurant's coffee was horrible too.

The plan for the weekend was to meet up with Twitter buds, and fellow bloggers, Dan McCloskey (@_LeftField) and Bryan O'Conner (@replevel) over at Bryan's house for a barbecue and then we would all go to a Portland Sea Dogs' game. The Sea Dogs are the Double-A team for the Boston Red Sox and it is most certainly not funny or weird that they play in Maine. We may not be New Yawk, but we do have a few things.

Things started shaping up when I followed Google's map directions perfectly. That never happens. I can get lost in a mall parking lot. I arrived at Bryan's house around two and before Dan had arrived.

Bryan's family is wonderful. His wife is one of those people who could make anyone feel at home. She calls herself an "overcooker," There certainly was plenty of food! The O'Conners have two small children. Their son is two and a half and already loves baseball and "Big Poppy." I decided to like him anyway. He loved to play catch, but at his young age, could not catch anything. When he invariably missed the catch again, he would throw the glove like it was the glove's fault. Priceless.

Their daughter is four and a half (I think) and she is into Disney princesses. And she liked to hand one of them to you as a token of friendship. Poor Princess Jasmine ended up in my pants pocket and went to the ballgame and back to northern Maine with me. Oops.

Bryan is tall and is very comfortable in his own skin. He is handsome and very down to earth. It is funny how your perception of people can be so wrong. I pictured Bryan as cerebral (he does love his metrics, after all) and Dan as down to earth. They ended up being just the opposite. But I liked them both very much.

Dan arrived with his wife and their young toddler. The two wives met and commiserated, they all talked craft beer and I did not mind feeling like the older uncle who had not been in those circumstances in a long, long time. It turns out that Dan's son liked handing things to you as well and I was collecting quite a collection of toys, left over treats and the like.

Both families are terrific. I liked both wives and their children. I had forgotten how much young children are the center of life when at that age. I cannot imagine having to live like that again. I tried to stay out of the way and made friends with the children as best I could.

Dan looked like he was made for the baseball cap and wears it perfectly.

After a great barbecue, three cars were packed with kids, diaper bags, harnesses, toys and ready to head for the game. Well...mine wasn't. I just had the stowed away Princess Jasmine. Bryan took the lead and led us to the park. Remarkably, we all stayed together and got to the parking lot at the same time. Another miracle.

The Sea Dogs play at Hadlock Park and there is a Green Monster in left, just like at the big boy park. There is also a giant fisherman and a giant L.L. Bean boot on the roof in right field. It is a very attractive place and very fan friendly. Things go on for the kids in between every inning and are sponsored by local businesses. The fans are very enthusiastic and the place was nearly filled. It appears the Sea Dogs have a lot going on that is positive.

We arrived in the bottom of the first, so I gave up my idea of keeping score. And Sea Dogs' shirts were selling from $25 to $40, so I reneged on my promise to bring one home for my wife. Someone in the stands had a fried dough, but I was never able to find out where the vendor was.

I did not get to see Matt Barnes pitch. He faced one batter, who got a hit and later scored and Barnes was pulled right after that. I do not know if he hurt himself. He was followed by Noe Ramirez, who was more like Woe Ramirez and Mike McCarthy followed Woe...uhh...Noe and was even worse. Between the two of them, they gave up two homers and six doubles to the New Britain Rock Cats and it was 9-0 by the fifth inning. Eddie Rosario and Jasmil Pinto both hit a homer and a double in the game.

The Rock Cats' starter, DJ Baxendale was a typical Minnesota Twins pitcher. He pitched five innings and only struck out one batter. But he topped out at 93 on his fastball (stadium gun) and induced a lot of weak pop-ups.

Our gang occupied a large section of a row and we were all spread out. Bryan was the furthest one in and then his children and then his wife. Then Dan's wife, their son and Dan next to me. Later in the game, Bryan came down and the three of us got to talk a little baseball. I was able to talk a little bit to Dan about his times at Joe Brinkman's umpire school and that was fascinating. Bryan is furthest down and Dan closest to you.

Here are some observations about the prospects we were watching:
  • Miguel Sano, a top Twins prospect was one of the few Rock Cats without a hit. He did not look that impressive.
  • J.C. Linares, a Cuban the Red Sox signed looked old and out of shape. He did get two hits in the game but came in batting .208. He, like all the players, had walk-up music. To me, if you are batting .208, you should not have walk-up music. Bryan, Dan and I decided that a .330 wOBA should be required at least before walk-up music is allowed.
  • I was really impressed with the Sea Dogs' last pitcher, Miguel Celestino. He pitched three scoreless innings and hit 97 and 98 with every pitch that was not a breaking ball. His stuff looked electric.
  • Garin Cecchini can really, really hit. He had three hits to all fields and just looked like he could do anything he wanted with a bat. He was the DH, so I did not get to see him at third base.
Three bloggers sitting in a row (Dan, Bryan and me):

Dan and family had a rough night the night before with sleep, so they left after the sixth inning. Bryan and his family stayed until after the seventh inning stretch and then they too had to leave. I sat for a while taking it all in and then left myself after the eighth inning. I did not even get lost on the way back to the hotel.

I enjoyed the little adventure and meeting Dan and Bryan was really great. Again, I really liked their families. Perhaps next time, we can take two or three hours and have a beverage and talk baseball. It was great to put people behind a screen name. They are great guys and I would not mind at all getting to see them again.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

The O'Connors enjoyed meeting you too, William. You're right that my daughter is (almost) 4 1/2, and while my son misses more baseballs than he catches, the primary determining factor is the throw. Put one in the web and he'll hold on. The glove throw afterward is less often a tantrum and more often a break in the action so he can run the bases, elbow out, shouting "home run! over the monster! I'm Big Papi!".

I'm glad you made the long trip and took the time to document it.