DUNEDIN, Fla. — Kelly Shoppach can talk to you about his home state, Texas, for something like forever, and then some. He’s a proud Baylor University alum.

And, when asked, Shoppach will speak fondly of his six years, and counting, as a major league baseball player, including playoff runs with the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays.

So you’d figure that four months of minor league baseball, played nine years ago in Portland, would not easily register on Shoppach’s mental radar. But mention Portland to Shoppach and he quickly talks about the filled stadium, the atmosphere, the coziness and the people.

“I have a lot of great memories there,” he said.

Shoppach, who will turn 32 next month, represents two Red Sox eras.

He was a touted minor league prospect for the Red Sox and played for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2003, the team’s first year as a Boston affiliate.

And now Shoppach, who was traded by the Red Sox in 2006, is the new backup catcher for Boston — part of the tweaking of a team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons.

“It’s a very talented team,” he said. “It seems like when you get a chance to play for somebody that can not only compete, but win a World Series, then you have to take advantage of that opportunity.”

When Shoppach arrived in Portland in May 2003, he was a hotshot catching prospect, Boston’s first draft pick in 2001. He was considered the finest college catcher that year, coming out of Baylor in Waco, Texas, only 85 miles from his family’s home in Fort Worth.

The 2003 Sea Dogs were not full of prospects. Theo Epstein was in only his second year as Boston’s general manager and had just begun rebuilding the minor league system.

The Sea Dogs, managed by Ron Johnson, had a promising third baseman named Kevin Youkilis and little else. Shoppach did not start the season with the Sea Dogs. He stayed in Florida for an extra month as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

When he arrived, Portland fans applauded his hustling dives for foul balls and his rocket arm that threw out base stealers.

And Shoppach, an unpretentious homebody, discovered that he enjoyed Portland.

“It’s a very intimate city. You ran into a lot of people all the time,” Shoppach said. “I still remember faces. I remember fans. I remember the parking attendants.”

While he was in Portland, Shoppach always spoke of two important factors in his life — his family and Texas. His parents visited from Fort Worth, as did his girlfriend, Jennifer, whom he met at Baylor.

Shoppach hit .282 with 12 home runs and was promoted after the season to Triple-A Pawtucket, the last step before the major leagues. He hit 48 home runs over the next two seasons in Pawtucket and got 15 at-bats with the Red Sox in 2005.

In 2006, Boston had a major-league opening for a backup catcher behind Jason Varitek. But the Red Sox traded Shoppach to Cleveland in a deal that brought center fielder Coco Crisp and catcher Josh Bard to Boston.

Bard didn’t fare well in Boston and was soon traded, but the deal benefited Shoppach.

“You do all your minor league stuff with one team and you obviously want to play for them,” Shoppach said. “But the trade was great for me. Gave me an opportunity to be in the big leagues.”

Shoppach spent four seasons with the Indians, initially as a backup and then as the starting catcher. He was traded to Tampa Bay and played the last two years with the Rays.

Shoppach is no longer a hotshot prospect. He batted only .176 last season, with 11 home runs. But the right-handed hitter does hit left-handed pitching well enough (a career .274 average). And he still has that powerful arm. Shoppach led the American League last season, throwing out 41 percent of the runners who tried to steal.

When Shoppach became a free agent after the season, the Red Sox signed him for $1.35 million, figuring his defense and his hitting against left-handed pitching would make him a suitable backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

So one of the original Red Sox prospects in Portland will finally play a season at Fenway Park.

In the offseason, Shoppach still lives in Fort Worth, “about 20 minutes from where I grew up.” Jennifer is now his wife, and they have three children.

“People always ask me how I am doing,” Shoppach said. “I tell them I can’t complain about one thing.”

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases