PORTLAND — If you were a New England Patriots fan, Tuesday was a good night to be at Hadlock Field.
Yes, it was raw and drizzly and the Portland Sea Dogs’ game was postponed.
But Patrick Chung, the Patriots hard-hitting safety, was at the ballpark. For just under an hour, he signed autographs, posed for photos and talked with a line of fans that snaked around the concourse under the stands.
A year ago, Rob Gronkowski entertained the Hadlock faithful and then went on to have perhaps the greatest season of any tight end in NFL history. Fans are hoping for similar results from Chung.
But when the fans thinned out, Chung, dressed in a Sea Dogs jacket, invoked the Patriot Way. He didn’t say anything.
Chung wouldn’t talk to the media Tuesday night. The Sea Dogs had scheduled a press conference but Chung told a team official that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick didn’t want him talking to the media so close to the draft.
Not quite sure what that means, considering the Patriots had an Q&A session with new defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene at Gillette Stadium earlier Tuesday.
Last year, Gronkowski spoke to the media on his visit to Hadlock Field.
Geoffrey Iacuessa, the executive vice president and general manager of the Sea Dogs, apologized for Chung’s reluctance to talk to the media.
But, he pointed out, “Patrick was great with the fans, and that’s important too”
He was. The 24-year-old Chung was engaging and charming.
Despite reminders to fans that he would only sign the photos being handed out, Chung signed everything handed to him: footballs, baseballs, T-shirts, even a 16-by-20 photo of Chung that Greg Kidder took a couple of years ago.
Kidder, from Lyman, said proudly, “This is going in my man cave.”
Kidder slipped the photo into a big plastic bag to protect it from the rain. He has been to every Patriots training camp for the last 25 years. He had hoped to get a photo of Chung in a Sea Dogs jersey throwing out the first pitch so, “I would take that to training camp for him to sign.”
Fans came to see Chung because he is considered one of the top young safeties in the NFL.
“He plays hard,” said Rich Mead of Lyman. “And he has a great personality.”
Robin Reinhold, a teacher from South Portland, didn’t plan on staying around for the game, even if it had been played.
“I’m here to see a Patriot,” she said.
Jay DeCoster of Turner brought his sons, 9-year-old Austin and 6-year-old Connor.
“They watch him with me on Sundays during the season,” said DeCoster.
“That’s my favorite thing to do,” said Austin.
Chung signed a football for DeCoster and posed for a photo with the boys.
Season-ticket holders Denise and Steve Thibeault, of Sebago, like having Patriots at Hadlock.
“It’s just nice to have them up here like that,” said Denise. “They’re always very nice and very friendly.”
And Chung was both. But he didn’t talk to the media …
It would have been nice to hear about his first visit to Maine.
It would have been nice to hear Chung’s thoughts on the recent NFL draft, where the Patriots went defense-defense-defense to try to solve the team’s biggest problem last year.
It would have been nice to hear Chung’s thoughts on the upcoming season.
We couldn’t, though.
And that was really the only damper on a dreary, wet night at Hadlock Field.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]