SOUTH PORTLAND – Amid the baseball small talk, and the wining and dining, the Portland Sea Dogs added a little news to their annual Hot Stove Banquet on Friday night at the Sable Oaks Marriott.

The Sea Dogs and their major league parent, the Boston Red Sox, announced an unusually long extension to their affiliation, tethering the teams together through the 2018 season.

“We’re thrilled,” said the Sea Dogs’ chairman, Bill Burke, who made the announcement at the banquet, attended by a capacity crowd of about 400.

The Sea Dogs will enter their 20th season at Hadlock Field this year, and their 11th as a Red Sox affiliate.

Under previous minor league baseball guidelines, affiliation agreements could not be longer than four years.

But Burke explained the affiliation rules have changed. Teams can now add four years to an existing contract. The previous Boston-Portland agreement was scheduled to expire in 2014.

Now the Red Sox and Sea Dogs are together for at least six more years.

“We have a great relationship with the (Sea Dogs) ownership and the front office,” said Ben Crockett, the Red Sox director of player development, who was on hand for the announcement. “They treat the players really, really well, helping us create a positive environment for the players.

“There are rabid Red Sox fans here and we appreciate that.”

While Crockett said the Sea Dogs “go above and beyond what’s required,” Burke said he wanted to assure the Red Sox of Portland’s stability.

Burke’s father, the Sea Dogs’ founder, Dan Burke, died in late 2011. Bill Burke already had assumed the chairmanship, and his sister, Sally Burke McNamara, had become the team’s treasurer.

“Frankly, when my father passed away there might have been concerns about the ownership,” Bill Burke said. “My sister and I made it real clear that we’re not going anywhere. This will be in our family forever.”

When Burke and the Sea Dogs’ president, Charlie Eshbach, visited Boston last month for their annual meeting with the Red Sox front-office staff, Burke said it was a get-together of familiar faces.

“There was (General Manager) Ben Cherington and (assistant general manager) Mike Hazen, who both came through here (as the player development directors), and Ben Crockett.

“It feels like a very comfortable relationship, obviously a relationship we’re very fond of.”

The Red Sox presence was accentuated by the banquet’s two featured guests — former Red Sox players Trot Nixon (now retired) and Josh Reddick (a former Sea Dogs outfielder now playing for the Oakland A’s).

Nixon played for Boston from 1996 to 2008, starting in right field during the historic 2004 world championship run.

Reddick came up through Portland (2008-09) and made his Red Sox debut in 2009. He was traded after the 2011 season to Oakland, where he hit 32 home runs and earned a Gold Glove.

The guest list also included Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles, entering his third year, and the new Sea Dogs hitting coach, Rich Gedman, a former Red Sox catcher. Mike MacDonald, a former University of Maine and Sea Dogs pitcher, was also on hand.

Baseball is coming. Spring training begins next month, exhibition games in March, and the Sea Dogs opener April 4.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases