Pam Brown came prepared to Opening Day.
Bundled up in her brother’s heavy construction jacket, a pink fleece bomber-style cap over her Sea Dogs baseball hat and with a Sea Dogs fleece blanket spread over her legs, Brown grinned behind dark sunglasses as she sat in the first seat in Section 208, just behind the concourse.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time for this to get here,” she said. “It’s been a long, long winter.”
A season-ticket holder from Westbrook, the 42-year-old Brown arrived at Hadlock Field at 4:30 Thursday afternoon, 30 minutes after gates opened on the 2014 home season. The brim of her hat was covered in autographs, but she said she wouldn’t be adding any more until later in the season.
She said her seat also affords her good foul ball opportunities, situated as it is between the third-base dugout and home plate.
“I caught a few last year,” she said. “They hurt my hand, but I was all right.”
There may have been more tan than green in the Hadlock grass, and the temperature of 49 degrees and dropping, with wind gusts up to 22 mph, but all was right with Brown’s world.
“I’m glad winter’s over,” she said.
Charlie Eshbach, the Sea Dogs president and former general manager, has been attending Opening Days for 41 years, ever since he joined the front office of the Bristol (Conn.) Red Sox in 1975 out of the University of Connecticut.
In his 11 years as president of the Eastern League – before joining the Sea Dogs in the fall of 1992 – Eshbach often attended three or four home openers each season.
On Thursday, he sat behind the sliding glass doors of the Sea Dogs skybox in front of a plate bearing two hot dogs (mustard only), potato chips and bottled water.
“By the end of April, I’m tired of them,” Eshbach said of the lowercase dogs. “So I’ve got to eat them now.”
First on the field Thursday for Opening Day ceremonies was the Portland Sea Dogs Dance Team, resplendent in red T-shirt jerseys with a large Q 97.9 on the back and Sea Dogs dancer on the buttoned-up front.
Four boys and 36 girls, ranging in age from 8 to 16, performed a seven-minute medley on the field prior to player introductions.
“They come from all over Maine, and a couple from New Hampshire,” said Kelly Ferrigan, director of both the team and the Dance Studio of Maine, located in Gorham. “They all had to audition. We had about 100 kids come out in February to try out, American Idol-style.”
This is the second season of the dance team, whose performance included elements of jazz, hip-hop and even some tumbling.
“They help with promotions between innings, too,” said Ferrigan, who also directed another 40-member youth dance team (with a few crossovers) at Red Claws games.
Ferrigan’s team is scheduled to perform eight more times at Sea Dogs games this season, next on May 16th.
Game time temperature is 47 degrees with a 20 mph wind blowing steadily to centerfield.
First pitch was thrown at 6:20 p.m. Most of the Sea Dogs fielders are wearing black ski masks.
Fans entering the park Thursday were greeted by the brassy and familiar Bellamy Jazz Band, a staple of Opening Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day since the Portland Sea Dogs came into being in 1994.
Roy Dunphy, who founded the band in 1979, also constructed the Trash Monster and Slugger mascot costumes, along with his wife, Frances.
Dunphy died in 2001 at the age of 70, but his son, Steve, was one of six musicians playing outside the Hadlock gates Thursday afternoon.
“One year we played in the stands (on Opening Day), because of a snowstorm,” said Dave Debree, on a break from playing tenor saxophone.
“We’ve had a lot of fun playing here over the years. Right now, we’re taking a few more breaks than usual because it’s so cold.”
One addition to the Hadlock concourse beneath the first base stands is a large sign titled Sea Dogs Road To The Show.
On it are the names of all 219 Sea Dogs alumni who have played in the major leagues, updated through the 2013 season.
The sign also includes photos of some of the more notable alumni during their time in Portland, including Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis.
Hadlock fans wasted little time in warming to Sea Dogs second baseman Mookie Betts. Not only does he sport the cool nickname (Markus is his given name), but he opened the season with a 4-for-4 performance in Reading and finished the opening road trip batting .458 (11 of 24).
On Thursday night, Betts endeared himself further to the Hadlock faithful. In the fifth inning, he singled past third base and came around to score.
In the seventh, he hit a high fly ball to the warning track in center field that, with help from a strong wind gusting up to 30 mph, was too difficult for New Britain outfielder Corey Wimberly to handle.
Betts slid into third with a triple, then popped up and scrambled home when the relay throw skipped past third baseman Brandon Waring, giving the Sea Dogs a 6-1 lead.
Opening Day at Hadlock was not without its technical glitches. The new video boards, for example, didn’t kick into operation until the bottom of the second inning.
In addition, internet connection in the press box was spotty, forcing the visiting radio announcer from New Britain to broadcast the game not from his headset but into a cell phone.
“What are you going to do?” said Jeff Dooley, phone cradled between shoulder and ear prior to the fourth inning. “Life in the minors.”
Pre-game ceremonies ran smoothly, however, with the dance team, player introductions and a smartly-played anthem courtesy of the South Portland High Marching Band.
A moment of silence was observed for Bill Troubh, who died in November after a long career in public service that included terms on the Portland City Council and four years as mayor. He helped bring the Sea Dogs to Portland, served as the team’s legal counsel and later spent six years as president of the Eastern League.
Troubh’s grandchildren threw out ceremonial first pitches and a skybox formerly named after Rico Petrocelli was unveiled as TROUBH beneath a white jersey replica bearing his name and the number 13.
Why number 13?
Nancy Troubh and her husband would have celebrated their 47th anniversary this weekend, April 13. Bill would have turned 79 on April 24.
“He grew up on Sherman Street,” Nancy said from within a crowded skybox. “He always wanted to give back to a city that had been so good to him and to his family.”
The Sea Dogs also announced plans for the William Troubh Community Service Award, to recognize a local citizen or public employee whose efforts make Portland “a great city to live and/or work in.”
Nominations for the annual award will open in February of 2015.
This story will be updated.