Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Portland Sea Dogs employees have discovered a new level of popularity this past week.
High school classmates, old friends and friends of friends have been calling and e-mailing after years of no contact.
First come a few words of small talk, then the question is asked: ''Can you get me tickets?''
The answer is always the same.
Hadlock Field, home to the Sea Dogs baseball team, will be sold out today, Tuesday and Wednesday because of one player.
David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox slugger otherwise known as Big Papi, will bring his powerful swing and engaging smile to Hadlock Field for three games.
Ortiz is coming on a rehabilitation assignment. He has been on the Red Sox disabled list with an injured wrist -- a torn tendon sheath -- and began playing games on Thursday for the Red Sox Triple-A minor league team in Pawtucket, R.I.
Now he is set to play three games for Portland, the Red Sox Double-A team, before rejoining the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
When the word of Ortiz's visit reached the media last Sunday, the Sea Dogs sold more than 7,000 tickets online for the three games.
Hadlock's capacity is 7,368, so only hundreds of tickets remained. They were bought up quickly when the ticket office opened on Monday.
After that, the search for tickets intensified.
Tickets have been put on eBay with bids as high as $300 for four tickets, which would normally cost $36.
Other people are looking for contacts, including those who work for the Sea Dogs.
''I've had easily over 100 people calling me,'' said Chris Cameron, assistant general manager/media relations, ''including a former teacher of mine.''
Some call with bribes. Todd Jamison, director of video operations, was offered the use of a cabin if he could come up with tickets.
Thom Hinton is the official scorekeeper at Sea Dogs games. During the day, he works as a systems administrator at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. His colleagues know about his Sea Dogs connection, so Hinton taped a sign below his ID badge: ''I do not have any tickets!''
At Hadlock, the Sea Dogs staff is preparing for the crowds with extra security personnel.
The gates will open an hour earlier than usual, at 4:30 p.m., for the 7 p.m. games.
That will cut down on the lines formed by early-arriving fans. It also will give fans a rare chance to watch the Sea Dogs take batting practice.
Cameron and crew have prepared 25 media credentials, instead of the usual five or six.
And Cameron is making sure that those ''working media'' members are working.
He sent out an e-mail to the media emphasizing the standard rules that apply to a credential: ''No Autographs,'' and ''No spouses, children, or guests may accompany you.''
Regarding autographs, Cameron said no official time will be set aside for Ortiz to sign for fans. If it happens, it will be spontaneous.
For sure, there will be autograph seekers and picture takers.
Fans are not the only ones who are anticipating the arrival of Ortiz.
Sea Dogs infielder Iggy Suarez, 27, said it will be magical when Ortiz arrives today.
''He's that guy who always brightens up a clubhouse,'' Suarez said. ''I've seen it in big league games in spring training. ''And now he's going to be in our clubhouse. I can't wait.''
First baseman Lars Anderson, 20, was just promoted to Portland. He plans to study Ortiz carefully.
''He's one of the best hitters in the game,'' Anderson said. ''So I'm going to watch and try to be a sponge.''
Even the opposition is looking forward to it. The Connecticut Defenders will play the Sea Dogs this week.
''''He's an unbelievable hitter,'' said Connecticut's relief pitcher Justin Hedrick, who is from Nebraska and attended Northeastern University in Boston. ''I became a Red Sox fan. And just the experience to go against him, let alone being on the same field as him, is just awesome.''
Connecticut's Joey Martinez is scheduled to be the starting pitcher tonight.
''The atmosphere in Portland is always great,'' Martinez said. ''They have great fans up there.
''But it's probably going to be a little crazier, now that Big Papi is in town,'' he said.
A little crazier, and one tough ticket.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: