Monday, December 9, 2013
PORTLAND — Shortstop Xander Bogaerts played his last game at Hadlock Field on June 12.
But soon his name will return, on one of the wooden, replica jerseys hanging in the ballpark.
Those jerseys represent former Sea Dogs now suiting up for the Boston Red Sox.
Bogaerts is now in the elite group, called up to the Red Sox and in uniform Monday night for Boston's game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Bogaerts, only 20, is the third Sea Dog to begin this season at the Double-A level in Portland and then make his Major League debut later in the year, following pitchers Brandon Workman and Drake Britton.
Bogaerts, like Workman and Britton, moved to Triple-A Pawtucket before making it to the majors.
Portland Manager Kevin Boles watched all three move on. On Monday he flashed a big, satisfied grin.
"These are the most important moments," Boles said in the Sea Dogs clubhouse. "To have three guys, who started in this room, now in the big leagues. That's what we're here for, that we're moving guys up.
"These guys have worked hard to put themselves in this position."
Bogaerts, a native of Aruba, combines that work ethic with natural ability. Although he hails from a country not known for its baseball prospects, Bogaerts stood out in a tryout conducted by the Red Sox. They gave him a $500,000 signing bonus when he was 16.
Two years later, Bogaerts was in Fort Myers, Fla., in Boston's extended spring training for young minor leaguers. One of his teammates was current Sea Dogs third baseman Garin Cecchini.
"You knew he was a special player. It was obvious," Cecchini said. "He has talent that others just wish and dream about. He has it."
That year, in 2011, the Red Sox decided to challenge Bogaerts and had him skip two rookie levels of the minor leagues and play for Class A Greenville. Bogaerts hit 16 home runs in 72 games and immediately became a much-publicized prospect.
Bogaerts began last year in advanced Class A Salem before being promoted to Portland and batting .326 with five home runs in 23 games.
This season Bogaerts batted .311 with six home runs in Portland, and then .284 with nine homers in Pawtucket.
He found out Sunday night that he was joining the major league team on its flight to San Francisco.
"I texted him (Monday), said 'Good luck. Have fun with it,"' Boles said. "He texted back. He's excited and ready to go."
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at firstname.lastname@example.org