August 12, 2013

Steve Solloway: Hadlock Field sculpture a monumental winner

'American Baseball Family' may just be part of the scenery for some longtime Sea Dogs fans, but others are drawn to it on game day.

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Glenn Cecchini, father of Sea Dogs third baseman Garin Cecchini, remarks on the “American Baseball Family” sculpture at Hadlock Field in Portland recently. “I don’t get it,” he said “Who are these people?”

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

"I don't think the city appreciates what they have here."

Patty Jaynes of Portland stood by the sculpture checking her cellphone before the gates opened. "They look so real, so detailed, so appropriate. They look like a traditional family going to a game. But what is a traditional family?"

Initial criticism focused on the race of the fans. Some critics saw a lack of diversity. On this night, several fans said they believed the woman to be African-American. I wondered how someone could find race in this sculpture. But then, much of art is open to interpretation.

Judy Ryan of Wells and her sister Irene Peters, who was visiting, took photos. The four may not be a traditional family, they said. Maybe it's simply a man and a boy and a woman and a girl coming together for a baseball game and for the next three hours became part of a bigger family.

A group of adult friends, maybe a dozen in all, formed rows in front of the sculpture for a photo. A couple, David Wert and Holly Shost of Sanford, watched as several of their five children clambered over the sculpture. Families of baseball fans interacting with another.

A youngster with a baseball glove stood with the boy in bronze with his glove. Life imitating art?

More recently, one critic looked at the boy and his gesture and believed he looked "fiendish," and that the man appeared to be trying to scalp his tickets.

I thought the boy was caught in the timeless act of throwing a baseball into his mitt and the man was showing everyone he had the prized tickets. Maybe he bought them from a scalper.

The point is, any form of art or expression is personal and should stir passions. That sports can be intensely personal to its fans and stir the same emotions creates the visceral collision.

Until Golden mentioned the city's stance on commercial logos appearing on public art, I didn't see that problem. Neither did fans who identify with teams for reasons that have nothing to do with making money. This is Portland, Maine, and the home team is the Sea Dogs of the Eastern League. Rather than Portland, Ore., where the home team once was the Beavers of the Pacific Coast League.

A vacationing family from upstate New York near the Canadian border stopped at the sculpture. Like Glenn Cecchini, they were puzzled. Who are these people and why are they immortalized?

They're the thank-you from the man who brought minor league baseball to Portland some 20 years ago.

A plaque saying that is needed, not that Dan Burke ever asked for your thank-you.

You cheered for his baseball team and now many of you have connected with his gift. To Burke, that was always enough.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

Twitter: SteveSolloway


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