PORTLAND – A cold Opening Day rain tattooed Kevin Davison’s Portland Sea Dogs baseball cap. He peered up at the gray sky.

“Just a sun shower. Won’t last,” he said.

Davison drove for nine hours from his home in Nova Scotia for Thursday’s baseball game between the Portland Sea Dogs and the Binghamton Mets.

The taxi driver from Halifax passed through a couple of showers on his drive to Hadlock Field, but didn’t think once about returning home.

Why would he?

This was the Sea Dogs’ first home game of the 2012 season.

“It’s Opening Day,” said Davison, 40, who came to the ballpark alone. Why would he wait for warm sun and drier weather? A game in June is just another game. He’s a hockey fan who has discovered he’s almost as passionate about baseball.

Scott Young of York and his son Jacob looked at the Eastern League standings posted above the concession stand in the concourse near Hadlock’s entrance. The Sea Dogs were in fifth place — last — in the Eastern Division of the Eastern League with a 1-6 record.

“The worst team. Just like the Red Sox. I didn’t know until now,” said dad. Would he have bought tickets to sit in Thursday evening’s raw weather had he known?

“Yes,” he said. “My father brought me to my first game in 1966. I’ve never forgotten it. I wanted to do this with my son.”

Under these conditions?

Jacob Young, a sixth-grader, had his baseball glove tucked under his arm, along with one of the fleece blankets that were given to fans as they walked through the gates. He was dressed in layers, but nothing covered his smile.

“This is pretty sweet,” he said. “I’ve never been.”

Bill Burgess of Augusta has been to all 19 of the Sea Dogs’ Opening Days, many times with his wife, Liz. On Thursday, they walked to their seats near the Sea Dogs’ dugout, dressed for the weather.

Their 4-year-old grandson, Devin Tardif, preceded them. This was his fifth Opening Day. He was 9 months old when he came to his first.

Later, when a tribute to Sea Dogs founder Dan Burke ended on the large video screen above the right field fence, Burgess and those around them stood to applaud. Burke, who died in October, and his wife, Bunny, had seats nearby in the first row, next to the dugout.

At Hadlock, Burke was a baseball fan first. That he was team owner, retired media mogul, friend to U.S. presidents and so many other things was secondary during the three hours of a baseball game.

The sun did peek from between the clouds by game time at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Temperatures did rise, only to fall again within an hour. Fans left the shelter of the concourse to find their seats. They were a diverse gathering, from retirees to young fathers leading children by the hand.

The Sea Dogs announced a crowd of 5,227. After the fifth inning, maybe 1,000 remained. By the ninth inning, there were a couple of hundred. They clutched their free blankets, a first-time giveaway that was very much appreciated.

The Sea Dogs lost again, 5-1. But that didn’t dampen hopes for the new baseball season.

“It’s baseball,” said Steve Labbe of Biddeford, who came to his first Opening Day in 10 years with his friend Steve Guignard and his young son, Thomas, also of Biddeford.

“The Sea Dogs blow a game in the ninth inning and you don’t care,” Labbe said. “You know it’s about development. You watch the game, you see the prospects,” trying to judge which ones will make it to the major leagues.

Mike Williams of Lewiston stood near the autograph table before the game, waiting for the designated Sea Dogs player to appear to sign his name for the fans. His 4-year-old son, Lincoln, munched on a pretzel.

“You come to see the field for the first time, have a hot dog, watch a game. I don’t think Lincoln understands much. He’s in training,” Williams said. “We came last summer. I remember saying, ‘This is my favorite place.’ He turned to me and said, ‘This is my favorite place, too.’

“It warmed my heart.”

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

[email protected]


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