As minor league baseball executives, scouts, fans and, not least, players descend on Portland for the 2015 Eastern League All-Star Game, I encourage my fellow Mainers to reflect on the gem of a ballpark that stands in our backyard and on the special role it plays in brightening our summer days and nights.

Having attended games at minor league yards across the United States – from Portland to Albuquerque and in many midsized American cities in between – I can attest to the exceptional fan experience Hadlock Field provides. We are lucky to include such a fine facility in our civic infrastructure.

In addition to presenting nods aplenty to the Sea Dogs’ big-league parent team and its historic Boston ballpark, Hadlock reflects the character of the Maine coast and showcases several stalwarts of the Maine economy to the many tourists who populate its seats each summer.

To begin, Hadlock features a replica of Fenway’s iconic left field wall, the Green Monster. If you grew up cheering for the Red Sox in the 1960s through 1990s, in fact, the “Maine Monster” looks more the part of Fenway’s famous wall than the current incarnation of wall in Boston does.

Where the Red Sox have added wall-top seats and cluttered their wall with signage to the point where it includes as much advertising as green paint, the Sea Dogs’ wall remains topped by a screen like the one we remember at Fenway before the installation of the Monster seats and has not yet been transformed into a giant billboard mount.

Concessions like the Fenway Frank and traditions like the eighth-inning singing of “Sweet Caroline” offer further tips of the cap to Red Sox culture.


Hadlock also comes complete with one of the better ballpark frills you will find in the minor leagues. And this is where the Maine theme surfaces.

Just as the Durham Bulls have a smoke-snorting bull at their ballpark, and the Nashville Sounds have a gigantic guitar-shaped scoreboard at theirs, the Sea Dogs have their very own ballpark lighthouse.

Settling into your seat and snacking on a Sea Dog Biscuit (made by Shain’s of Maine) or sipping on a brew (a product of Geary, Seadog or Allagash), you will chuckle at the midgame Maine Race, featuring a lobster, potato, blueberry and pine tree sprinting across the field. But you won’t notice Hadlock’s signature feature. Not yet. The 16-foot-tall lighthouse remains hidden until a Sea Dog player hits a home run, or until the Sea Dogs clinch a win.

Tucked behind the centerfield fence, the most elaborate home run celebration in all the minor leagues sits on a hydraulic lift. When summoned, it rises amidst a spray of Roman candles. Upon reaching its apex, a bright white light flashes round and round its top and a foghorn drones. Then, while the camera lights throughout the ballpark are still flashing, it retracts once more behind the fence.

This unique fixture has been in place at Hadlock since the ballpark was built for the Sea Dogs in 1994. It was constructed by a local carpenter and his son.

From the start, team owner Dan Burke wanted to incorporate a lighthouse into the ballpark’s design but Burke didn’t know quite how. Unbeknownst to him, John Rague, program and administrative services manager for the Portland public works department, came up with the concept and designed a retractable lighthouse.


Amazingly, it was built and installed without Burke’s knowledge. When the Sea Dogs hit their very first Hadlock home run, a smile rose to Burke’s face as he and the rest of the fledgling team’s fans realized the local yard had a very special celebration machine.

It is possible, of course, that you will sit through a whole nine innings at Hadlock and never see the lighthouse, but the fact that it is elusive makes it all the more special when you do see it.

A trip to Hadlock does offer several other near guarantees. Visiting our local park, you are sure to pass Sea Dogs President Charlie Eshbach standing outside the front gates in the pregame hour welcoming fans.

You are sure to be greeted with a smile by the friendly men and women who serve as ushers. And you are sure to enjoy a quality game featuring at least a player or two who will wind up in Boston soon.

This week, baseball people from across the Northeast will visit Hadlock Field for the All-Star Game. They are in for a treat.


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