When the gates of Hadlock Field normally open for a Portland Sea Dogs baseball game, it is 90 minutes before the first pitch.

But Wednesday is different. With the game scheduled for 7 p.m., the gates will open at 3 p.m. There will be autographs to get, batting practice to watch and a home run derby to enjoy, all before the first pitch.

It is All-Star time.

The Eastern League All-Star Game returns to Hadlock Field on Wednesday for the first time in 10 years. A sellout crowd is expected to watch some of the best players from 12 Eastern League teams, including the Sea Dogs, minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

Sea Dogs pitcher Williams Cuevas will start for the home Eastern Division team. He heard about the honor a few days ago.

“When they told me, I thought they were kidding me,” Cuevas said. “It’s awesome.”

Cuevas is one of six Sea Dogs in the game. The Eastern Division coaching staff is the Sea Dogs’ crew of Manager Billy McMillon, hitting coach Dave Joppie and pitching coach Kevin Walker.

The Western staff comes from the Richmond Flying Squirrels, a Giants affiliate that features hitting coach Kenny Joyce, a Portland native, and pitching coach Lee Smith, one of the all-time great major league relief pitchers. Jose Alguacil is the manager.

These managers will want to win, of course, but there is a larger issue at hand.

“My goal is to get everybody in the game,” said McMillon, who has 25 players on his team.

McMillon, 43, is a former Sea Dogs player himself, manning the outfield at Hadlock in 1995. He did not play in the All-Star game, which had a different format back then, featuring all 30 Double-A level minor league teams. Since 2003, the Eastern League has held its own game, allowing more players to participate.

McMillon has been a minor league manager in the Sox system since 2010. This is his first time as an all-star manager.

“Everyone should get in the game. They have done well this far into the season, and they deserve a chance to play,” McMillon said. “It’s going to be on TV (NESN), so maybe their families can record it for posterity.

“These are things that, in 10 or 15 years, they’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Yeah, I played in this game.’ ”

Several of these players will go on to bigger highlights, like reaching the major leagues. But you never know.

Look at some of the Sea Dogs who played in the 2005 all-star game at Hadlock. Infielder Kenny Perez had the game’s biggest hit, a two-run double, but he never reached the majors, while another infielder, Hanley Ramirez, is hitting home runs at Fenway Park. Sea Dogs’ Brandon Moss and Chris Durbin were All-Star outfielders that year. Durbin retired before the 2007 season, and Moss reached the major league All-Star Game last year, and now plays for the Cleveland Indians.

Sea Dogs reliever Robby Scott is one of this year’s all-stars. He hoped to be promoted from Portland by now, but the Red Sox have kept him at the Double-A level. He also pitched in last year’s Eastern League All-Star Game in Altoona.

“It was a lot of fun, something I cherish and value,” Scott said. “It’s just another game but, at the same time, your competitiveness kicks in.”

Another Sea Dogs reliever, Madison Younginer, has toiled in the minors for six years. This is his first all-star game. McMillon notified him last week of his selection.

“I called my parents right away because I was real excited,” Younginer said. “It’s just kind of reassuring of the work and the results you’ve had so far.”

Besides being excited as a player, Younginer is also a fan.

“The home run derby will be fun to watch,” he said.

The derby, which begins at 5:15 p.m., will involve 10 players, including Portland’s Jantzen Witte. Preceding the derby will be the autograph sessions and batting practice. While one team is practicing, the other will be seated throughout Hadlock, signing autographs.

After the derby, the Sea Dogs’ mascot band, The Kastaways, will entertain.

Then, fans will settle in to watch the stars play.

In case of rain, the autograph sessions will still take place. If the game is rained out, it will not be rescheduled. Ticket-holders will be able to exchange each ticket for two tickets to a future Sea Dogs game.

 


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