Every young baseball player who pulls on a Portland Sea Dogs jersey for the first time harbors a belief that the big leagues are not far away.

For roughly one in three of them, they are correct.

As the Sea Dogs celebrate their 25th season, the Maine Sunday Telegram conducted an analysis of the team’s rosters through the years. We found that 31.8 percent of minor league hopefuls who reach Portland’s Double-A franchise eventually make it to the majors.

“Really? Holy mackerel, that is amazing,” said Walt Allan, a Sea Dogs season-ticket holder from Falmouth since the inaugural Opening Day in 1994. “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

The majority of professional ballplayers never rise above Class A, so simply making it to the Eastern League is an accomplishment. Doug Dransfield, who sits next to Allan in Section 105 in Hadlock Field, had figured perhaps one in eight Sea Dogs rise from Hadlock to Fenway or some other big-league park.

“It’s very surprising,” said Dransfield, of Cape Elizabeth. “It just goes to show that I only pay attention to the guys that get talked about.”


From Joel Adamson to Charlie Zink, there have been 197 players who reached Hadlock Field with no previous MLB experience and made it to the majors for anywhere from one game to nearly two decades.

Success, of course, is relative. Of all the players who made it, 40 saw action in no more than 10 big-league games. That’s one in five. Still, by the end of this season, there should be 17 who cross the 1,000-game threshold, or 8.6 percent.

Of the 197 players who made it to the majors, 79 played for the Sea Dogs while the team was affiliated with the Florida Marlins from 1994-2002. The other 118 played in Portland while the team has been affiliated with the Boston Red Sox, starting in 2003.

Thirteen players on the current Red Sox 25-man roster are former Sea Dogs, including the entire starting outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. Boston can start an infield of former Sea Dogs with third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, second baseman Dustin Pedroia (when he returns from the disabled list), first baseman Hanley Ramirez and catcher Christian Vazquez.

From 1994 through 2017, the Sea Dogs suited up 706 players. From those we culled 87 with previous MLB experience, thus eliminating everyone from third baseman Josh Booty (whose contract included a stipulation that he be called up in September after his first season in Class A, before he ever made it to Portland in 1997) to David Ortiz (who made a three-game injury rehab appearance at Hadlock in 2008 in the midst of a 20-year MLB career).

That left us with 619 players who arrived in Portland hoping and expecting their careers eventually would lead to the big leagues. Most were disappointed, but nearly one in three saw his dream come true.


Four of five who made it enjoyed more than a cup of coffee. There’s a vast gulf between World Series MVP winners (Livan Hernandez, Edgar Renteria) and the one-hit wonders. Matt Erickson, Luis Exposito, Alex Hassan, Kevin Hooper, Luis Jimenez and Nate Rolison each managed just one base hit in their brief stint in the bigs.

The average age of a big-league debut among former Sea Dogs is 24. Renteria is the only former Sea Dog to break into the big leagues as a teenager. He was 18 for the Dogs of 1995 and was 19 the following May when the Marlins summoned him to Florida. The oldest was Jimenez, who played first base on the 2006 Eastern League title-winning Sea Dogs. Six years later, at age 30, he got a September call-up to Seattle and made his debut against the Red Sox with a pinch-hit fly out to left.

In terms of MLB games played by former Sea Dogs, Renteria is the clubhouse leader with 2,152 spread out over 16 years and seven teams, and that doesn’t count his three World Series appearances (’97 Marlins, ’04 Cardinals and ’10 Giants), much less his four other playoff runs with teams that fell short of the Fall Classic.

Renteria could be caught. Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who turned 36 earlier this month, entered the weekend with 1,906 games and should soon surpass outfielder Mark Kotsay, who retired in 2013 after 17 seasons and 1,914 games. Kotsay currently serves as Oakland’s quality control coach after two seasons as the A’s bench coach.

The only other active players with more than a thousand games are Red Sox teammates Ramirez (1,647) and Pedroia (1,503), and Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (1,235). Oakland second baseman Jed Lowrie (995) is knocking on the door.

Among pitchers, the former Dogs with the longest MLB pedigrees are Jonathan Papelbon, who appeared in the most games (689), and Hernandez, who tossed the most innings (3,184) over a career that spanned 17 years and nine organizations – 10 if you count the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals as two instead of one franchise that moved south.


At the other end of the spectrum are two pitchers (Ryan Snare, Zink) and one utility infielder (Mike Miller) who appeared in a single big-league game.

In 3 1/3 innings of relief for Texas on an August night in 2004, Snare yielded three home runs as the Orioles beat the Rangers 9-1 at Camden Yards. Snare pitched two more seasons in the high minors but never made it back.

Four years later, the Red Sox started Zink at Fenway Park. Using his trademark knuckleball, he breezed through a perfect first against Texas and then waited in the dugout as the Sox battered the Rangers for 10 runs, six of them on the first two of what would be three Ortiz home runs.

The 10-0 lead wasn’t enough, however. Zink got one out in the fifth before yielding five consecutive hits and was removed. Texas forged ahead 16-14 only to see the Sox rally and win, 19-17. Zink went back to Pawtucket, spent two more years in Triple-A and one in the independent Atlantic League before hanging up his cleats.

As for Miller, the Red Sox summoned the utility infielder to Tampa Bay for a Monday night game in June 2016. He pinch hit for Pedroia and grounded out to short in a 13-7 Rays victory. By week’s end he was back in the minors and currently is in his third season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

At least Snare, Zink and Miller made it into a game. Poor Caleb Clay, a former first-round draft pick of the Red Sox, was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City to the Angels in August 2014 – on the heels of a 19-inning affair between Anaheim and the Red Sox – but wasn’t used in a 3-1 Boston victory. A subsequent off day allowed Anaheim’s bullpen to recover, and Clay, a right-handed pitcher, was sent back to the minors, never again to return.


For anyone feeling like he’s stalled in Double-A, consider that the two big leaguers with the most Sea Dogs games under their belts – Kevin Millar and Brandon Moss, each with 268 – wound up with long and lucrative MLB careers. Millar hit 170 home runs over a dozen years with the Marlins, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. Moss went deep 160 times over 11 seasons with the Red Sox, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Oakland, Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City.

Of course, the 324 times Ryan Khoury suited up for the Sea Dogs never panned out in a promotion to Boston. Fellow middle infielder Iggy Suarez, who played 304 games as a Sea Dog, remains in uniform as the current manager of Boston’s Class A Greenville franchise in South Carolina.

Seven others played more games as a Sea Dog than did Millar or Moss without receiving the call they all covet, although Cole Sturgeon (306) and Derrik Gibson (288) are poised in Triple-A.

The Sea Dogs have sent 107 pitchers and 90 positional players on to the majors. Of those pitchers, 37 are left-handers. Felix Heredia appeared in the most games (511) and the Cubs’ Jon Lester has thrown the most innings (2,2251/3). Runner-up in both categories is 37-year-old Diamondbacks reliever Jorge De La Rosa, with 1,4782/3 innings in 392 games heading into the weekend.

Ten former Sea Dog lefties have pitched in more than 100 big-league games; an equal number appeared in fewer than 10. Among the 70 right-handed pitchers, 28 appeared in more than 100 games and a dozen in fewer than 10.

The positional breakdown includes 19 catchers, 12 middle infielders, 12 corner infielders, 21 outfielders and 27 versatile players adept at more than one position. Of those 90 players, 38 appeared in fewer than 100 games and 39 in more than 162, representative of one full season.


The Red Sox have groomed 19 of their former first-round picks through Hadlock and on to the majors, all but four from the college ranks. The Marlins did likewise with three college players (Kotsay, Charles Johnson and Marc Valdes), and two from high school (Gonzalez, Josh Beckett).

Among the biggest success stories from players never drafted are Millar and Daniel Nava, both signed from independent leagues, and catcher Mike Redmond, the only former Sea Dogs player who has become a major league manager. Redmond currently serves as the Rockies’ bench coach.

As for diamonds in the rough, relievers Vic Darensbourg and Brandon Villafuerte wound up appearing in 309 and 91 MLB games, respectively. Not bad for junior college players drafted in the 53rd and 66th rounds. Darensbourg, a left-handed starter for those original ’94 Dogs, continued pitching in organized baseball until he was 38.

They were two of the 197 success stories out of Hadlock Field.

“It’s reassuring to me in a way,” said Dransfield, the Sea Dogs season-ticket holder. “I was really afraid that a lot of Double-A was just making sure they had nine guys to play the game so one or two guys could get all the experience they needed.”

“I’m very surprised,” Allan said of the high percentage who passed through Hadlock on their way to the big leagues. “I would not think people would guess up to 30 percent. It turns out there were a lot of good players.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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