Freeport resident Paul Bard couldn’t pass up the opportunity to golf from the decks of nine Hadlock Field Sky Boxes last week. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Balls were flying all over Hadlock Field last weekend, but there wasn’t a baseball player in sight.

The outfield was full of golf balls, not baseballs, as part of a special event to bring fans to the Hadlock Field during the canceled 2020 season. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

From July 9-12, Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs, was transformed from baseball diamond to golf green as part of a special opportunity for golfers to test their skill driving balls from nine Sky Box platforms to targets painted in the outfield.

Converting the field into a golf course is one of the ways the team is looking to connect with fans and bring in some money now that the 2020 Minor League baseball season has been canceled.

“Obviously we were extremely disappointed when the season was canceled, but now we are looking for some fun ways we can still be engaged with our community,” said Chris Cameron, Sea Dogs Vice President of Communications and Fan Experience. “This is something we had seen the San Diego Padres do. We always thought this is something we’d like to do in the fall after our season was done. With COVID-19, we thought we would try it now.”

Cameron said the 200 tee times at “Hadlinks 2020” sold out within 24 hours. A second round of golf is planned for Aug. 6-9. Each golfer pays $30 to participate.

Freeport resident Paul Bard says he is a big baseball fan, especially enjoying Minor League games.

Chris Montgomery concentrates on his shot at the seventh target at Hadlinks Field, a temporary target-style golf course the Portland Sea Dogs set up on the playing field. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“The opportunity to come here and enjoy Hadlock Field like this is beyond fantastic,” Bard said between the seventh and eighth targets July 10.

His golfing partner, Chris Montgomery of Cumberland, also didn’t want to miss the unique opportunity to mix baseball and golf.

“It’s a way to support the team when no baseball is being played. The combination of golf and baseball is fun,” Montgomery said.

Cameron said plans are in the works for other events at the ballpark.  Dining on the Diamond, fashioned after an event in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, will take place on the infield of Hadlock Field Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25. Earlier this summer, the Sea Dogs offered a portion of the ballpark menu for curbside pickup.

“We are open to all opportunities, but we want to make sure whatever we do here is within state and city guidelines,” Cameron said.

Elsewhere in the Eastern League, other teams have also found creative ways to bring fans to the ballparks.  In Pennsylvania, the Altoona Curve is offering curbside takeout or dine-in concessions during Curve Happy Hour Fridays. Three high school graduation ceremonies were held at the Binghampton Rumble Ponies’ NYSEG Stadium in New York in late June.  Outdoor movies are being shown at the home ballparks of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Senators, the Richmond, Virginia, Flying Squirrels, the Trenton, New Jersey, Thunder, and New Hampshire’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

The Fisher Cats are also hosting a number of socially distanced summer camps and baseball camps this summer and held graduation ceremonies in June. Both the Altoona Curve and Reading Fightin’ Phils hosted high school all-star games at their stadiums.

Even though the baseball season is canceled, staff is being paid as if 2020 was still a go. Cameron said all the 18 full-time staff and the roughly 200 part-time game day staff, including ticket takers, security, food service workers and ushers, are still being compensated.

Cameron said he wouldn’t disclose how much revenue the Sea Dogs will lose without the 70 home games in the 2020 season, but the loss will be “significant.”

To his knowledge, the Sea Dogs is the only team paying both its full-time and part-time staff.

“Our ownership is committed to assuring we survive this difficult stretch,” he said

Cameron is optimistic that Double-A Portland Sea Dogs baseball will return to Hadlock Field in 2021.

“We’d love to see baseball played here again. We are preparing as if we are playing in 2021 and will adjust, if needed, accordingly,” he said.

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