The Portland Sea Dogs are scheduled to start playing in front of home fans again on May 4. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Umpires and fans will finally get to yell “play ball” at Hadlock Field, when the Portland Sea Dogs play their first home game in more than a year on Tuesday, May 4.

That’s when the Sea Dogs, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, open the season at home against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. It’ll be the Sea Dogs first home game since September of 2019, as the pandemic shut down Minor League Baseball last year.

But with COVID-19 still spreading, the experience won’t be what fans have come to expect out of a trip to Hadlock Field. Safety measures will make things different for sure. Some might even make the experience better for fans. There’ll be no waiting in concession lines and no squeezing in between folks to get to your seat, for instance. Face masks will be required of fans everywhere in the park, even while seated, except when they are actively eating or drinking.

Here then is a look at some of the things fans can expect if they plan to head out to see a Sea Dogs game this season. Keep in mind some of these measures could change as pandemic conditions change during the course of the season, which is slated to end in September.

Last year, with the Sea Dogs season cancelled, Hadlock Field hosted some golfers. This year baseball is back. Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

HAVE A SEAT

The Sea Dogs plan to only fill the stadium to about 28 percent capacity – 2,087 fans according to the team website – and sell tickets only in “pods” of two to eight that are spaced at least six feet apart. So fans will be sitting next to their podmates, but other than that, people will have plenty of elbow room.  The empty seats between pods will be roped off, so no one can sit there.

Fans must buy an entire pod – at least two and up to eight seats. The pods will either be at the ends of rows or in the middle of rows when nobody is seated on the ends. So that means nobody will have to squeeze down into a row between other people’s pods to get to their own, the Sea Dogs say.

HOT DOG, DELIVERY

To avoid crowds and lines at concession stands, people will only be able to order beer, hot dogs and Sea Dog Biscuits (ice cream sandwiches) by using their phone. People can order by going to “In-Park Services” on the Sea Dogs website choosing “mobile food ordering.” People will pay on their phone, too. No getting up and going to the concession stand. The nice part is a Sea Dogs staff member will bring your order right to you, so you don’t have to miss a minute of the game. There’s mobile merchandise ordering too, so if you forget your cap, you can have one brought right to your seat.

The statue of Slugger stands outside Hadlock Field, ready to greet fans once again. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

THAT’S THE TICKET

People won’t be able to buy tickets in person at the stadium to start the season. Instead, they can buy tickets electronically and have them sent right to their phone. Fans can then display their phones or printouts for the park’s touchless ticket scanners. Fans can purchase tickets at SeaDogs.com or by calling (207) 879-9500. Another thing that will make entry faster and cut down crowds at the park gate is that, this year, there will be four different entrances open for fans to come in, and each fan will be assigned a specific gate to enter and exit from.

Tickets are more expensive than usual this year, as one might expect because of the extra measures being taken and fewer tickets being sold. So ticket prices to start the season will be $19 for box seats, $18 for reserved seats and $17 for grandstand seats, compared to a range of $9 to $11 in 2019. If the Sea Dogs are able to increase attendance during the season, prices will go down, the team has said.

For now, tickets will only be sold on a month-to-month basis. Tickets for May games went on sale April 14 and tickets for June games will go on sale in mid-May.

THE VIP TREATMENT

The Sea Dogs will be renting out their sky box suites, for eight fans, at a cost of $300 per game. The suites have seats both inside the box and just outside, in the stadium. Each suite comes with an HDTV, a refrigerator and air conditioning. The box’s eight tickets are ” for fans to utilize for members of their own household/bubble of trusted people,” the Sea Dogs website says. So don’t rent the box and then invite folks off the street. Plexiglass has been installed outside of each box, to separate it from the other boxes.

Hadlock Field won’t stay empty much longer. Opening day is Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

FUN STUFF

Slugger the Sea Dog will still be at games this year, dancing and prancing about, though probably not cozying up to fans for photos. “For now Slugger won’t be able to visit closely with fans but will still be a big part of our entertainment,” wrote Chris Cameron, the Sea Dogs vice president for communications and fan experience, in an email. Every Wednesday game throughout the season will feature a bobblehead giveaway. On May 5, the first 500 fans will receive a bobblehead of Bobby Dalbec, a former Sea Dog and current member of the Red Sox. On May 26, it’s pitcher Darwinzon Hernandez, another former Sea Dog currently with the big league club. Other promotions scheduled for May include fireworks on May 28 after the game and a hat giveaway on May 30.

For more information on games, safety protocols and ticket updates, go to SeaDogs.com.

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