John Kameisha, senior vice president of the Portland Sea Dogs, will be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Kameisha has worked for the team since 1993. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

John Kameisha knows his name is probably the least recognizable among the 2021 inductees to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.

But Kameisha, who grew up a Yankees fan 15 miles from Yankee Stadium, has made an indelible mark on baseball in Maine. As an original employee of the Portland Sea Dogs, he has been the person behind all of the Sea Dogs merchandise sold at Hadlock Field.

“From day one, when there were only four of us in the office, I was assigned the souvenir store, and since 1993, every item that has been sold in that store is something that I have ordered,” said Kameisha, 64.

The Sea Dogs have ranked among the top 25 franchises in minor league baseball in merchandising sales every season of their existence.

This year’s 11 honorees will be formally inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday at a banquet at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

Kameisha started with the Sea Dogs before they ever played a game. He has worked as a minor league executive since 1987, including six seasons as an assistant general manager with the New Britain Red Sox. Kameisha was hired by then Sea Dogs president Charlie Eshbach prior to the end of the 1993 minor league season.

Once New Britain ended its season, Kameisha came to Maine in late September as the assistant general manager, and he’s still at Hadlock, now as the club’s senior vice president.

“We were working in a trailer and they were building the stadium,” Kameisha said of those early days. “That was one of the most exciting times.

“Winning the (Eastern League) championship in 2006 was probably the most exciting time, but that (first) year was unbelievable, starting a team and the support from the community was just off the charts. I loved that offseason.”

The Sea Dogs took the field for the first time when the renovated Hadlock Field opened on April 18, 1994.

“That was my son’s birthday. He was 2 years old,” Kameisha said. “I remember standing at the front gate and watching the gates being opened and watching the fans come in.”

Since 2002, Kameisha has been the team’s senior vice president. In addition to the souvenir store and merchandising, he is also the point person for selling advertising for the billboards inside the park and game programs.

“This is such a great honor for John to be recognized for his contributions to the Sea Dogs and the game of baseball in the state,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the Sea Dogs’ president and general manager.

Kameisha is entering the hall with four former major league players from southern Maine: Ryan Flaherty and Ryan Reid, who played at Deering High, Charlie Furbush of South Portland and former first-round pick Mark Rogers of Mt. Ararat High.

Also to be inducted are former college coaches Tom Dexter (Colby) and Jim Graffam (St. Joseph’s); University of Maine standouts Aaron Izaryk and Stu Lacognata, Bowdoin College star Matt Rogers of Falmouth, and the late Billy Snow, a semipro stalwart with the Farmington Flyers.

This summer, the inductees were honored at a Sea Dogs game.

“I was standing on the field with these guys and thinking, ‘Oh my God, why am I here?’” Kameisha said. “One of the things I’ll always remember was when Mark Rogers and Reid from Deering had the high school (state championship) game here and they had to move it to our ballpark because of ticket demand – and they really needed a stadium twice that size.

Flaherty also played in that 2004 Class A state title game, won by Deering, 6-1.

“Obviously I’m honored, but I’m also totally humbled,” Kameisha said. “My high school coach is probably going, ‘Are you sure you got the right guy?’ But obviously I’m not going in because of my playing career, but because of helping to bring fun, family entertainment to the community.”

Kameisha and his wife, Jennifer, raised their children, Dan, 29, and Julie, 26, in Yarmouth. The couple now lives in Portland. Kameisha said he can see retirement in his near future but wants to work at least through the 2022 season in hopes of having a “mostly normal” baseball season. No minor league games were played in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and last season started with significant capacity limits at Hadlock.

He said working for the Burke family, which owns the Sea Dogs, bosses like Eshbach and Iacuessa, and the team’s loyal employees made staying with the franchise an easy decision.

“I’m very happy here.”

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