The grass at Hadlock Field is still more brown than green, but that will change quickly. The Portland Sea Dogs are back in town and ready to begin the 2022 season.

The team held its first workout Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the season opener, a home game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at 6 p.m. Friday. The Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, finished with a 67-47 record last year – the team’s first winning season since 2014.

This year they’ll have a new manager in Chad Epperson, who spent a decade as the Red Sox minor league catching coordinator. Wednesday was his first opportunity to work with most of the players who will start the season with Portland.

“These guys have had a great spring training,” Epperson said. “Guys are excited about being here.”

Seventeen of the 32 players on the Sea Dogs roster spent at least some time with the team last season. The biggest question on the minds of newcomers and Portland veterans alike was the early season weather. Many of them were dressed for warmth Wednesday on an afternoon when the temperature struggled to climb above the mid-40s.

“I’ve never had to pitch in extremely cold weather. Here’s my chance,” said Chris Murphy, a left-handed pitcher from Granada Hills, California, who pitched in seven games for the Sea Dogs last season after his promotion from Class A Greenville in South Carolina. “I was asking more guys who were here at the beginning of last year what clothes I should pack, because I wasn’t here when it was cold.”


If the players eventually get to play in Boston, they have to be able to handle playing on a cold spring night, Epperson said.

“They come from all over. A lot of them, they’ve grown up and were raised in warmer states. At the end of the day, this is part of it,” Epperson said. “Our parent club is right down the road (in Boston). It’s cold there in April as well. You grit through it and grind through it and know we’re not the only ones.”

Epperson spent a part of Wednesday’s practice hitting balls off the Maine Monster, Hadlock’s version of the high left-field wall at Fenway Park. Players need to see how the ball plays off different part of the wall, he said. It will careen one way off the wall, and another off the metal cage protecting the scoreboard.

“It’s different, especially if you maybe have a free agent or a converted guy you’re trying to get exposed to the outfield,” said Epperson. “Fortunately for us, the level below us (Greenville), they have a green wall as well, so guys that have played left field there and are coming here have some familiarity with it.”

Nick Sogard was one of the players learning the fickleness of the wall. An infielder, Sogard could see time in the outfield this season.

“Try and keep them on second base. Don’t give away free bases,” Sogard said of his first impression of playing balls off the wall.


Players making the jump from High-A Greenville to Portland know this is often the level of pro ball that weeds out decent players from legitimate big league prospects.

“Obviously, Double-A is a big jump up from High-A. It’s one of the biggest jumps you’re going to make in professional baseball,” said Brandon Walter, a left-handed pitcher who went 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings for Class A Salem and Greenville last season. “The hitters are just smarter. They’re older. They’re not going to chase as much stuff outside the zone as younger guys in the lower levels. They’ll do more damage when you make mistakes in the middle.

“Everybody says Double-A is the separator. I’m kind of excited to see how I match up, how I’m going to attack these hitters.”

Fans visiting Hadlock Field can expect a variety of food options this season – including the return of the Shipyard Grill, which was unable to open last season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The team will have special promotions throughout the season, starting with a schedule magnet giveaway at Saturday afternoon’s game.

“We’ve got a number of things that will be rolled out during the season, that we’ll be announcing throughout the season,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the team’s president and general manager. “There’s some stuff, as we’ve all experienced, with some supply chain issues that are going to take a little longer despite having placed the order last summer.

Iacuessa added that there are still jobs available working concessions.

“That’s been our biggest challenge. We’re still hiring. We still trying to find help for our concessions,” he said.

After this weekend’s three-game series against New Hampshire, the Sea Dogs will take to the road for a six-game series at Harrisburg. They will return home on April 19 to play the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

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