Ray Sapirstein plays the cornet with the Bellamy Jazz Band as the gates open and fans pour into Hadlock Field to watch the Portland Sea Dogs play New Hampshire Fisher Cats in their season opener Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

On his way to Hadlock Field, Mike Violette of Scarborough stopped at Calvary Cemetery in South Portland.

“Dropped a ticket off,” he said, “for my dad.”

Violette’s dad drove a truck that only had AM radio. He would listen to games and rehash them the following morning with his son. Mike would perch on the edge of the bathtub in Cumberland and listen while his dad shaved before going to work.

“He was the reason I love baseball,” Violette said.

That 15 years have passed since Violette’s father died did nothing to diminish the bond between them, and Opening Day serves as an annual reminder. Friday marked the 28th such Hadlock opener for Violette, a season-ticket holder since professional baseball returned to Portland in 1994.

After a morning of soaking rain produced puddles in the outfield, sunshine and mid-50s temperatures greeted baseball fans returning to Hadlock Field for the first relatively normal Sea Dogs opener since 2019. The official attendance was 6,836 – just shy of a sellout.


COVID wiped out minor league ball in 2020 and delayed the start of last season, which began in May with socially distanced pod seating. On Friday, however, the Bellamy Jazz Band ushered fans through the front gates, a tradition that began when the Sea Dogs wore teal and black as the Double-A affiliate of the nascent Florida Marlins.

“We kind of set the table for the game,” said Dave Debree, 69, who plays tenor saxophone.

“They like their traditions,” said Ray Sapirstein, who wore a Mets cap and played cornet.

A short distance away, Blair Sly of Portland finished locking his orange cargo bike while his 6-year-old daughter, Maya, pranced toward the main gate in a sequined jacket. This was her first game, and she knew she wanted a Sea Dogs biscuit, Hadlock’s signature treat of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies.

“She’s been looking forward to this for weeks,” Sly said. (Sadly, supply-chain issues forced the Sea Dogs into a Blue Bunny back-up biscuit instead of the venerable Gifford’s version, a temporary measure, according to team officials.)

Pam Barker of Freeport fist bumps fellow season ticket holder Gary Logan of Westbrook after entering Hadlock Field to watch the Sea Dogs’ season opener. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Behind home plate in Section 106, 84-year-old Abbott Knowles of Westbrook settled in with his scorecard and can of Geary’s Pale Ale. He wore a teal winter jacket over a flannel shirt and sat beside his grandson, 21-year-old Seth Majic, a student at the University of Southern Maine.


Knowles had worried the morning rain would render the field unplayable and delay the opener.

“If anything,” he said, “it greened it up a little bit.”

White stars painted along a blue background embraced the umpire, catcher and batter in a festive half-circle at home plate. Traditional red-white-and-blue bunting hung only outside the stadium. Major League Baseball, which took over the minors before last season, prohibits anything draping from the stands that could entangle a baseball.

Another twist came during pregame introductions, when the visiting Fisher Cats came out along the third-base line and players and staff of the Sea Dogs stood between home and first base. Katie Krall, resplendent in red sleeves and a crisp white uniform with the number 43 on the back, took her place in line as the team’s development coach – the first such uniformed woman in Sea Dogs history.

“It’s about time,” said Judith Hill of Scarborough, a season ticket holder since 1994 who cheered loudly when Krall was introduced. “There are some good women out there. I want to see more of it.”

Next to Hill, Dawn Stillings of Cumberland was posting a photo of Krall amid the rest of the team on social media, surrounding her with a white star. “I am Instagramming right now,” Stillings said.


After a respectful moment of silence in honor of two longtime Hadlock ushers who passed away this winter – Mary Erskine and Gabe Walker – the anthem was sung and the game began … with a home run by New Hampshire’s Tanner Morris on Chris Murphy’s first pitch.

Moments later, 8-year-old Xander Inosencio of South Portland corralled the season’s first foul ball and Sea Dogs second baseman David Hamilton (acquired by the Red Sox in the Hunter Renfroe/Jackie Bradley Jr. trade) led off the home first with a triple (that he followed with two home runs, including a grand slam).

Back in Section 112, down a few rows from the newly married Violette (his wedding band sports stitches like a baseball), Leslie Merrill took in her 28th season opener.

“It’s fun to be here,” she said. “It means that summer is coming.”

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