For some people, summer kicks off with the last day of school; for others, it’s Memorial Day weekend; others again swear by the date of the solstice. For me, it’s not summer until my family has gone to our annual Sea Dogs game.

I always start out the game by saying I’m not there for the baseball. I’m there for time with whatever group of people I’m with. Because I’m not a sports person. Never have been. Most likely never will be. I don’t know any of the rules, and my glasses prescription is so outdated I can’t tell the teams apart if the Sea Dogs are playing anyone with the same color scheme. But I can see the scoreboard, and I know enough to know that when the number goes up, it’s good. And I know when we are winning.

The psychology behind being a fan of a sports team is fascinating. Humans crave a sense of belonging to distinct groups; we’re highly social animals. We identify with “our” teams, so even if we aren’t playing or don’t know any of the members personally, their win becomes our win and releases that triumphant dopamine into our nervous systems. Cheering and clapping at a game is a healthy release of emotion, and doing it in a big crowd – which the Dogs always pull, of course – can be a quasi-spiritual experience; the brief death of the self in order that one may be given over to the masses. Also, there are Sea Dogs biscuits.

At the game I went to, I thought for sure the Dogs were going to lose until they scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, beating the Richmond Flying Squirrels, 12-11. (Don’t minor league ball teams have the best names?) I started leaning forward in my seat when they started to catch up. By the time they hit 12, I was jumping up and down, waving my hands and screaming.

And I want to give a shout-out to Slugger, possibly the hardest-working member of the team. He was out there in polyester fur, doing backflips and losing athletic contests to small children in 90-degree heat with humidity. Hadlock Field has many wonderful qualities, but catching the ocean breeze isn’t one of them. Recently, Slugger was the first minor league mascot inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame, and I can’t think of a pinniped more deserving of the honor.

Slugger the Sea Dog turned 30 this year; he’s only a few months younger than my brother. His first appearance was in May 1994, which makes him – you guessed it – a millennial. He even has an Instagram! When I was growing up, we always saw him at a distance when we went to our annual family baseball game, because my little sister was terrified of him and would scream if he got within 30 feet. She’s better now. Mostly.


I assume the Slugger I saw last week is not the same Slugger from 1994; there’s no way a mascot who could hit the splits 30 years ago is still hitting the splits today. I’m only two years older than Slugger. and I already have a bulging disc in my spine. I like to imagine that the identity of Slugger is like that of the Dread Pirate Roberts in the classic film “The Princess Bride,” an identity passed down after a successor has proven himself worthy of the name. I hope there was an apprenticeship involved, and many tests of courage.

Hadlock Field is also a few back streets away from Maine Medical Center’s complex (where you are definitely not supposed to park for games, no sirree), and almost in the flight path of the LifeFlight helicopters, Maine’s air ambulance service. Twice during the game, we got to watch the choppers land and take off. Patient disembarkation was not visible, but I’ve seen it before, and it’s amazing to watch. A shout-out to those heroes as well.

I feel my dad’s presence when we’re at a baseball game. He was a sports guy, and because he was also kind of a nerd, he was a big stats guy. Baseball provides an awful lot of opportunities to memorize strings of decimals. When Dad and his buddies got together, it sometimes sounded like a mathematics conference. He’s been gone almost seven years now, but it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. One of the ways we keep him with us is by keeping up our traditions.

Play ball!

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Press Herald account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.