PORTLAND, Maine — One by one, the baseball players emerged from a row of green corn stalks sprouting in deep center field. Wearing old-time, gray, baggy uniforms, they looked like an antique photograph, sprung to life.
“America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again,” a voice said over the loudspeakers, as stirring music swelled. “But baseball has marked the time.”
Some of the players looked around, as if surprised to be on a baseball diamond. Others gazed up at the blue sky, blinking, confused.
“This field, this game — it’s a part of our past,” the voice went on. “It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
The players smiled. Were they in heaven or Iowa?
It was Hadlock Field, in Portland, Maine, on a perfect Sunday afternoon, actually.
Clockwise from left: Kaden Booth, 6, (left) and Henry Orlando, 6, watch the Portland Sea Dogs play Sunday; the Sea Dogs bat against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies; and Portland Sea Dogs players emerge from cornstalks in center field on Sunday afternoon. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
The annual bit of pre-game pageantry before the Sea Dogs’ game on Sunday was inspired by the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.” It helped mark fan appreciation day and probably the team’s final home appearance. They likely will not make the playoffs.
As the movie music continued to play, the entire team ended up in the infield, tipping their caps while the crowd applauded. A few players had corn tassels in their teeth and at least one was holding a corn stalk like a bat on his shoulder.
After the cabaret, the Dogs got down to business, beating the Binghamton Rumble Ponies 10-3. It was their seventh win in a row, improving their season record to 63-45.
Portland pitcher Jay Groome dazzled in his second Double-A start, tossing six shutout innings while allowing just two hits. Groome walked one and struck out nine.
In 11 innings, over his first two starts, he’s allowed zero runs and struck out 19.
The Sea Dogs started their scoring barrage in the bottom of the second inning. Third baseman Hudson Potts reached on a fielder’s choice then moved to third on a double by Roldani Baldwin. Jeison Rosario then singled Potts home, scoring the first run.
Clockwise from left: Portland Sea Dogs shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald snags a fly ball near the mound in the team’s 10-3 victory over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on Sunday; Sea Dogs shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald watches a foul ball go into the stand in the first inning; and Sea Dogs manager Corey Wimberly waves to the applauding crowd before the team’s final home game of the season at Hadlock Field. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
Then, three consecutive singles drove home two more runs for the Sea Dogs. Later in the inning, with two on, shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald deposited a two-run single to left field and Portland led, 5-0.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Sea Dogs outfielder Devlin Granberg drew a leadoff walk. Fitzgerald then reached on a Rumble Ponies fielding error. Ronaldo Hernandez singled up the middle, driving home two more runs, extending Portland’s lead, 7-0. Hernandez then scored on an RBI groundout by Roldani Baldwin and the Sea Dogs led, 8-0, after the fifth inning.
Portland’s Kole Cottam blasted a leadoff homer to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was Cottam’s fourth of the season. Williams scored the Sea Dogs’ final run of the game after an RBI double by Granberg.
Clockwise from left: Slugger the Sea Dogs’ mascot shares a light moment with a fan on Sunday; Arthur Ellerfitze sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch; Sea Dogs third baseman Hudson Potts throws to first base; and a man and woman linger in the stands after the end of the baseball game at Hadlock Field on Sunday, when the Sea Dogs played their final home game of the season. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
All three of the Rumble Ponies’ runs came in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two on, Carlos Rincon hit a three-run homer to left field.
After the game, several Portland players signed autographs over the fence. Fitzgerald knelt between two barely school age boys and chatted with them for several minutes next to the home team dugout. Kids under 16 were also invited to run the bases. About a hundred touched home. Some ran as fast as they could while others clocked a more leisurely pace.
The Sea Dogs have Monday off then start a six-game series with the Yard Goats in Hartford.
The Dogs are currently in fourth place in the Double-A Northeast League. Only the top two teams in the league, regardless of division, will make the playoffs, meeting in the Championship Series starting Sept. 21.
With six games to go, Portland hasn’t yet been mathematically eliminated. But it would take an unlikely combination of wins and losses to get them into the series.
There’s always next year.