I love going to Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine for a Sea Dogs game.
Why? The atmosphere is so unpretentious. There are no airs put on. The players hustle and their recognition by the fans is minimal. Top draft pick? Who cares? Let’s see some baseball played.
Today’s noon game had perfect summer weather to boot.
A big attraction at Portland is the concession stands. The smell of pizza and French fries is overwhelming. And there I am on a nutritarian diet in which such things are totally avoided!
While others fail to take note of top draft picks, I don’t. I can trace that “noticing” back to a game I covered in New Britain (CT) in 2012.
I somehow became aware that Gerrit Cole (#1 draft pick the year before) would be at the Twins former AA site representing the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Altoona team.
So I went to New Britain with a specific goal of getting a good Gerrit Cole picture. I managed that and also added shots of Brock Holt (leading Eastern League in hitting) and Aaron Hicks (New Britain outfielder).
Therefore, with that background, my latest visit to Hadlock included prospect chasing. Getting Rafael Devers earlier this summer convinced me that chances may end quickly.
Portland currently has 2014 first-rounder Michael Chavis on their roster while visiting Altoona has 2014 first-rounder Cole Tucker on theirs. Portland also has Josh Ockimey (5th round) and Mitch Keller (2nd round) from the same year.
Pitcher Mitch Keller was the important one. He is now the Pirates #2 prospect. He started in Bradenton this season moved to Altoona on August 4th. He is a pitcher on the rise.
Michael Chavis is a 22-year-old third baseman for Portland. He’s rated 3rd in the Red Sox prospect list. Where Michael fits into the Boston team of the future is a bit of a mystery.
Cole Tucker is ranked fifth by the Pirates and is a shortstop.
I had my first look at Boston’s Josh Ockimey. The tall first baseman has not been in AA very long. He’s rated the 10th Red Sox prospect.
I have now seen Michael Chavis twice. His ability put in quality at-bats reminds me of Rafael Devers. Neither player seems to be over-matched by pitching and both can hit the ball hard. I did not have the same vibes last summer with Yoan Moncada. Way too many swings-and-misses and that still seems to be the case for Yoan.
Another player who has impressed me during my recent Hadlock visits is outfielder Danny Mars. Again, trying to imagine an outfield future in Boston with the young B’s strongly entrenched is a stretch but you never know. Danny plays the position well and is hitting over .300 in his full season in Portland. I figure him for Pawtucket in 2018.
The star of the game I saw Thursday was Portland pitcher Trey Ball. Trey was a RS first-rounder in 2013. He looked exactly like he deserved to be that high pick with a 9-strikeout, 7-inning performance in Portland’s 2-0 win. It was likely the lefty’s best effort of the year.
The Big Event for me is always Slugger’s race against the very young. I continue to believe that a win is in his future and I want to be there when it happens.
As today’s race unfolded I couldn’t help but think that Slugger’s life-long losing streak was about to end. The big guy blazed around second leading by five yards. Around first he went on the final stretch still in good shape. But suddenly the big fellah ran out of gas. Too fast a start, I suspect. He just wilted near the first-base box and hit the ground. Meanwhile, the opponent, who was so young he had to be guided by a staff member, kept a race-long even pace and won easily. What’s the problem? It was a bit warm but it is obvious that Slugger is spending too much time walking the aisles of Hadlock greeting fans. His legs were shot by the time the race took place. An earlier race start would improve Slugger’s chances. Maybe my hero is being set up to lose every time? That would be outrageous.
More thanks to Chris Cameron for arranging Thursday’s visit.