(Portland,ME) Lots going on as the Portland Sea Dogs opened their 25th home season with a 4-2 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on Friday night.
The home opener is always special all by itself but when you throw in celebrity Tim Tebow and rehabbing Drew Pomeranz you’ve got plenty more.
Tim has been a crowd magnet everywhere he plays. He’s also a media magnet! Tonight’s game was scheduled to start at 6PM but I arrived early for a chance to watch Binghamton’s batting practice.
My earliness turned into my being part of 10+ media outlets interviewing Tim before batting practice.
Tim Tebow’s press conference
I had heard Tim talk on TV before, so nothing surprised me about the way he handled ten minutes of media questions. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and appears to enjoy the interaction.
I couldn’t get close enough to activate my digital recorder, but it didn’t matter because I was chasing pictures. Interviewed players provide the best picture-taking opportunity.
After the Tebow media session ended, there were Portland players available to talk to. I had not planned to talk with players but moved in on an interview with Cole Sturgeon (Sea Dogs outfielder) and later did a solo interview with Danny Mars (another Sea Dogs outfielder).
Cole referenced the weather: “I am happy to be back home (Hadlock Field), although the weather takes some getting used to since I’m from Florida.”
Cole also talked about Tim Tebow. Cole was born and raised in Atlanta (“I was a Falcons fan.”) but moved to Florida when he was fifteen. “I know so much about him. He’s a legend and getting to play against him is an honor. It is amazing what he’s doing after taking ten years off from baseball.”
Danny Mars hit over .300 last season in Portland. I asked him about what it would take to get to the next level: “My hitting was pretty consistent last year. I need to work on the little things like defense and baserunning.” One thing he wasn’t working on was power hitting: “I’m not much of a power hitter. I did have six homers last year, but I usually try to stay within myself at the plate and not try to do too much.”
I left those two conversations wondering if I might be able to arrange more of them (pre-game) in the future.
I have taken pictures at Hadlock for a few years now, so I have learned where the home pitchers usually warm up. I positioned myself in the food pavilion along the right field line to await Drew Pomeranz. He showed up and I had several clean shots of him.
Then I moved into the area near the Portland dugout for pictures of him coming there before the start of the game. I ended up with my best picture of Drew during his walk to the dugout.
Meanwhile, Tim had come back out from the Binghamton locker room and bee-lined it across the field to their dugout. Tim had interacted with a few fans after batting practice. There were plenty of autograph seekers near the Binghamton dugout. Many of his fans have UFlorida (Gators) connections.
Tim Tebow swings and misses against Drew Pomeranz
The players from both teams were introduced. Biggest cheer? Tim Tebow. No question that many in the house had come to see him. You don’t have to have exhaustive brain power to figure out why the New York Mets organization promoted Tim to the next level after a mediocre season: He draws crowds. Binghamton, which had the lowest attendance in the Eastern League last year, will probably do a lot better this year. Any EL city the Rumble Ponies visit will have increased crowds.
One thing I wish I had done would have been to interview a Binghamton player and find out what it was like having Tim on the team.
The question of who should throw out the first pitch for the Portland home opener had been discussed within the Sea Dogs organization. Club President Charlie Eshbach had even prepared a list, but his long-time connection to the team made it certain that on the 25th anniversary, he should be the ceremonial tosser, and he was.
Cole Sturgeon leads off with a home run in the first inning.
Cole Sturgeon greeted the RB’s starter Andrew Church with a home run in the first inning.
Drew gave up four hits in 5 1/3 innings and got the win.
On one of Binghamton’s hits, Peter Alonso connected for a 2-run homer. Drew claimed afterwards that he didn’t want to walk anyone, so he threw something straight where he might have used a curve and it got hit.
First baseman Peter Alonzo is the #4 Mets prospect. He was selected in the second round in 2016.
I also got a look at the #17 Mets prospect, Jhoan Urena.
I enjoyed, as always, my visit to Hadlock. I got there early enough that I was able to park without being charged!
I was able to view the game from a nice spot, with a chair, just beyond the Sea Dogs dugout.
Thanks to Chris Cameron for arranging the visit.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
Tim Tebow press conference
Peter Alonzo – 4th Mets prospect
Sea Dogs President Charlie Eshbach
Sea Dogs bring equipment
Drew Pomeranz heads to the dugout before the game
Drew warming up in the outfield
Tim in the dugout
Tim meets the press
Tim during batting practice
Tim shares a laugh with a Florida fan
Tim watching from the Binghamton dugout