Bryce Harper watches from the dugout.
(Portland ME) I’ll admit that I looked at the Portland Sea Dogs schedule after Bryce Harper had been promoted to AA Harrisburg in July.
I found that the Harrisburg Senators (Washington Nationals farm team) were in Portland, August 22-24, with a noon game on the 24th. Looking for daylight photo opportunities, I chose that noon game as my target date and made arrangements with Sea Dogs media relations director Chris Cameron.
I had been to Hadlock Field in June of 2009 to do a story on Newburyport’s Todd Jamison, who was on staff then. Chris had set up the press credentials for me then as well.
The goal was to get some photos of baseball action and possibly a picture or two of 18-year-old phenom Bryce Harper.
Imagine my chagrin when I read on August 19th that Bryce was injured the night before in Akron, the series before the Sea Dog series. He had pulled a hamstring and had to be helped off the field. Say goodbye to seeing him in Portland on the 24th……….so I thought at the time.
I assumed Bryce would return to Harrisburg for treatment and sit out the rest of the season. Imagine my delight to find out that he was with the team in Portland. I learned that in the Portland Press Herald notes. So at least there might be a chance to catch him. However, I had every intention of attending the noon game whether Bryce was there or not.
I checked in with Chris Cameron after I took a walk around the perimeter of the field. He helped me identify some pictures of Sea Dog players I had taken on my visit to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in June. I also asked him about Bryce and he said that Bryce had signed briefly before and after the Monday game and had been in the bullpen during the Tuesday game.
If this is starting to sound like a scavenger hunt you’re right, it was for me. This was my version of “Where is Elmo!”
I was inside Hadlock Field before the players arrived and I was in a position to see any players coming and going on the field. However, the players I started seeing had workout clothes on and I couldn’t identify any of them without a number.
So I decided to escape to the press box to get out of the sun – it was a beautiful day. In a while I became aware of a group of autograph seekers gathering near the Harrisburg dugout. My gut told me that they were looking for Bryce. I figured that if he showed up I would go onto the field and get a picture or two of him signing. He never showed up.
As time went on, the players working out departed, and the field became empty. Then a few players, now in uniform trickled back onto the field as game-time approached. That was when I made my move to get into the photographer’s spot in the Harrisburg dugout.
Let me tell you about being a photographer at Hadlock. Chris gave me the specs on it. Each dugout had a small space down the outfield end of the dugout where you stand. You could also get out of the dugout into a small space further along. Great view of the game in either spot BUT neither spot had any protection from a batted or thrown ball! As Clint Eastwood said, “Are you feeling lucky??”
I decided to chance it. My survival strategy was to not take any pictures of batters in case they ripped one my way while I was taking a picture. My suspect reflexes were never tested. I did, however, see a fast grounder put a camera man on the Portland dugout side into a duck-or-die situation.
Bryce Harper arrives just before game starts.
As the start of the game got closer, I wondered if Bryce was down the left field line in the bullpen or was not going to appear at all. But then, just about five minutes before the game was to start a lone figure strolled across the field behind home plate……..my intended target had arrived!
The Harrisburg dugout area had long been cleared of autograph seekers by now and Bryce slipped into the dugout virtually unnoticed. Without a number on his back and buried in a dugout, it would be tough for anyone to know he was there. I had seen a few pictures of him so I knew.
Harrisburg (73-57) had several talented players, so I followed the action on the field and shot selected players on the field and as they came toward me at the end of an inning.
Erik Arnesen - Harrisburg pitcher graduated from Grove City College.
I wanted to get pitcher Erik Arnesen and I did. Not only is he pitching well this season but he is a graduate of Grove City College – my nephew Stephen Hagberg’s alma mater. I mentioned it to Erik and got him to pose for a picture.
I also wanted to be sure to get first baseman Tyler Moore. Tyler helped matters by getting his Eastern League-leading 28th homer in this game and getting his league-leading 81st RBI as well. Only 6-2/185, the 24-year-old generated some serious power in this game.
Another picture I sought to get was of Derek Norris. This catcher is the Washington Nationals 2nd ranked prospect according to Baseball America. The 22-year-old didn’t play but he did warm up pitchers before most innings so I had that chance to get his picture.
Speaking of pitchers, the starter for Harrisburg was Oliver Perez. Yes, that Oliver Perez! 10-7 with the NY Mets in 2008 and 15-10 the year before. His career fell apart in 2009-10 and the Mets released him. He signed with the Senators as a minor league free agent in March of this year. In this game, he went 4 2/3 but a high pitch count (102) and runners on base put an end to his afternoon and kept him from getting the win.
Not surprisingly, based on my initial goal, I did get a number of shots of Bryce. He spent most of the game down the other end of the dugout which made it easier to for me to take non-intrusive pictures.
Tyler Moore - Leads Eastern League in homers (28) and RBI (81)
Harrisburg won the game, 9-3, riding three homers (Tyler Moore, Tim Pahuta, Chris Rahl) and solid relief pitching. The teams combined for 23 hits and both teams had applause-deserving plays in the field.
This has been a struggle of a year for the Portland Sea Dogs (53-77). The loss today mathematically eliminated Portland from the Eastern League playoffs. The franchise started in 1994 with an inglorious 60-81 season that set the substandard until now. The 2011 Sea Dogs will be fortunate to get to 60 wins the rest of the way. In this one, the Sea Dogs were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded thirteen runners. Tough to win doing that!
One of the features at Hadlock Field, is a picturing of current Red Sox players who have played for Portland. It’s quite a list with Ryan Lavarnway not yet added.
Jeff Morris homered for Portland. The 28-year-old catcher was picked up from the Lincoln (NE) Saltdogs of the independent American Association a few days ago. His long one had to make him feel good.
Jimmy Barthmaier - winning pitcher
Jimmy Barthmaier relieved Oliver Perez in the 5th with two runners on and two out. He hit the first batter (Reynaldo Rodriguez) but got a ground out from Morris to end the threat. Jimmy would eventually pitch three innings and get his fifth win.
Third baseman Tim Pahuta (6-4/225) hit the longest ball of the game. The left-handed batter creamed a Jeremy Kehrt pitch into a US Cellular banner beyond the right field seats. It’s 330 feet down the line. Tim’s blast was heading for Fitzpatrick Stadium beyond right field until the banner interfered.
The best memory of the visit may have been the Sea Dog mascot chasing a 6-year-old boy around the bases. Despite missing a few front teeth, the delighted young man got to the plate first.
My second visit to Hadlock was terrific – just like the first. The arrangements to see the game were easily put together and the folks on hand at Hadlock couldn’t have been more helpful. They even provided good weather! A special thanks to Media Relations Director Chris Cameron.
(I take my own pictures and create my own captions. Mistakes are unintentional. If anyone wants to use any of these pictures in another place I agree to it as long as I get credit for the picture. By the way, if any of the pictures are clicked on they become larger. Enjoy.)
Tyler Moore into home run trot
Tim Pahuta in home run trot
Jeff Howell in home run trot
#2 Nationals prospect Derek Norris
steal of second base
young boy outruns Sea Dog mascot
steal attempt - Jeremy Hazelbaker
Current Red Sox who have played at Portland