The Great Ohio Ballpark Tour may be over, but the baseball keeps coming.
On Wednesday night I went to Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine to see the hometown Sea Dogs (Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox) host the Akron Rubberducks (Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate) in a doubleheader. I had been to the park a few times in the past, but this time I really focused on exploring everything Hadlock Field has to offer; and now, I’m here to pass that knowledge on to you.
Oh boy, did Game 1 get ugly fast. Akron plated four runs in the second inning, with Luigi Rodriguez bringing home two runs on a first-pitch double. Sea Dogs pitcher Elih Villenueva got through the third inning unscathed, but gave up four more runs in the fourth, including home runs to top prospect Francisco Mejia and Luigi Rodriguez. The Rubberducks batted around in the next inning, adding EIGHT more runs to extend their lead to 16-1. Rodriguez finished a triple shy of the cycle, and Mejia had 6 RBI, but it was a team effort from Akron in this one; every batter registered a hit, and every batter crossed home at least once. We were all really glad this game was only seven innings. FINAL LINE: Akron 21–22–1; Portland 4–6–4.
Game 2 looked like more of the same at the start. Sea Dogs starter Jake Drehoff gave up five runs in the first inning, punctuated by Eric Haase’s 3-run homer. Portland didn’t roll over and play dead though, cutting into the lead in the bottom of the first with Mike Olt bringing home lead-off man Danny Mars. Drehoff settled down after the first, only allowing one unearned run in the second. Meanwhile, Portland kept chipping away, plating two runs in the third and another two in the fourth. Mike Olt’s solo shot to lead off the fifth inning tied the ballgame 6-6. The game (which was supposed to go 7 innings) went to extras, where Akron’s hero of the night Luigi Rodriguez put the nail in the coffin with a solo shot off reliever Josh Smith. FINAL LINE: Akron 7–11–2; Portland 6–9–1.
In many ways, Hadlock Field feels like an overgrown Little League park. The external facade is rather understated. The seating is only single-level, not two decked (with the exception of the press boxes behind home plate. Beyond the outfield fans can see trees, not the skyscrapers and industry of other city-based ballparks. Hadlock was built as a bit of an afterthought in a more residential area, rather than other city ballparks built to be a primary draw to a district.
I had seats down the first base line in the outfield. I was surprised to see netting this far down the line; I’m in favor of extending the netting at most parks up to the end of the dugout, but at this distance it seemed a bit unnecessary. The view of the infield wasn’t bad, though I struggled to see some of the plays out in right field. Finally, for fans going to evening games at Hadlock Field, I’d highly recommend seats on the third base line. The sun was right in our eyes for most of the first game, and the seats on the third base were both in shade and a little more protected by the wind.
The concourse looks and feels simplistic, but there’s something nice about that. It is well away from the action though; you can’t keep an eye on the game while you wait in line for food. Speaking of food options, Portland has most of the standards, though when in season they do offer lobster rolls.
It’s in the beer options where Hadlock Field excels. On the third base line, the main drinks option is the Shipyard Grill. Shipyard is a local Portland brewery, and has at least 6 different drafts on tap. At the other end of the ballpark is another, smaller stand with local craft beers like Sea Dog brewery. If you enjoy cracking open a cold one at the ballgame, Hadlock Field is the place for you.
My colleague Brett Hall is a connoisseur of minor league ballpark team shops, but he might not enjoy the shop at Hadlock Field; or, rather, the small shack.
Besides the standard ballcaps and a few other clothing items, the souvenir “shoppe” was pretty underwhelming.
For someone used to a big-city ballpark like Detroit or even Cleveland, Hadlock Field will feel a bit less exciting and advanced. But it fits the city of Portland and the state of Maine, famous for being a more slow-paced, vacation area. Hadlock Field is a perfect example of the idea that the ballpark must fit the city. Hadlock Field brands itself as “Your Nine Inning Vacation;” a bit cliche, perhaps, but entirely accurate for this understated, down-to-earth ballpark.