Portland’s Field of Dreams

So we’re spending the fall in Portland, Maine, near where my daughter’s great-grandfather’s home on Peaks Island. The beauty here is remarkable, from the historic feel of downtown Portland to the idyllic calm of Casco Bay and its quirky islands. Over the weekend on Peaks Island, we ate lobster, walked the rocky coast and even traversed the Bay in a little sailboat owned by a neighbor. This is truly one of the most wonderful areas of North America.

Still, the highlight of my weekend occurred Sunday, during the penultimate Portland Sea Dogs game of 2010. The Sea Dogs, a franchise that dates back over 75 years to its time as the Portland Eskimos, are the Double-A Boston Red Sox Affiliate and have featured such eventual MLB stars as Jim Rice, David Ortiz, Mark Kotsay, Josh Beckett and Dustin Pedroia.

What the Sea Dogs have been known for in recent years, however, is their “Field of Dreams” promotion on Fan Appreciation Day, which we happened to catch on Sunday.

Before the game, between Portland and New Hampshire, a man dressed in a checkered sweater, knickers and a newsboy cap wandered the infield while a voice exclaiming “If you build it, they will come” boomed over the P.A.

“Do you hear that?” the man asked the crowd.

Eventually, he went into a monologue about Hadlock Field, the Sea Dogs’ home since 1994, which features a mock “Green Monster” in left. He thanked the fans for making Portland the most “successful minor-league city in America” and then welcomed the 2010 Sea Dogs, who emerged from a numerous cornstalks set up in centerfield.

Some players played their “Field of Dreams” part to the max, stumbling around wide-eyed and incredulous like the characters from the film who ostensibly emerged from purgatory into baseball heaven. After walking through the infield, all of the players entered the stands to shake hands with and personally thank each fan for coming to the game, which was a nice touch I’ll never forget.

After the game I got to thinking, as a born-and-raised Pittsburgh Pirates fan, that the Pirates – who broke the all-time North American sports record with their 17th losing season last year and have clinched their 18th already this year – should hold a similar promotion at the end of the 2010 season to cheer up their fans. But instead of the players emerging from a cornfield in center at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the entirety of the Pirates’ ownership, management and starting pitching should walk from the dugout into the outfield, disappear into stalks of corn and never come back.

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