PORTLAND – Eric Jenkins caught his first glimpse of the newest fan section of Hadlock Field when it was still under construction last November.
“I saw it when they were breaking ground during the (high school) football tournament (next door at Fitzpatrick Stadium), and I wasn’t sure what they were doing,” he said. “Then I came up here and (said) Wow, that’s a good place to sit.”
Jenkins, from Lisbon, and his nine-year-old son Michael, were among the first to claim their seats in right field for the Portland Sea Dogs’ home opener yesterday. Father and son had watched the Sea Dogs play a couple of times before from seats on the first base side, but they were excited about the possibilities to be had in the new section.
“This is the perfect place to watch a game,” Jenkins said. “It’s perfect to see every pitch, see every hit. It may even be the only place to catch a home run.”
Jenkins was one of about 300 executives and associates from U.S. Cellular seated in the pavilion that bears the company’s name. He was joined by Gov. John Baldacci, Portland Mayor James Cohen and over 60 children from the YWCA of Greater Portland.
Inspired by the “Monster Seats” at Fenway Park, the pavilion seats 393 fans “counter-style”, allowing fans to sit or stand at counter tops without blocking the view of others behind them.
The section extends above the right field wall from the right field corner to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen and is a mere 340 feet from home plate, so bring a glove if you plan on sitting there. Also, If you’re coming for a night game, bring your sunglasses. The sun sets behind the third base side of the stadium.
The section brings Hadlock Field’s seating capacity to over 7,000 and has its own entrance, concession stand and restrooms. Tickets cost the same as regular box seats, $8 for adults and $7 for seniors and children.
A total of 15 Sea Dogs from last year’s Northern Division championship squad have returned to Portland. That includes last year’s starting outfield of Chris Durbin, Brandon Moss and David Murphy. Alberto Concepcion, who caught Jonathan Papelbon in last year’s home opener, was back behind the plate. Starters David Pauley, Kason Gabbard and Chris Smith are the only pitchers left over from last year’s home-opening roster.
Odds and ends
Don Lemon, who threw the first pitch in the history of the Portland Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field in April, 1994, tossed out the ceremonial first pitch last night…The hitting coach for Binghamton is former Red Sox infielder John Valentin, who is in his first year as a coach…..The game was umpired by replacement umpires from the college ranks. The minor league umpire’s union is on strike….Portland made two roster moves Thursday, transferring right-handed pitcher Charlie Zink to Triple-A Pawtucket and receiving left-handed pitcher Randy Beam from extended spring training…The Sea Dogs are 7-6 all-time in home openers and have hosted Binghamton in their home-opener five times in the last six years…Game-time temperature was a robust 57 degrees, with the wind blowing out to right at 13 MPH…Portland’s first homestand of the season continues today with a 6 p.m. start with the Mets. Plenty of seats are available.Lefty Kason Gabbard gets the call for Portland against Miguel Pinango. That game will be followed by back-to-back 1 p.m. starts on Saturday and Sunday. A three-game set with New Britain starts on Monday.