The Portland Sea Dogs will return to Hadlock Field this year after missing the entire 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Flip the calendar to May and circle the number 4.

Weather permitting, baseball will be played at Hadlock Field that day, for the first time since Sept. 2, 2019.

After the coronavirus pandemic caused the 2020 Portland Sea Dogs season to be canceled and provoked anxiety about this year, the team was able to announce its 2021 schedule on Thursday. The Sea Dogs are slated to play 120 games – 60 at home – starting on May 4 against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

“I am absolutely ecstatic about getting back out to Hadlock,” said season-ticket holder Chris Cifelli of Auburn. Cifelli is the Edward Little High girls’ basketball coach, and he saw the Sea Dogs announcement during the bus ride back from a game.

“I couldn’t wait to open up the schedule. The Sea Dogs have become such a part of our spring and summer that when the season was canceled last year, it left quite a void.”

There was also celebrating in the Sea Dogs front office.

“It feels awesome,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the Sea Dogs’ president and general manager. “We have been talking about it since last summer. We’re all itching to get back at it.”

Iacuessa said game times, which must be approved by Major League Baseball, will likely be announced within the next two weeks.

There is still uncertainty over the number of fans who will be allowed to attend games at Hadlock. Maine’s current pandemic restrictions for outdoor spectator events is a maximum of 200 people.

The Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, developed a spacing plan that would allow for 25 percent capacity (1,842 fans) at Hadlock Field. The state has yet to decide on the team’s proposal.

Until the Sea Dogs know how many fans will be allowed, they cannot announce ticket sales. Iacuessa said ticket prices would also depend on the allowable attendance. Last year, before the pandemic hit, ticket prices ranged from $11 to $9, with discounts for those 62-and-over and 16-and-under.

“Once we get approval from the state, we then can set forth a plan,” Iacuessa said. He added that tickets would be sold on a month-by-month basis, with hopes for expanded capacity later in the season.

Iacuessa said all distancing and other precautions were considered in the Sea Dogs’ plan.

Season-ticket holder Laurie Pietroski, 64, of Falmouth was glad to hear that.

“I am so excited about the possibility of the Boys of Summer returning this year,” she said. “My only concern is that I won’t be vaccinated by the start of the season. … But I know everything will be done as safely as possible. Depending on how the seating will be arranged, I’ll be there. I can’t wait.”

For those unable to attend in person, minor league games can be viewed by subscription at milb.tv.

The 2021 schedule is different than in past years, reflecting safety precautions because of the pandemic and changes made by Major League Baseball, which has taken over operations of the minor leagues.

While Triple-A teams will begin playing a 142-game schedule in April, the other leagues are down to 120 games – a reduction of 20 games for the Sea Dogs. There will be no minor league all-star games this year.

Seasons used to end on Labor Day weekend, but will continue this year through Sept. 19.

One MLB initiative was to reduce the grind and expense of travel. The Sea Dogs’ schedule does that. Portland will play opponents in a six-game series – Tuesday through Sunday, with Mondays off. In previous years, a series would consist of three or four games, and rarely with a day off between road trips.

The Sea Dogs will play only six of their 11 league opponents, avoiding teams that are more than 500 miles away. Their six opponents are the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Hartford Yard Goats, Binghamton (New York) Rumble Ponies, Somerset (New Jersey) Patriots, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Senators, and Reading (Pennsylvania) Fightin Phils. The Sea Dogs will visit Somerset, Harrisburg and Reading only one time.

The Sea Dogs will not play against teams in Akron, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; Altoona, Pennsylvania; Bowie, Maryland; and Richmond, Virginia.

The Sea Dogs and Fisher Cats will become familiar with one another, playing 36 games – 30 percent of the schedule – against each other.

While major league teams opened their spring training camps this week – including several invited minor league players, especially those at the Triple-A level – the minor league camps are expected to open in late March or April.

This year’s Sea Dogs team, under first-year manager Corey Wimberly, should feature some of Boston’s top prospects, including slugging first baseman Triston Casas, second baseman Jeter Downs, catchers Ronaldo Hernandez and Connor Wong, and pitchers Thad Ward, Frank German and Josh Winckowski.

For Sea Dogs fans, watching top prospects will simply be a bonus atop of being able to simply watch a game.

“With what we’ve all gone through this past year,” said Cifelli, the season-ticket holder, “getting to a Sea Dogs’ game will mean so much more.”


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