Portland Sea Dogs players will be wearing this special hat on Wednesday to help raise awareness about the Deaf and hard of hearing community. The hand on the cap is making the sign for “P” in American Sign Language. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Sea Dogs will be back playing home games in Portland this week, but they won’t be wearing their usual jerseys when they take the field Wednesday.

The name “Sea Dogs” that stretches across the players’ chests will be spelled out in red hand icons of the American Sign Language alphabet rather than in the team’s standard red bubble letters.

The jerseys were specially made for the Sea Dogs’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Night Wednesday.

Sea Dogs Vice President Chris Cameron said the team has been planning this night since the day after the mass shooting in Lewiston October. Four deaf people were among the 18 people who were killed and five deaf people were among the 13 who were injured.

The immediate aftermath of the shooting also revealed major problems and gaps in communication with the Deaf community. Sign language interpreters were kept out of hospitals and not present at news conferences for the first few hours after the shooting, making it almost impossible to get accurate information out to family and friends of victims.

Among those in attendance Wednesday will be the family of Joshua Seal, one of the four deaf victims of Maine’s deadliest shooting.


Liz Seal, the widow of Josh Seal, with her children, left to right, Jayson, 13, Jaxton, 4, Sephine, 10, and Jarrod, 6, at their home Friday. Seal and her family plan to attend the Sea Dogs’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Night Wednesday. The Sea Dogs will wear jerseys with American Sign Language wording and auction them off at the end of the game. The proceeds will go to the camp that Josh Seal founded, the Dirigo Experience. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Seal founded the Dirigo Experience, a camp for deaf and hard of hearing children hosted by Pine Tree Camp, and worked as the director for interpreting services at Pine Tree Society. Seal also worked as an interpreter for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really wanted to support the Deaf community,” Cameron said. “As a sports team, we want to be more than just a baseball team.”

The Sea Dogs partnered with the Maine Association of the Deaf, Yarmouth Audiology, and the Scarborough-based Pine Tree Society, a nonprofit that supports people with disabilities in Maine.

Cameron said that these organizations already have sold around 400 tickets to their members.

After the game, the Sea Dogs will auction off autographed ASL jerseys and donate the proceeds to the Dirigo Experience. The Sea Dogs also have other merchandise with the ASL alphabet available for purchase on their website.

Liz Seal, Josh Seal’s wife, said baseball was her husband’s favorite sport and that the family had attended Sea Dogs games for many years.



Jayson, Seal’s 13-year-old son, will throw the first pitch of the game Wednesday night. Seal said Jayson was both nervous and excited.

“I asked him why he was nervous and he said he was afraid he might miss or it wouldn’t be a good pitch,” Seal said. “But I think he’s really honored as well.”

Liz Seal communicates with a reporter through an ASL interpreter about the Sea Dogs’ upcoming Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Night. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Seal said Jayson plays on the baseball team for their town, Lisbon, and also plays on the All-Star team in the summer. But Seal said that the family and team have felt Josh’s absence this season.

“Jayson’s first baseball game this season was an odd feeling for us. Josh has always been there, one of the biggest supporters, our biggest cheerleader,” Seal said.

Seal noted that she and Jayson even miss Josh’s “Dad reminders” and critiques about Jayson’s baseball playing.


“Always in those wonderful moments, Dad should be there, cheering you on and rooting for you,” Seal said.

Seal hopes the events Wednesday night can secure funds for the camp her husband founded, which three of her four kids – Jayson, 13, Sephine, 10, and Jarrod, 6 – will attend this summer. Her son Jaxton, 4, is too young to attend, but Seal will join them as a staff member.

“We really want to make sure that the funding is in place so that it can pay for all of our deaf and hard-of-hearing children who want to go to camp,” Seal said. “We want to make sure they have direct access to sign language and to that commonality of being a deaf individual.”

Cameron said that in the past, jersey auctions generated anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 in funds.

Chris Cameron, vice president of communications and fan experience for the Portland Sea Dogs, shows off the American Sign Language Sea Dogs jersey that players will wear during the game Wednesday. The jerseys say “Sea Dogs” in American Sign Language. Shirts will be auctioned off to benefit a Maine camp for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


Dawn Willard-Robinson, director of the Pine Tree Camp that hosts the Dirigo Experience, said the funds from the jersey auction will go directly to paying campers’ tuition. Willard-Robinson said the camp has an open-door policy and doesn’t turn any campers away.


“Josh Seal decided it was really important to bring kids together and have a shared experience,” Willard-Robinson said. “A lot of times you’re the only deaf person in the community.”

The program, for children 8 to 16 years old, will run Aug. 19-25. Willard-Robinson said the camp hosts plenty of waterfront activities, sports, arts and crafts, and more for the campers. She also said social workers are available for campers this summer.

“This year, with Josh being gone, I think it’s going to be really important to bring the community together and to have a return to normalcy,” Willard-Robinson said. “That’s a part of healing. We just want to continue the legacy of the camp in Josh’s memory.”

Seal said she and her family feel her husband’s absence daily.

“Really, every day, regardless of the day there’s some type of impact or there’s a moment,” Seal said.

She specifically mentioned the family’s beach days and camping trips, where he would have fun in nature and play with their children.


“Josh was a very active guy and he liked to build sandcastles and be with the kids, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a pitch on the beach, in the water, even in the coldest of water temps,” Seal said. “He was a super hands-on father, the whole way.”

As well as honoring Josh’s legacy, Seal said Wednesday night is meant to center around the visual needs of the Deaf and hard of hearing, something that rarely happens in the hearing world.

Cameron said that normally the team has no formal process for when a deaf fan attends a game, but that stadium workers previously were able to communicate with deaf fans via pen and paper.


On Wednesday, the Sea Dogs will have sign language interpreters located on top of the third base dugout, with best viewing of the interpreters in sections 211 and 212. Interpreters also will be available at the service kiosks and concession stands if needed.

The gates for the 6 p.m. game against the Richmond Flying Squirrels will open at 4:30 p.m., and the first 1,000 fans to enter the stadium Wednesday will receive William Hoy baseball cards, one of the most influential and successful deaf baseball players.


Middle schoolers from the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf, located in Falmouth, will perform the National Anthem.

“I know often when we have events within the community we overlook the Deaf community and their needs for access for interpreting services. So I’m hoping this spreads awareness, especially after Lewiston,” Seal said.

Seal also noted there is more work to be done.

“We hope that (Lewiston) would never happen again, but should there be another situation, we want to make sure that the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities are at the forefront of individuals’ minds,” Seal said. “That we have a step-by-step policy in place so that individuals know exactly what to do, making sure we have interpreters on screen, that there are alerts that are shared with the community, visual alerts.”

“Right now we’re just so focused on the hearing population and the auditory access that they need,” Seal said. “We should consider the visual needs of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

Related Headlines

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Sun Journal account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.