Thursday, August 19, 2010

Down on the farm

I missed my second Sox game in a row last night, postponing my visual reunion with a certain previously-injured second baseman. Some might question my dedication to the local nine, but only if they didn't know where I actually was: watching some baby Red Sox at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine.

Four summers ago, a young man from my hometown of North Conway, New Hampshire was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the second round. Since then, southpaw Jeff Locke was included in a trade for Nate McLouth, and is now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, currently pitching for the Double-A Altoona Curve, meaning his schedule finally includes an easily reachable game for his legions of local well-wishers.

Locke delivers to Sea Dogs right fielder Matt Sheely.

Of course, I love Hadlock Field and the Sea Dogs, and would go any day of the week, but the Curve's presence in Portland made it easier to entice people to accompany me, so I've been there the last two nights. Unfortunately, the Sea Dogs lost both games, but what seemed like all of North Conway was happy last night as Locke, the "Redstone Rocket," pitched seven innings of shut-out baseball and got the win.

All was not lost for the junior Red Sox, as their own pitchers allowed just one run on four hits, and all three of the hits allowed by Locke were for extra-bases, as Jorge Padron (LF), Ryan Khoury (3B), and Che-Hsuan Lin (CF) all smashed doubles against the overpowering lefthander.

Tuesday night was less crowded, but still disappointing for those who root for the home team, as the Sea Dogs fell, 2-4. However, Jose Iglesias returned from the disabled list with a hit and several spectacular plays in the field, while catching prospect Luis Exposito went 2-for-5 with a double.

The "road to the show" stops in Portland, Maine.

While injuries on the big club have all but depleted the major league-ready talent from the Sox system, there is a light at the end of Theo's "Bridge." The Sea Dogs, at least, look like they're weathering the storm; their players are performing well, and though they currently have a losing record, that can be attributed to the loss of stars like Ryan Kalish and Felix Doubront to bigger and better things.

If you can, I highly recommend a visit to Hadlock Field. The Sea Dogs put everything they have on the field nightly, and it's fun to watch the future. The field itself is a gem: you won't pay more than $12 to watch, and there's not a bad seat in the house - unless a local hero is in town, general admission seats can easily land you 10 rows behind home plate.

It's a great destination, and Portland is a great city. The local fans are knowlegable - both about the Sea Dogs and the big club - and are always happy to chat. Every Red Sox fan should make it a point to catch some minor league games, and if Portland is a feasible destination, you'll have a great time.

You might also see a sweet vanity plate like this one... Spotted outside Hadlock Field last night.

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