The Portland Sea Dogs experience is minor league baseball as it was meant to be. Located in the beautiful coastal city of Portland, Hadlock Field, with a capacity of just over 7,000, has something for everyone. While the Sea Dogs were strangely a Marlins affiliate from their founding in 1994 through 2002, their 2003 switch to the Red Sox made perfect sense in terms of both their geography and fan base. Now Red Sox fans who want to see the big league team's up-and-comers can get to Hadlock in a quick 2 hour drive from the Boston area to see the Double-A club. This switch also allowed the Sea Dogs to build the "Maine Monster," a 37-foot replica of Fenway's Green Monster, complete with Coke bottle and Citgo sign sitting atop it.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Hadlock field features one long concourse running from 3rd base all the way around to 1st. At the 3rd base end, you'll find the Shipyard "Brew Pen," featuring a range of the local brewery ales on tap for $5 a piece. The Fuggles IPA and the Chamberlain Ale are both quite good, and the bartenders will also offer you their "bartender's special," a mix of half summer and half blueberry that's quite tasty. Geary's, another local brew, is also available along the concourse. The food is mostly standard ballpark fare, including $3 hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, and big buckets of fries which are fresh and excellent with a dash of vinegar. Unique items include a fried fish sandwich at $4, or if you've got a strong stomach, the Fritos Chili pie, which is essentially two bags of fritos with chili for dipping. The must-have for dessert is the $3 SeaDog Biscuit, a chocolate chip cookie-vanilla ice cream sandwich that's perfect around the 7th inning (and you don't even have to leave your seat to get one - the stadium hawkers are easy to flag down). On the 3rd base end you'll find the micro brew grill shack, featuring more Shipyard taps and a selection of barbecue sandwiches.
As is the custom at many minor league parks, the Sea Dogs make a concerted effort to ensure their fans have a good time. In between every inning there's some form of fan contest, from little kids in a sing-off of the local amusement park's theme song, to racing Slugger, the team mascot, around the bases, to the hot dog toss, where two fans have to catch dogs in a big Kayem Hot Dogs box.
Additionally, the club has taken a cue from Fenway and has the crowd sing "Sweet Caroline" in the middle of the eighth inning. While the outcome of a Double-A game may sometimes feel insignificant, at Hadlock there was real interest in the on-field product, and the gimmicks never seemed to interfere with or take away from the action between the foul lines.
While there aren't a ton of options in the area immediately surrounding the ballpark, Portland is a small and fairly walkable city, giving fans the opportunity to explore without venturing too far afield. The Old Port area is either a short drive/taxi ride or a healthy walk (25-30 minutes) from the stadium. In the Old Port, you'll find scores of bars and restaurants situated along the harbor.
Worth stopping into is the Portland Lobster Co., where you can get local beers on tap, including Shipyard, Allagash and Geary's, and enjoy a lobster roll and some fried clams while sitting on their tented deck. Other options include J's Oyster Bar, the Porthole and the Dry Dock tavern. $3 Dewey's is an excellent bar featuring 36 taps and free popcorn, along with a large menu of solid bar food and some unique local options (fried seafoood and hand-cut fries among them).
A 5-minute walk up from the Old Port, the downtown area around Monument Square and along Congress Street features more bars and restaurants as well as numerous art galleries. For the socially conscious, check out Local Sprouts organic cafe and the Bomb Diggity Bakery. Again, while these areas aren't directly adjacent to the stadium, if you're taking a trip to Hadlock Field, visiting dowtown and the Old Port is a must. You can grab a few beers and some fried seafood and then walk it off while strolling back to the stadium along Congress Avenue.
The fans at Hadlock run the gamut from couples on date night, to families with young children to senior citizens, but no matter their age or reason for being in attendance, all fans were engaged and enthusiastic throughout. There seems to be a real devotion to the team, as well as a good amount of baseball knowledge. As evidence, witness the ritual of the fans in the metal bleacher seats, which start around row 15: for each big Sea Dogs play, whether a K from the pitcher or a run-scoring double, fans stomp their feet in delight, causing a thunderous, overwhelming sound. Careful though, if you're underneath getting food when this occurs, as you may fear the stadium is crashing down around you (it's not). While the game we attended was not a sellout and in fact was a Sea Dogs loss, most fans (not all) stuck around to the bitter end, allowing for the possibility of a comeback. Fans are generally friendly and, at least on this evening, there was an absolute lack of hooligan-esque behavior, making for an enjoyable experience for all.
Hadlock Field is easily accessible from routes 95 and 295, and is a quick 2-hour drive from Boston. One can also take a commuter train from Boston. Parking is available at several locations, including the Maine Medical Center lot and Fitzpatrick Stadium. However, metered parking or even free street parking can be found just a few blocks away; if you simply pay attention to the street signs, you should be fine and can save the $5 you would have spent on parking and put it towards food and beverage. Bathrooms at Hadlock rarely, if ever, have a line (except perhaps right when the game ends), and can be found on both sides of the concourse.
Hadlock Field and the Sea Dogs are a great baseball experience and can be done on a small budget. Tickets can be had the day of the game for $10 or less, and food and beverage are all reasonably priced (consider that you can get a dog, a beer and fries for less than $12). Add to that the fact that parking can be free if you're willing to walk a couple blocks, and the experience you get for the money is well worth it. While the stadium is not fancy by any standard, it has all the amenities one would need and offers a fun and enjoyable experience.
Hadlock features a small centerfield video screen (not big enough to be called a jumbotron) that shows Red Sox highlights on the nights the big league team is playing. In addition, there's a scoreboard that shows fans the Sox score throughout the game. The right field pavilion, available for booking for groups from 20 to 300, as well as the seats above the right field wall (modeled after Fenway's green monster seats), offer unique seating opportunities, and the chance to catch a home run ball.
Hadlock is a great place to see a game whether you're a family of four or a baseball purist (or both). Above the press boxes, you can see jerseys of past SeaDogs players who have gone on to major league success, including players like Papelbon, Ellsbury, Bard and Pedroia. Add an excellent baseball experience to the fact that Portland is a picturesque mid-size city, and you've got a trip that's well worth making.
Been to Harlock Field for two games. One was an AA All-Star game where George Bush (41) threw out the first pitch. One of the best AA stadiums I've been to. The food is very good, prices are fair. Love the Green Monster in LF. Portland is a fantastic town and the fans are real Sox fanatics. My kind of people. A "must see" stadium.
It's been 5 years since my family attended a game on a vacation trip to Niagara Falls and Maine so although not a timely review I can still remember it well. Loved the quaint, cozy atmosphere, the mini-monster in left and the warehouse that will take many a foul ball down right. Remember the beers well also. And of course lobster rolls!
Would love to take in another visit - maybe parlay it with a trip to Pawtucket and Fenway.
180 Commercial St
Portland, ME 04101
20 Custom House Wharf
Portland, ME 04101
649 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101