July 2011

An extreme situation in the Northeast

After living in Maine year round for eight years, I’ve learned the weather is one issue that always comes up.  It seems like no matter what, we’re never happy, but this latest blanket of heat is a shocker.  The Sea Dogs are taking on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats this weekend, and temps are expected near 100 on Friday.  Now, in the early parts of the season we worry about the cold.  Which is worse?  This will be something I’ll ask the players later today.  From talking to some of the them, they’re use to the heat, but this has been crazy.  For me, all I think about is the early part of the season, and that eases this heat.  I just hope the fans can get comfortable for the games this weekend.

Quick hits….

Portland picked up their second walk-off win of the season on Wednesday.  Mitch Dening blasted a one-out homer over the Portland bullpen.  The ‘Dogs first walk-off win came on a homer by Alex Hassan (June 29 vs. New Britain, also a day game).

The Sea Dogs are visiting New Hampshire and Binghamton for the final time this season.  Portland is 15-15 during a 37-game stretch against the Eastern Division.

Last night was the annual Lobster Bake at the Burke’s (team owners) place in Kennebunkport…It was my seventh, but I enjoy seeing the first-timers.  I thank them for their hospitality.

Will the NFL lockout end?  I want to do fantasy football again, and Ryan Khoury is the commissioner of my league.

Tommy Hottovy is a father, what a couple of a months for the former Sea Dog.




By Ben Altsher

Manchvegas.  That’s what the locals (like me) call it.  Otherwise known as Manchester, New Hampshire, the Queen City and Sin City bear very little resemblance.  There’s no casinos (that we know of), very few neon lights, and in general, not much sin (unless you’re wearing a Yankees cap).  What is similar is the variety of things to do these days in Manchester, which is exactly what makes this city one of the most popular in baseball.

This week Northeast Delta Dental Stadium hosted the 2011 Eastern League All-Star Game.  It’s the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.  It’s also the second time in four years that this building, once named Merchantsauto.com Stadium, has put on the event.  The last time was 2008 and there’s a reason the game came back so soon.

Opening in 2005, the stadium is one of the newest in the Eastern League, and one of the best.  The view is spectacular for all parties involved: fans, media, even those who don’t have tickets.  When it was originally built, there was very little that stood out about the park.  Since then, the Fisher Cats have added the Sam Adams Bar and Grill in left field and the Hilton Garden Inn stands tall in left center.  The hotel has no affiliation with the team, but patrons can go out and sit on its patio and enjoy the game and the opportunity to catch a well-hit home run.

The bar and the hotel add personality to what otherwise might be a standard issue minor league field.  The other difference is in the dimensions.  The left field foul pole stands 326 feet away, but the wall quickly just out to 380 feet, creating a wide swath of space in left center field.  The other side is a different story with the right field foul pole just 306 feet away, making Northeast Delta Dental Stadium a dream for left-handed power hitters, and a nightmare for the pitchers facing them.

Because the All-Star Break occurs over two short days, a lot of planning and gathering goes into a short span of time.  The festivities started with the All-Star Block Party featuring games and entertainment for adults and children alike.  The players were able to enjoy the evening in a separate VIP area, complete with a full buffet and plenty of room to gather with their fellow All-Stars.

Despite the rain on Wednesday, nothing dampened the mood.  Players from both sides could be seen laughing and joking around during batting practice, the autograph session, and during the Home Run Derby which took place with the tarp on the field.  Mike McDade and Moises Sierra put on a show for the home crowd, battling through three tiebreaking rounds in the finals before McDade emerged victorious.

The game itself was played pretty swiftly for the most part.  The Western Division ran away late with an 8-3 victory, but as is so often the case with All-Star games, the result takes a back seat to the experience.  Several of the players I talked to said it was one of the best events they had been involved in.  Sea Dogs’ pitcher Alex Wilson said that the attention to detail was excellent and that the players never felt rushed throughout the various promotions they were required to attend.

In Minor League Baseball, All-Star games are an opportunity for an organization to show off its stadium, its staff, and its city.  In this particular case, Manchester and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats clearly showed themselves well.  The players enjoyed it, the media enjoyed it, and the fans enjoyed it.  Now that it’s over though, the attention is already focused on next year’s host and what the plans will be for 2012.  Reading, you’re on deck.

Back on the Chiang Gang

Chiang is first in line in many offensive categories among Sox minor leaguers

Chih-Hsien Chiang is putting up video-game like numbers over the past two months, and when that happens, you start getting more media attention.  I ran some numbers (I’m not a big stat guy) today to see his production over his last 142 games in Double-A, which is a full-season.  I thought this would be a good time to compile the numbers, since it includes the final three months of last year, and the first three months of this season.  Chiang is hitting .307 (162-for-527), 22 HR, 103 RBI, 55 doubles, and 5 triples during a 142-game stretch from last season.  Tonight will be his last game before the break, as he’ll head to Phoenix, Arizona tomorrow with teammate Will Middlbrooks to participate in the Future’s Game.

I’ve seen his maturity at the plate since last June, and I’m not surprised at the success he’s had.  Chiang has very quick hands, something that scouts look for during batting practice.  If you don’t have bat speed in BP, you’re probably not going to last long.  This guy is very tough out right now, and I’m happy to see how well he’s playing.  Hopefully soon, Chiang will earn a promotion to Triple-A.

Earlier this week the second-year Sea Dog was named Eastern League’s Player of the Month for June…He’s leading the league in Slugging Percentage, Extra-base hits and his tied with New Hampshire’s Mike McDade for the top spot in RBI’s with 60….Other rankings for Chiang in the E.L.: hitting (.309, 8th), home runs (14, T-7th), RBI (59, T-1st), doubles (28, 2nd), extra-base hits (46, 1st), runs scored (51, T-3rd), slugging percentage (.627, 1st) and total bases (156, T-3rd)

Notes for today in New Hampshire…One important thing, Heidi Watney will be in attendance.

THESE GUYS AGAIN: Portland heads to New Hampshire for the start of a four-game series tonight against the Fisher Cats…This is the third straight weekend series between the two teams…The Fisher Cats swept the Sea Dogs in a three-game set from June 24-26…Portland took three of four last weekend at Hadlock Field.


NO EASY GET AWAY: The Sea Dogs dropped a 10-4 decision to the Mets in yesterday’s getaway game…A pair of Portland errors turned into four unearned runs in a five-run second inning for Binghamton…Stolmy Pimentel was chased after allowing six runs (two earned) over an inning and a third, the fourth time he has only recorded four outs in a start this year…Dusty Ryan and Matt den Dekker both had solo home runs for the Mets.


EW LEADER OF THE PACK: Will Middlebrooks leads the Sea Dogs with a .322 average (76-for-236), which ranks third in the Eastern League…Chiang is sixth in the league in hitting at .316 (80-for-253) and Alex Hassan ranks 8th at .313 (89-for-284)…Hassan is pacing the entire E.L. in walks (56) and on-base percentage (.439)…Rodriguez leads all Red Sox Minor Leaguers with 69 RBI between Portland and Salem.


WE’RE GOING STREAKING: Middlebrooks went 2-for-5 yesterday with a double and a run scored to extend his hitting streak to six games…The Eastern League all-star is hitting .486 (17-for-35) since his return from the disabled list on June 30…He has four doubles, a home run and 11 RBI in that time span.


WHAT’S ON DECK: Tomorrow night Portland plays the second of its four-game series against New Hampshire…The two teams play again Sunday night before a day game on Monday beginning at 12:05 PM…The Eastern League All-Star Game will take place in New Hampshire on Wednesday night starting at 7:05 PM…After the break, the Sea Dogs start a seven-game homestand against the New Britain Rock Cats (Twins affiliate) and the Binghamton Mets (Mets affiliate).



How Hottovy’s MLB debut changed the franchise record books

The Sea Dogs have been a Red Sox affiliate since 2003, and entering this season, seven of eight Opening Day starters have made it to the big leagues.  The list consists of: Jorge De La Rosa (2003), Charlie Zink (2004), Jonathan Papelbon (2005), David Pauley (2006), Justin Masterson (2008), Junichi Tazawa (2009) and Felix Doubront (2010).  In 2007, mother nature arrived on Opening Day, and it wasn’t pleasant.  A foot of snow hit Hadlock Field, postponing the first four games of the season and erasing the opening nod of Clay Buchholz, who would have completed every Red Sox-affiliated starter making it to the big leagues.  Hottovy got the opening day start in 2007, and with his promotion a month ago, completed the improbable feat.  Overall, 15 of 17 Opening Day starters, dating back to the Marlins’ days have made it to the Major Leagues.  I thought this was cool, and thanks to our media guide for having the information.

Notes for today


: The Sea Dogs look for the series win in game four of their series with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Sunday night at Hadlock Field…Portland has earned at least a split for the second straight series and fourth in their last five…The ‘Dogs have won two series at home all season, and their lone four-game series victory came on April 25-28 against the B-Mets in Portland.


CHICKS DIG THE LONG BALL: Portland and New Hampshire combined for 4 homers in last night’s contest…Both Fisher Cat long balls were solo-shots from Anthony Gose and Travis d’Arnaud…Those were outdone by Oscar Tejeda’s two-run shot and Chih-Hsien Chiang’s three-run homer…Chiang’s bomb broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Sea Dogs the lead for good in an eventual 8-4 win.


BATTLING BACK: After lasting just 2/3 of an inning in his first start of the year in Double-A, Junichi Tazawa came out of the bullpen last night to earn his first win with the Sea Dogs this season…The Yokohama, Japan native pitched two innings and allowed a run, but struck out three en route to the victory.


I GOT FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES: The bottom third of the Sea Dogs lineup accounted for six of Portland’s ten hits and four of the eight runs on Saturday…Reynaldo Rodriguez, Tejeda, and Jon Hee combined to go 6-for-10 with 4 RBI, 4 runs scored, a double and a home run…All three players recorded multi-hit games.


HE’S CLOSING IN: With his three-run home run, Chiang (55) is now just one RBI behind New Hampshire’s Mike McDade (56) for the top spot in the Eastern League…Chih-Hsien is also just 10 shy of his career high for runs driven in after plating 65 last season with Portland…In addition to RBI, Chiang is also among the league leaders in home runs (T-5th), doubles (T-4th), slugging percentage (1st), and extra-base hits (2nd).


SORRY TO SEE JUNE GO: Portland finished with a 14-13 record in June, their first winning month this season…The Sea Dogs started off the month with their longest win streak of the season (6 games) thus far…The team batted .286 for the month (1st in EL) with 159 runs scored, a 5.9 runs per game average.


WHAT’S ON DECK: Tomorrow, the Sea Dogs head to Binghamton (Mets affiliate) for the start of a nine-game, eight-day road trip that will finish up in New Hampshire for the All-Star Break…The doubleheader will be played in Binghamton on Tuesday night starting at 5:35 PM.