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The Sea Dogs take Hadlock Field for the first workout of the 2022 season

The grass at Hadlock Field is still more brown than green, but that will change quickly. The Portland Sea Dogs are back in town and ready to kick off the 2022 season.

The team held its first workout Wednesday afternoon in preparation for the season opener, a home game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at 6 p.m. Friday. The Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, went 67-47 last year, the team’s first winning season since 2014.

This year they will have a new manager in Chad Epperson, who spent a decade as the Red Sox’s minor league catcher coordinator. Wednesday was his first opportunity to work with most of the players who will start the season with Portland.

“These guys have had a great spring training,” Epperson said. “The guys are excited to be here.”

Seventeen of the 32 players on the Sea Dogs roster spent at least some time with the team last season. The biggest question on the minds of Portland newcomers and veterans alike was early-season weather. Many of them were dressed warmly on a Wednesday afternoon when the temperature struggled to rise above 40 degrees.

“I’ve never had to pitch in extremely cold weather. This is my chance,” said Chris Murphy, a left-handed pitcher from Granada Hills, Calif., who pitched in seven games for the Sea Dogs last season after their promotion from Class A Greenville to South Carolina. “I was asking more guys who were here early last year what clothes I should pack, because I wasn’t here when it was cold.”

If the players finally get to play in Boston, they have to be able to play on a cold spring night, Epperson said.

“They come from everywhere. Many of them have grown up and were raised in warmer states. At the end of the day, this is part of it,” Epperson said. “Our parent club is down the street (in Boston). It is also cold there in April. You go through it and you go through it and you know we’re not the only ones.”

Epperson spent a portion of Wednesday’s practice hitting balls off the Maine Monster, Hadlock’s version of the high wall in left field at Fenway Park. Players need to see how the ball plays off different parts of the wall, he said. He will move away from the wall and the metal cage that protects the marker.

“It’s different, especially if maybe you have a free agent or converted guy that you’re trying to expose yourself to the outfield with,” Epperson said. “Fortunately for us, the level below us (Greenville), they also have a green wall, so the guys that have played left field there and come here are familiar with it.”

Nick Sogard was one of the players who learned the fickleness of the wall. An infielder, Sogard could see time in the outfield this season.

“Try to keep them at second base. Don’t give away free bases,” Sogard said of his first impression of playing balls against the wall.

Players who make the jump from High-A Greenville to Portland know that this is often the level of pro ball that weeds decent players out of legitimate big league prospects.

“Obviously Double-A is a big jump from High-A. It’s one of the biggest jumps you’re going to make in professional baseball,” said Brandon Walter, a left-handed pitcher who went 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings for Class A Salem. and Greenville. last season. “The hitters are just smarter. They’re older. They’re not going to chase as many things out of the zone as the younger guys in the lower levels. They will do more damage when you make mistakes in the middle.

“Everyone says that Double-A is the separator. I’m kind of excited to see how I come together, how I’m going to attack these hitters.”

Fans visiting Hadlock Field can expect a variety of dining options this season, including the return of the Shipyard Grill, which was unable to open last season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The team will have special promotions throughout the season, starting with a schedule draw at the Saturday afternoon game.

“We have a number of things that will be implemented throughout the season, that we will announce throughout the season,” said Geoff Iacuessa, team president and general manager. “There are some things, as we have all experienced, with some supply chain issues that will take a little longer despite having placed the order last summer.

Iacuessa added that there are still jobs available working in concessions.

“That has been our biggest challenge. We are still hiring. We are still trying to find help for our concessions,” he said.

After this weekend’s three-game series against New Hampshire, the Sea Dogs will head out on the road for a six-game series in Harrisburg. They will return home on April 19 to play the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.

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