PORTLAND – Winter-like weather that would test the mettle of football fans gripped Maine on Wednesday as the Portland Sea Dogs prepared for their Eastern League season opener.
Temperatures around Hadlock Field hovered near the freezing mark and 60 mph wind gusts made it feel more like January than April.
The team, which returned a day earlier from sunny Florida, canceled plans Wednesday to take the field for an optional practice. Instead, the team held batting practice indoors.
“If we were playing today, we wouldn’t,” said John Kameisha, assistant general manager.
The team official tried to look on the bright side. “It could be snowing,” he said. “That would make it harder.”
The forecast for the season opener against the Binghamton Mets at 4 p.m. Thursday called for temperatures near 40 degrees and less wind, the National Weather Service said.
The Double-A team seemed to be taking the harsh weather in stride. The squad was feted the previous night at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, where players were introduced for the first time.
“They’re just happy to be playing. Obviously they would prefer it to be 85 degrees,” Kameisha said.
The support for the team was enough to warm the hearts of the team’s owner. Last year, the Sea Dogs set a league attendance record by attracting 375,000 fans in their inaugural season.
This season, fans have snapped up 315,000 tickets before the first game, said Charles Eshbach, Sea Dogs president and general manager.