Portland, Maine- The Portland Sea Dogs will celebrate their 20th season of play on Thursday, April 18th (the date of the Sea Dogs first home game in 1994) at 6:00 PM when the Sea Dogs host the New Britain Rock Cats. 11 former players/ manager are expected to return to Portland to take part in the celebration highlighted by Sea Dogs Hall of Famer Charles Johnson.
The 11 players/ manager expected to attend represent every Sea Dogs team from 1994 through 2008. Among those expected to attend are fan favorites, award winners, and players with strong ties to the team.
Players expected to attend from when the Sea Dogs were affiliated with the Florida Marlins include catcher Charles Johnson, outfielders Fletcher Bates, Glenn Reeves and Pookie Wilson, and infielders Heath Honeycutt and Drew Niles.
Red Sox affiliated alumni expected to attend include pitchers Ryan Cameron and Marc Deschenes, catcher John Nathans, outfielder Jay Johnson, and manager Todd Claus.
Season Ticket Holders, sponsors, and employees who have been with the organization for all 20 seasons will also be recognized at the game. Johnson and the other Sea Dogs' alums will attend a pre-game VIP reception in the Hadlock Field picnic area. A limited number of VIP reception tickets are available to the public. Tickets are $24.00 and include your access to the VIP picnic area with the players, ballpark picnic style meal, and game ticket. Tickets can be purchased online at www.seadogs.com or by calling the Sea Dogs Ticket Office at 207-879-9500.
All of the players, including Johnson, will host an autograph session in the concourse after pre-game ceremonies.
Charles Johnson was a member of the Sea Dogs' inaugural team in 1994. He opened the season as the Florida Marlins top prospect and he did not waste any time in making an impact in Portland. In the Sea Dogs' inaugural game, Johnson belted two home runs including a game winner in the 14th inning as the Sea Dogs defeated the Reading Phillies 2-1. The catcher hit .264 with 28 home runs and 80 RBI for the Sea Dogs in 1994 and was named to the Eastern League All-Star squad. His 28 home runs led the league and were the most by an Eastern League catcher since Tony Pena hit 34 in 1979.
Johnson has the distinction of being the Marlins first minor league player to reach the majors. He homered off Curt Schilling in his second Major League at-bat. Johnson had a 12 year Major League career with the Marlins, Dodgers, Orioles, Rockies, and Devil Rays. He was a two-time National League All-Star (1997 & 2001) and captured five Gold Glove awards. He was inducted into the Sea Dogs' Hall of Fame in 2005.
Pookie Wilson was a fan favorite during his time in Portland from 1995 to 1997. The outfielder appeared in 265 games as a Sea Dog, eighth most in franchise history. His career Sea Dogs numbers rank among the top 20 in several categories including games played (8th 265), hits (15th 220), runs (20th 112), triples (T-5th 10), sacrifice hits (T-3rd 16), and total bases (19th 311).
Glenn Reeves spent parts of three seasons with the Sea Dogs from 1997 to 1999. The outfielder hit .351 in 66 games with the Sea Dogs in 1997. His career .299 average with the Sea Dogs ranks 14th in franchise history while his career .411 on base percentage ranks seventh.
Fletcher Bates appeared in nearly every Sea Dogs game for a two year stretch from 1998 to 1999. The outfielder played in 279 games out of a possible 283 over the two seasons. His 279 games with the Sea Dogs is third most in franchise history. His career Sea Dogs numbers rank among the top 15 in several categories including triples (1st 14), games played (3rd 279), hits (3rd 283), runs (8th 139), RBI (13th 115), doubles (T-11th 51), stolen bases (12th 37), and total bases (5th 422).
Drew Niles spent four seasons with the Sea Dogs from 1999 to 2002. He appeared in 242 Sea Dogs games, which ranks 16th in franchise history. The infielder had a team high eight triples in 2002 and his 11 career triples ranks fourth in franchise history.
Heath Honeycutt played parts of three seasons in Portland from 2000 to 2002. The popular third baseman had his best season in 2001 when he appeared in 132 games for the Sea Dogs where he ranked second on the team in doubles (24) and RBI (59) and ranked third with nine home runs.
Ryan Cameron was honored by the fans as the Sea Dogs Citizen of the Year in 2004. The right-handed pitcher appeared in 33 games for the Sea Dogs from 2003 to 2004.
John Nathans spent two seasons as a catcher with the Sea Dogs in 2003 and 2004. He was honored as the Sea Dogs 2003 10th Player Award recipient after producing one of the most courageous performances in Sea Dogs history. Nathans separated his shoulder in game one of a doubleheader, the team did not have another healthy catcher available at the time, Nathans volunteered to catch the second game of the doubleheader.
Marc Deschenes appeared in 66 games with the Sea Dogs from 2004 to 2005. The Massachusetts native ranks ninth in franchise history with 19 career saves.
Todd Claus managed the Sea Dogs in 2005 and 2006 leading the Sea Dogs to the Eastern League Championship Series each year. In 2006 he led the Sea Dogs to the organizations' first Eastern League Championship. Claus compiled a two year managerial record of 148-133 (.527) with the Sea Dogs. He was honored as the Baseball America 2006 Minor League Baseball Manager of the Year.
Jay Johnson is known as one of the best clutch hitters in Portland Sea Dogs history with three walk-off hits to his credit. In his Double-A debut on April 29, 2006 he delivered a two run double with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Sea Dogs a 3-2 win over Bowie. On August 11, 2007, the Sea Dogs played their first game at Fenway Park; Johnson gave the Sea Dogs a 3-2 over Harrisburg with a two run double in the bottom of the ninth. The outfielder also ended the longest game in franchise history on April 16, 2008. Not only did Johnson deliver the game winning RBI single in the 5 hour and 41 minute marathon that went 17 innings but he was also the winning pitcher.
Tickets for this game along with all Sea Dogs' home games can be purchased by calling the Sea Dogs Ticket Office at 207-879-9500 and online at www.seadogs.com.