Sea Dogs bring baseball to the slopes

Portland's front office competes in national toboggan competition

(Portland Sea Dogs)

February 5, 2007 7:40 AM

The Portland Sea Dogs may not have the fastest toboggan team in the country, but they can at least say they are the quickest quartet on a sled in Minor League Baseball.

Four members of the Sea Dogs' front office staff -- brothers Tony and Chris Cameron, Jim Heffley and Corey Thompson -- braved 26-degree temperatures over the weekend to participate in the 17th annual National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl in Camden, Maine.

Out of 140 entrants who made at least one run, the squad finished last with a time of 9.97 seconds. The winning team, the "Refit Misfits" sped down the 400-foot chute in 8.56 seconds.

While the team didn't fare as well as they did on the diamond in 2006 -- the Sea Dogs beat the Akron Aeros for the Eastern League championship -- they had a great time.

"This is definitely the most thrilling thing I've done," said team captain Tony Cameron of hurtling downhill at 40 miles per hour. "It was a little more of a thrill than a roller coaster, because you're not attached to a track."

Cameron, the team's assistant ticketing director and the squad's outdoorsman, found out about the event through one of his clients and figured that entering a Sea Dogs team would be a good way to keep baseball on the minds of Maine residents in the winter months.

"I thought it would be pretty cool to get a team together," he said. "So I got approval from our GM and everyone was pretty excited about it."

The Dogs headed to L.L.Bean to pick up a toboggan, used the Hadlock Field grandstand as a makeshift chute for a couple of practice runs, picked out a team uniform -- Sea Dogs jerseys, goggles and Snoopy-style bomber hats -- and drove the Sea Dogs' van to Camden on Saturday morning.

Chris Cameron said the carnival-like surroundings at the event helped to distract the team from their nerves while watching the two- and three-man sleds speed down the chute.

"We didn't actually get our run until 2:30," he said. "And it was a little intimidating watching the other sleds. But it was a great atmosphere and everyone was dressed up in costumes -- from cows to Care Bears to lumberjacks."

And everywhere they went, fans wanted to talk baseball.

"People were wondering if Red Sox prospects Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury will be with us this year," Chris Cameron said. "They wanted to know about Jon Lester [a former Sea Dog who is currently recovering from cancer] and whether we'll have a team that will be able to compete for the Eastern League championship again."

The squad got a great ovation from the event's spectators at the starting gate and consequently, they plan to enter again next year.

"Maybe we can give it a paint job so the sled [at least] looks faster," Tony Cameron said.

When asked which current or former Portland players would make up a good toboggan team, the Cameron brothers agreed that Jonathan Papelbon would be the easy choice for captain, with prospect Tommy Hottovy along for moral support. Current Red Sox Josh Beckett and Kevin Youkilis also received votes, as did 2006 Sea Dogs first baseman Luis Jimenez, who at 270 pounds, would give the sled much-needed ballast.

While the maiden voyage of the Sea Dogs' sled didn't live up to the characteristics of the sleek, aerodynamic seals for which the team is named, the quartet accomplished one important goal.

"It was good from a publicity standpoint," Tony Cameron said. "We got people talking about baseball in February."

Dan Friedell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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