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See Dogs play and bond at core of Portland club

Mayer, Yorke, Jordan, Lugo journeying together toward Fenway
Blaze Jordan, Matthew Lugo, Marcelo Mayer and Nick Yorke have played together at several stops during their ascent through the Red Sox organization.
@brendan_samson
August 14, 2023

It’s 12:30 a.m. in Portland, Maine. The Portland Sea Dogs game finished hours ago and the players are back at their houses, with their host families, getting ready to sleep. Most of the players, that is. Matthew Lugo, Boston's second-round pick in 2019, lies in bed, attempting to block out

It’s 12:30 a.m. in Portland, Maine. The Portland Sea Dogs game finished hours ago and the players are back at their houses, with their host families, getting ready to sleep.

Most of the players, that is.

Matthew Lugo, Boston's second-round pick in 2019, lies in bed, attempting to block out the whooshing sounds coming from across the room, where Nick Yorke is posted up in front of a mirror taking practice swings. Along with No. 11 overall prospect Marcelo Mayer, they help form a special core on a special team, each helping to make the others better.

“[Yorke] will stay up until like two or three in the morning, just doing dry swings over and over and over again,” said Lugo, who has roomed with Yorke for the better part of the past two seasons.

But the constant swinging isn’t just Yorke. Once the sun rises, the roles flip.

“If he has free time, he’s hitting,” said Yorke, the sixth-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system.

In recent months, Portland has become the pinnacle of the Red Sox Minor League system. The team is home to seven of Boston’s Top 30 prospects, including Mayer and Yorke who each rank among the Top 10 prospects at their position -- the No. 4 shortstop and No. 9 second baseman respectively.

“As a clubhouse, all together, we get along really well,” said Mayer, who is the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system. “It’s a brotherhood we got going on here; they make it fun coming to the ballpark every day.”

Lugo, Mayer, Yorke and Blaze Jordan -- Boston's No. 12 prospect -- round out a group of Portland players who were all drafted in the top two rounds over a three-year span -- 2019-2021 -- and have played together at several stops during their ascent through the organization.

“We’re all best friends,” Jordan said. “We all hang outside of the clubhouse and everything.”

Jordan and Mayer roomed together in High-A Greenville at the beginning of the season. Their days off consisted of playing against each other in MLB The Show 23, watching the reality show “Perfect Match” on Netflix and analyzing film of their at-bats.

“It’s always great to learn from somebody like that,” Jordan said. “It was pretty great living with him.”

In Portland, Jordan’s roommate is outfielder Tyler Esplin and Mayer's is right-handed pitcher Christopher Troye, but no matter what the living situation is, the entire team finds time to meet up for a lobster roll or other Maine delicacy.

“I actually had one when I got drafted, when I went up to Boston, and I hated it,” said Mayer, who was drafted fourth overall in 2021. “[When I got to Portland] I gave it a second shot and ended up loving it. Now every off-day or late report I’ll go and eat a lobster roll with some of the dudes.”

Lugo’s go-to meal is Latin food, no matter how difficult it is to find.

“He will drive hours just to go find a good Latin food place to get a little taste of home,” Yorke said. “You would be surprised at what Lugo can find in terms of Latin food, he will find it, wherever it is.”

The shortstop may have a knack for finding Northeast restaurants that remind him of his home in Puerto Rico, but the real Latin food gatherings come courtesy of relief pitcher Luis Guerrero and his culinary expertise.

He puts together major spreads, inviting four or five lucky teammates over to enjoy them.

“He loves to cook,” Yorke said. “We’ll go over there usually like once a week when we’re back home in Portland and he’ll cook up a good Latin meal for us.”

Guerrero doesn’t just cook, he’s also a darn good pitcher. So far this season, he has appeared in 37 games for Portland, tallying 15 saves and a dominant 1.67 ERA, good enough to land the Dominican Republic native a spot on the 2023 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game roster alongside Mayer and Yorke.

“That was the most people I’ve played in front of ever,” Yorke said. “Just to be able to share that experience with Luis and Marcelo it was pretty cool. Me and Marcelo were talking about it, and we were like ‘We don’t want this to just be the Minor League All-Stars. We want to do this when we’re in the big leagues together.’”

The cohesiveness of the group is obvious. Instead of an individual player talking about his own performance, their first instinct is to compliment one of their teammates.

What Jordan excels at is taping bats.

“He’s actually the designated team bat grip dude,” Mayer said. “You look at Blaze and he’s always sitting down gripping everyone's bats, just because he’s so good at it.”

Oh, he can also hit. There’s a reason he won the 2020 High School Home Run Derby; he has raw talent and lots of it.

“I talk hitting with him, I talk in the cage with him, I just feel like I get better personally just being around him,” Yorke said. “He’s one of those guys that will roll out of bed and just hit .300, just rake, his first swing of the day is just a backside missile at 107 mph. It’s unbelievable.”

Those conversations are a constant among the team, helping each other with tweaks and swing improvements. While Jordan is the type of player who can roll out of bed and send lasers to all fields, Yorke said Mayer is the kind of guy who would rather just stay in bed altogether, spending most of his off-days sleeping and recharging for the days to come.

“He could fall asleep in any position at any time,” Yorke said. “Any point of the day, if you say, 'Hey, we got 30 minutes here,' he’s out cold in 30 seconds.”

So, while Yorke is taking dry swings in the hotel room and checking his form in the mirror, it’s safe to say there’s at least one Sea Dogs player who is sleeping right through it.

Brendan Samson is a contributor to MiLB.com.