Friday, January 09, 2009

Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner A Good Time For All

Todd Jamison and Aaron Bates


The Portland Sea Dogs held their annual Hot Stove Dinner to benefit the Maine Children's Cancer Program in South Portland on Friday night, and it their was plenty of baseball talk and stories to warm everyone from the winter's chill.

Sea Dogs manager Arnie Beyeler (accompanied by his 2007 World Series Ring) was in the house to be reintroduced as Sea Dogs manager for the first year. He flew up from his home in Jacksonville to take part in the event.

"I am glad they brought me back, Portland's a great city with great fans, and I'm proud to be part of a great organization," said Beyeler.

When asked about the weather difference between Maine and Jacksonville, Beyeler gave a rather surprising response.

"I got to ski for the first time in 20 years. After I fell down the first time I was able to have a good time," he joked.

Former Sea Dogs Aaron Bates (accompanied by his hair) and Jeff Natale (aspiring stand-up comedian) were on hand. Bates was fresh from a stint in the Puerto Rico winter league, while Natale has been working as a baseball trainer at Frozen Ropes in Natick, MA.

Mike Hazen, the Red Sox Director of Player Development, was part of the program, and he answered questions about the Red Sox off-season. One of the questions was from the crowd over 260 people asking if Jason Varitek would be back.

"Well, we hope so. One thing working in our favor right now is the fact there are not a lot of teams still out there looking for a starting catcher. It's like a game of musical chairs, if there was only one catcher left and one team left to get him a job, you would hope they could come together on something", said Hazer.

Former Yankees manager and Maine baseball legend Stump Merrill was on hand and told stories about when he won the Eastern League Championship with Reading.

"The check I got was for $37.50 for winning the Eastern League title back in the early 60's. I swore I would never cash it, but it got lost somewhere along the way," he chuckled.

He also talked about George Steinbrenner, and how much different spring training is without him in the locker room and around the players.

"When I was down in spring training last year, I was telling someone I wish George would pop around the corner and chew my ass about something. He is missed now, and he is going to be missed alot more in the future," he said.

The guest of honor was former Sea Dog and current Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson. He was very relaxed and laid back, cracking jokes and relaying what it was like when he got the call to Fenway.

"My wife and I were on our way to the pet store, and (Sea Dogs Pitching Coach) Mike Cather calls and tells me I am going to be pitching in Fenway the next day. My wife and I drove to Hadlock, we drove very fast, and found out I was going to start an afternoon game against the Angels," reminisced Masterson,"it was pretty amazing."

It was a great night, as the fund-raiser raised quite a bit of money for the charity, and baseball fans of all ages were treated to a taste of summer on a night of winter cold. All in all, what a hot stove is supposed to do.

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