Baseball Opening Day Always Makes Me Reminisce About the Maine Guides
Springtime is finally here. That means longer days, warmer weather, and the start of baseball season.
America's pastime has been delighting the masses for nearly 200 years. Local favorites like the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs will soon be entertaining us with big hits and amazing plays, while the aroma of hotdogs and popcorn fill the air. What a wonderful time of year.
With baseball kicking off, it got me thinking of some of my earliest memories of the sport. I still remember the first game I went to at Fenway Park. It was June 26, 1988, when my beloved Baltimore Orioles got absolutely trounced by the Sox. I was seven years old, so I'm sure I handled it well.
As fun as going to games at Fenway was back in the day, there was another show in town. I'm not talking about the Sea Dogs, though. This was well before Hadlock became the sensation that it is now. I'm talking about going to see Maine Guides games down at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
Now, some of you might be saying, "Wait, there was professional baseball in Old Orchard Beach? There's no way this is true."
Well, between 1984 and 1988 it was 100% true. The Guides were the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) from 1984 to 1986. They would then switch affiliations to the Philadelphia Phillies for the 1987 and 1988 seasons (they even changed the name of the team to the Phillies for the '88 season).
Baseball fans in southern Maine were spoiled by the Guides. The squad had some serious talent come through OOB. Players who reached the World Series, like Otis Nixon and Darren Daulton. Former Red Sox manager John Farrell was a pitcher for the Guides. Mike Maddux also was on the mound for Maine. He didn't just have a famous brother, but his own MLB career, and became a very successful pitching coach. And that's just to name a few.
The Guides played at "The Ballpark" in Old Orchard Beach. Just minutes from Maine's beautiful coastline, the park was known for three things: a great place to watch a game, a great place to see a concert, and a great place to possibly get Malaria. Let's be honest, the bug situation was (and still is) legendary. No way you were getting out of there without a few new spots to itch. But that didn't matter, because it was professional baseball right here in southern Maine.
Sadly, it was a short run for the Guides. According to funwhileitlasted.net, Maine played in the smallest Triple-A stadium in the league, and really struggled for attendance. The team would eventually move to Pennsylvania and become the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Phillies in 1989.
I still have fond memories of the final game the Guides (or Phillies at the time) played in Maine. It was a somber mood, and players were giving away tons of gear to kids. We didn't know if minor league baseball would ever be back. Thankfully, it would just be a few more years before the Portland Sea Dogs would take Portland by storm.
While it was a brief run for the Guides, it will never be forgotten. I will always cherish the wonderful memories of those games, especially being able to enjoy them with my family. I don't miss those mosquitos, though.