Greenfield native Geoff Iacuessa navigating uncertain waters with Portland Sea Dogs


Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2020 5:00:03 PM

By now, Geoff Iacuessa should be in the midst of a marathon baseball season unfolding below his office at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine.

But the Greenfield native won’t be watching his Portland Sea Dogs host the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in front of 7,368 fans tonight.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Iacuessa, the President and General Manager of the Sea Dogs, is navigating the waters of sporting uncertainty. Like the rest of the professional sports world in the United States, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox are currently waiting for word on when, or if, a portion of the 2020 season can be salvaged.

“We’re all holding out hope that we can have some semblance of a season, with or without fans,” offered Iacuessa. “Our whole business model in minor league baseball is based around having fans, generating revenue through tickets, souvenirs, concessions and sponsorships. So of course, we’d like to have fans be able to come to the park this year. Right now, we just don’t know.”

Iacuessa, who took over president duties with the Sea Dogs following the 2018 season, said the organization is following the guidelines put forth by his state. Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced last week that gatherings with groups of 10 people or more would be banned until at least June 1, while groups of 50 or more would then be banned until at least July 1. The Sea Dogs took quick action, and Iacuessa said in the interest of transparency, the club released a statement to fans offering to buy back tickets or use tickets purchased already for a game in 2021.

“For us, you can’t host a game with 50 fans. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he explained. “So we shifted quickly, out of respect for our fans who have supported us, offering refunds or ticket exchanges for 2021. The response from fans has been overwhelmingly positive. I think they appreciate the transparency. The reality is that hopefully we can play in front of fans in August but at this point, we didn’t want to drag the process out. There’s a lot of comfort in if we are able to play in front of fans in August, there will be a lot of demand.”

Iacuessa, a 1997 Greenfield High School graduate, said there are many options on the table for what a baseball season would look like at the major and minor league level. He’s been in constant communication with minor league baseball representatives, as well as the Red Sox organization since the professional sporting world came to a halt in mid-March.

“The reality is that it’s like a brainstorming session,” he began. “There’s nothing that’s firm at this point, but right now, I think MLB is trying to put together their plan and then the next step is looking feasibly at how (MILB) will look. All sorts of ideas are being thrown out. With 160 minor league teams throughout the country, what works well in Maine might not work well in another market.”

When the NBA became the first organization to shut its league down on March 11, Iacuessa said it altered Portland’s thinking about the season ahead.

“The day the NBA shut down, we had a plan in place because I was kind of thinking that we’d be playing games, but without fans,” he said. “We had a plan in place, felt comfortable with how it would look. But that evening, when the NBA shut down, I knew we weren’t going to be starting the season on time. So much has happened in a month and a half since then. We’re still on hold, there are still way more questions than answers across the industry. Are we going to be able to play? What’s that going to look like?”

As the calendar shifted to April and now May, Iacuessa admitted it’s been difficult as a member of an organization that can’t play games. Opening Day was set for April 9 in Hartford against the Yard Goats, and Portland’s home opener was scheduled to be played on April 16 against the Trenton Thunder.

“That first week of April when the team usually comes to town, there’s so much excitement,” he began. “So that was hard. And then around Opening Day, to not have that, the situation really started to set in. I always liken it to training for a marathon. We work September to April to get ready for the season. We work hard in the offseason then execute the plan in season. Right now you look outside and see sunny days, you think about how great a day it would be to have a baseball game. It’s tough.”

Despite the increasing likelihood that the Sea Dogs will not be able to host fans this season, the team has remained committed to paying all of their full-time and game-day staff for the 2020 season. 

“We’re lucky we have ownership that has always given us the directive to do the right thing, by our employees and fans,” Iacuessa said. “After we watched the Governor’s press conference last Tuesday, it became apparent that was right route to take. Every team has to make decisions they feel are the best for them. That’s what we elected to do, paying game day and full-time staff based on what they made last year per game to be able to support them. I’m proud of that.”

For now, Iacuessa said he is staying busy, working remotely for the most part while still getting into the office a few times a week. He’s hoping sports come back across the board, and said he wants 12-year-old son Hudson to be able to get some innings in on the Little League circuit.

“What we’re going through is tough but it’s tough for everybody,” he said. “We’re staying ready, staying connected to the fans. I still love what I’m doing. This is my 20th season with the Sea Dogs and first summer since 2000 that I haven’t had games to watch here. There’s so much energy that comes with this job, from the game day staff and front office staff, and we all miss that component of it right now. We’re just staying positive and doing what we can. Getting to see baseball here this year would help everyone, I think. Any type of return to some normalcy would be appreciated.”

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