Sea Dogs staff reaps surprise reward from team sale
February mornings in Maine can be bleak. On this particular one, Feb. 7, a Tuesday following a weekend when the wind chill hit -45 degrees, the atmosphere in the offices of Portland's Hadlock Field abruptly took a sunny and warm turn. The 18 full-time staff members of the Sea Dogs
February mornings in Maine can be bleak. On this particular one, Feb. 7, a Tuesday following a weekend when the wind chill hit -45 degrees, the atmosphere in the offices of Portland's Hadlock Field abruptly took a sunny and warm turn.
The 18 full-time staff members of the Sea Dogs were called together to bid farewell to Dan Burke and Sally McNamara, the brother and sister whose family had owned the club since its inaugural season in 1994 and who had recently finalized the sale of the team to Diamond Baseball Holdings.
"It was a tough moment for them, no longer having franchise,” said Chris Cameron, the team's vice president of communications and fan experience.
The siblings gave an emotional thank you, made their goodbyes and left.
But the staff meeting wasn't over.
Geoff Iacuessa, the Sea Dogs' president and general manager, announced that he had a check for each person in the room. The Burkes (as the brother and sister are known to the staff) made a cut of the profits of the sale into a gift for each of the 18 employees, with the dollar amount on the checks scaled by the employee's service time with the franchise.
“Obviously, this was nothing they had to do. It was something they wanted to do," Iacuessa said. "I know Iowa did something like this a couple years ago, but this was an idea they came up with, something that they thought of as a very important part of [the sale process].”
When Iacuessa finished passing out envelopes, the staff members separated to open them -- and their banking apps.
"We all got checks, and no one at that time knew how much they were for," Cameron said. "We knew they were based on how long we’d been here, and we all went to our offices and opened it up, and we were all quite taken aback by the significant and really meaningful gift that it was. My family is very, very grateful for all the Burkes have done for us.”
It was a totally unexpected act, but for those who are familiar with the Burkes it wasn't exactly unbelievable. The family paid all Sea Dogs employees -- full-time workers and gameday staff alike -- during the COVID-cancelled 2020 season, a period of widespread furloughs and layoffs throughout the industry. It was also in keeping with the former ownership's ethos to leave before the announcement of the gift was made.
“Being the humble people they are, they didn’t want to be the ones to tell us what they had done," Cameron said.
He remembered an incident he'd heard about that took place before he came to work for the team full-time in 1999.
"One of the players got engaged and his girlfriend was at game that night, and the engagement ring didn’t fit quite right, and she lost the ring down the sink at the ballpark," Cameron said. "The Burkes paid to replace it. It wasn’t their problem. Nobody would have expected them to do that. That’s just the type of people they are."
The staff believes that in making good on their values of above-and-beyond generosity and helpfulness, the Burkes set a tone that defined the franchise -- and figures to remain a part of the club long after the founding owners have moved on.
"They have always understood how much our people mean to this organization and what we’re able to accomplish and the reputation we have in the community,” Iacuessa said.
Josh Jackson is an editor for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @JoshJacksonMiLB.