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Portland’s 25th anniversary All-Stars - A look at some of the most successful Sea Dogs

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It has been a quarter of a century since the current iteration of minor league baseball landed in Maine’s largest city.

The Portland Sea Dogs are celebrating their 25th anniversary this season. The team began life in 1994 as the AA affiliate for the expansion Florida Marlins. However, they were destined to remain part of the Marlins system through 2002 – less than a decade. That was when the team switched affiliation and joined the Red Sox farm system, where they remain to this day.

Nearly 300 players have worn the Sea Dogs uniform over the past 25 years, including a whole lot of future big leaguers. In honor of this auspicious anniversary, it seemed fitting to assemble an all-time lineup.

Here's a look at some of the best players ever to grace the grass at Hadlock Field.

(Note: This list is intended to include only those players whose stint in Portland preceded their major league successes. Players whose Sea Dogs tenure consisted solely of injury rehab will not be included.)

Catcher: Charles Johnson

Johnson caught 132 games for the Sea Dogs during their inaugural season in 1994. Over the course of a 12-year big league career, Johnson batted .245 with 167 home runs and 570 RBI and made one All-Star team. He was also considered one of the best defensive catchers in the league, winning four consecutive Gold Gloves at one point. His last big-league season was 2005.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2002, 20-year-old Adrian Gonzalez played 138 games for Portland. He would be in the big leagues two years later; he's currently entering his 15th big league season. In that span, Gonzalez has crossed the 300-home run and 2,000-hit thresholds while driving in nearly 1,200 runs and scoring almost a thousand. He is a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner; he’s considered one of the game’s elder statesmen.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia played for Portland in 2005, appearing in 66 games during his meteoric rise to the bigs. Since his 2006 arrival in Boston, all Pedroia has done is win Rookie of the Year and an MVP award while being named to four All-Star teams and winning three Gold Gloves. One of the most beloved players in Red Sox history. Over the course of his 12-year MLB career thus far, he’s knocked over 1,800 hits for a batting average of exactly .300.

Shortstop: Edgar Renteria

Renteria was just 18 back in 1995, when he started 135 games for the Sea Dogs. He made the Marlins the next year and went on to a stellar 16-year career with seven different teams. The five-time All-Star won two Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. He was named the 2010 World Series MVP while with San Francisco. For his career, Renteria had over 2,300 hits, stole nearly 300 bases and scored 1,200 runs while batting .286.

Third Base: Kevin Youkilis

For 94 games in 2003, Youkilis was a hitting machine for Portland. After that, he bounced between Pawtucket and Boston until he stuck in 2006. Youk became a cult figure in Boston, making three All-Star teams, winning a Gold Glove and sweating more than any human should. He faded pretty quickly after turning 30, hanging it up after a brief, unsuccessful 2013 campaign – he finished with a .281 batting average, 150 homers and over 1,000 hits.

Left Field: Randy Winn

Winn spent part of the 1997 season at Portland before making his big league debut the next year. He proceeded to put together a 13-year big league career with five different teams. While never a star, Winn put up decent numbers for over a decade, finishing with nearly 1,800 hits and over 200 steals. He was a fine player, but he’ll likely be supplanted on this list by Benintendi before too long.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury spent time in Portland in both 2006 and 2007. His time in the bigs has been injury-riddled, but when he has been healthy, he's been one of the game's most dynamic performers. His 2011 season in particular was one for the ages he finished second in the MVP voting. For his career, he has batted .297; despite playing only three full seasons, he has nearly 200 career stolen bases.

Right Field: Mookie Betts

Betts showed us the future during his 54 games at Portland in 2014, where he slashed .355/.443/.551 and generally kicked ass. His big-league career began that same season. Now, Betts has the least experience on this list, but quality beats quantity; in just 508 games, his totals include 78 homers and 80 steals with 310 RBI and 349 runs scored, while his career slash line is .291/.351/.488. He’s been an All-Star twice, has two Gold Gloves and a pair of top-10 MVP finishes.

Designated Hitter: Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez was one of the top prospects in baseball when he played in Portland during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. It was only after he was dealt to the Marlins that he truly broke out, though he did make his way back to Boston in 2015. He was the Rookie of the Year in 2006 and has been named to three All-Star teams. In his 13 years in the bigs, he has 1,780 hits, 880 RBI and 1,020 runs scored. He has 263 homers and 277 steals to go with a .291 batting average.

Righthanded Starter: Josh Beckett

Beckett went 8-1 in 13 starts for the 2001 Sea Dogs team. He won the 2003 World Series MVP with Florida and the 2007 ALCS MVP with Boston; in addition, he made three All-Star teams and twice finished in the top-10 of Cy Young voting. Over the course of his 14-year career – which ended after the 2014 season – Beckett put up a record of 136-106; he struck out 1,901 batters in his 335 games to go along with an ERA of 3.88 and a WHIP of 1.23.

Lefthanded Starter: Jon Lester

Lester spent the 2005 season in Portland, going 11-6 in 26 starts with a 2.61 ERA and 163 strikeouts. His big-league career began the next year; he spent the next eight-plus seasons in Boston before a 2014 trade to Oakland and a subsequent contract with the Cubs as a free agent. He’s entering his 13th season and still sits as one of the game’s best starters – for his career totals as of today, he’s got 159 wins, over 2,000 Ks and a 3.51 ERA.

Closer: Jonathan Papelbon

Papelbon made 14 starts for Portland in 2005. However, it was as a reliever that he made his name in the big leagues. For a significant stretch of his 12-year career – which only just came to an end in 2016 - he was one of the most feared closers in the game. He was a six-time All-Star who saved at least 30 games in eight different seasons. His career totals are 41 wins, 368 saves and 808 strikeouts, with an ERA of 2.44 and a 1.04 WHIP.

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There are plenty of other Sea Dogs who have gone on to MLB success. The toughest to omit was probably Anthony Rizzo, but there are a ton of guys. Kevin Millar, Luis Castillo, Livan Hernandez, Clay Buchholz, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Mark Kotsay, Alex Gonzalez - the list goes on and on. And there are some young guys - guys like Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. - who probably make their way on this list five years from now.

So why not take a trip to Hadlock Field sometime this summer? You might wind up catching a glimpse of the next future star.

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