The disparity between the home and road records of the Maine Red Claws borders on disbelief.

At the Expo, the Claws are 14-6 after beating the Windy City Bulls 112-109 on Sunday. No G League team has won more home games.

But outside of Maine the Claws are a mere 3-17, by far the league’s worst road record.

“We’ve talked about that,” Coach Brandon Bailey said. “If we want to … have a successful season, we have to find a way to win on the road.”

It might be understandable if the Red Claws played in the summer months, when nobody wants to leave Vacationland. But in the middle of winter? Isn’t that when people scramble to head south?

A more likely cause may be the folks who regularly populate the Portland Expo.


The Pining for Home Theory postulates that Portland fans are so supportive, so nurturing, that the Claws probably feel like orphans when they’re away from the friendly confines.

“I think it’s a testament to the fans, this truly is a home court,” Bailey said after a sellout crowd of 2,417 saw the Claws snap an eight-game losing streak Sunday at the Expo. “You go other places and sometimes it’s dead in there.”

Consider Pam Barker, a 70-year-old grandmother from South Portland who has been a season-ticket holder for three years. Barker has a small black book in which she records birthdays of Red Claws players and assistant coaches, along with their favorite sweets.

The players know Barker as Grammy. Cindy Lerman of Portland, also 70, is known as Nana. Also as The Cookie Lady.

“She does cookies,” Barker said. “I do muffins, cupcakes and pies. I’ve even made baby blankets for some of the players’ children.”

On Sunday, Barker brought whoopie pies for Sally Leger, who operates the shot clock, and for Karrington Ward, a Windy City reserve who broke camp two years ago with the Red Claws.


Although he never played for Maine, Ward had the good fortune to sit at a table with Barker and her husband, Larry, at a Meet the Team dinner.

“He’ll get chocolate chip muffins after the game,” Barker said. “So yes, we do spoil the players.”

Barker’s children are 45, 44 and 31 years old, and none of the three lives nearby.

“So these are my children,” she said, gesturing toward the court. “Of course if their birthday doesn’t fall in season, they don’t get anything. Sorry.”

If you want alumni updates, Barker is a font of knowledge. Having become friendly with the godparents of former Red Claw Andre Stringer, she’s planning a trip with them in March to Prince Edward Island, where Stringer currently plays, and on the way back will stop in St. John, New Brunswick, to see another former Red Claw, Malcolm Miller (not to be confused with the other former Red Claw, also named Malcolm Miller, currently a two-way player with Toronto and Raptors 905).

Of the current Red Claws, Josh Adeyeye is the closest to an upcoming birthday. He turns 25 on March 6. At Maine’s next home game, two days later, he can expect blueberry muffins with a candle in the middle.


“It’s good to have someone like that,” said Red Claws guard Kadeem Allen, “especially when people are far from home, showing that they really care about the guys, care about the Red Claws, and we really appreciate them. I think they know that.”

Of course the Claws appreciate the fans who don’t bake for them as well. Don Harris, 50, and Laural Hatch, 42, both of Hollis, became season-ticket holders three years ago.

“I think the newness is wearing off a little bit but I like watching them,” Harris said. “Some of them are up-and-coming stars.”

Closer to the court, Portland residents Shawn Agren, 45, and Michelle Santiago, 40, have seats on the sideline opposite the visiting team’s bench, near the baseline. Occasionally a player attempting to save a ball from going out of bounds leaps over them.

“It happens,” Agren said. “We make sure if we’re drinking something, we’re only drinking when they’re on the other end of the court.”

Both Agren and Santiago played basketball in high school. To see the talent and athleticism of young men on the cusp of making it at the highest level of professional basketball, they say, is worth the risk of having someone like Celtics rookie Guerschon Yabusele, who often plays for Maine, land in your lap.


“Where else can you come on a weeknight see NBA-caliber talent, and be home by 9:30?” Agren said. “Like right now, Terry Rozier’s on the Celtics. He’s making an impact. We got to see him up close and personal for a year here. So that was pretty cool.”

The seats immediately to their right are owned by a company that distributes them to different people, who usually get a heads-up from Agren and Santiago: “Hey, when they’re down at this end, you have to pay attention.”

The Red Claws play their next three games in Ohio, Wisconsin and North Carolina. After three consecutive seasons of winning the Atlantic Division, they now dwell in the division basement. Only six Eastern Conference teams qualify for the playoffs and Maine is currently 10th.

Whether or not the Red Claws qualify, you can be certain they will circle March 22 on their calendars. It’s the last home game of the season, also known as Fan Appreciation Day.

“Hopefully,” said Allen, one of Boston’s two-way players, “they know how much we really appreciate it.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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