In the entire country, only two Division I baseball teams have yet to play a game on their home field this spring.
The University of Maine, along with Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., share that dubious distinction.
The Black Bears will call the John Winkin Complex at Husson College in Bangor “home” this weekend as they play a four-game nonconference series against the New York Institute of Technology. The action starts with today’s 7 p.m. nine-inning game.
With Husson headed on the road for weekend North Atlantic Conference games, the Black Bears have procured the Eagles’ FieldTurf facility to ensure they can play – and as close to home as possible.
“To be home, it’s a nice feeling,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper. “Even if we’re at Husson, we don’t have to sit on a bus and we get to be in our hometown.”
With the end Thursday to the snow and torrential rain that had pummeled Maine came hope that Mahaney Diamond in Orono might be playable sooner than expected.
“If this weather keeps up, we might be able to come back over here and play Sunday’s game. We’ll see,” Trimper said. “We’ve been working our butts off on it.”
The warmer temperatures and brisk winds actually dried off the facility enough for the Bears to get out and practice on it Thursday for the first time this season.
Trimper explained that not only will it be nice for his players to sleep in their own beds, they hopefully can start getting into a better weekly routine.
“The traveling does hurt and playing in front of your home crowd on your home field is what you’d like,” Trimper said, “but this time of year as a coach, you really want to set your practices up where if you’re not playing a midweek game, you would fill your days with scrimmages outside or some kind of BP [batting practice] scrimmage.”
Trimper said the hitters, in particular, are challenged because they’re going several days between facing live pitching in game situations. That makes it harder for everyone to stay consistent.
McAvoy on the mend
UMaine sophomore Kevin McAvoy continues to work his way back slowly after injuring his tailbone last week in a fall at his home.
“I slipped at my place and bruised my tailbone pretty bad. I slipped down the stairs,” said McAvoy, who explained Thursday the injury resulted in considerable bleeding and was quite painful, thus rendering him unable to do much.
“I’ve been really out of everything,” McAvoy said. “This happened more than a week ago and I’ve really been out ever since – MRIs and doctor’s appointments and stuff like that. I have been taking it slow, but I’m starting to get back into the swing of things.”
McAvoy, the 2006 America East Rookie of the Year, said he started throwing again Thursday and hoped he might be able to pitch a little bit against New York Tech.
The former Brewer High School star did not travel with the team to last weekend’s series against Maryland Baltimore County at Mansfield, Conn. His absence leaves a considerable hole in the Bears’ lineup as he is batting .319 with two home runs and 18 RBIs.
UMaine has filled the void with sophomore Brian Hackett of Bangor, who is hitting .339 with 13 RBIs.
The coaches moved Curt Smith back to third base and inserted Hackett at shortstop, a position he hadn’t played before.
“He’s been making routine plays and he’s really stepped it up for us and that’s all you can ask for,” Trimper said. “He’s the epitome of the guy who will go out there and give it his all.”
Trimper said Hackett’s baseball knowledge has helped him make the adjustment to a new and challenging position.
Hackett is the son of former UMaine catcher Ed Hackett, who helped lead the Bears to four straight College World Series appearances during the 1980s.