ORONO – With Mahaney Diamond being renovated, University of Maine baseball coach Steve Trimper was forced to make other arrangements for fall practices this year.
With some creative scheduling and the help of the folks at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, the Black Bears are enjoying a productive fall season.
Trimper explained Division I teams may utilize 45 practice days between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30. This time around, he staggered the Bears’ dates.
Initially, rather than being out on the field or in the Mahaney Dome, the coaches worked with players on skills.
“Our kids really got acclimated the first two, three weeks,” said the Bears’ fourth-year coach. “We got to do more work with them one-on-one.”
Since then, UMaine has held team workouts at Mansfield Stadium, which it has shared with Husson University. Trimper is grateful to be able to use such a fine facility.
“Without the Mansfield group of Ron St. Pierre, Dave Mansfield, Stephen King, Tabitha King and everybody helping us out, it would have put us in a real bind. The field is major-league caliber,” Trimper said.
While UMaine has been paying to use the field, it also has donated some 5,000 pounds of clay, dug up during the Mahaney Diamond project, for use on Bangor’s youth baseball fields.
UMaine has been gearing up for 2009 by integrating a handful of newcomers into a lineup that already includes several outstanding performers. Key losses included slugging first baseman Curt Smith and outfielder Mark Ostrander.
Trimper believes his returnees will be able to take advantage of their experience after going 20-28-1 last year.
The pitching staff, led by junior Joe Miller, sophomore Kevin Scanlan and sophomore Kyle Benoit, has been bolstered by four newcomers.
“I really like what I see on the mound. The four freshmen are really pitching up to their ability right now,” Trimper said.
Among positional players, UMaine is developing more balance and depth across the board. Newcomers George Tager and Taylor Lewis, both outfielders, and infielder Kyle Stilphen of Pittston are expected to make an impact.
Tager is a candidate to become the leadoff hitter, while Lewis features tremendous speed and Stilphen has shown a potent bat.
Redshirt freshman first baseman Justin Leisenheimer has hit for power.
“I’m really impressed with our arms and the depth, the balance of the offensive lineup we’re going to have,” Trimper said. “I’m pleased with the guys’ attitudes.”
The Bears are in the midst of their Blue-White World Series, a best-of-five intrasquad competition. The captains conducted a draft to choose their respective teams.
Saturday’s game begins at noon at Mansfield.
UMaine has selected five captains for next season. They are seniors Billy Cather, Kevin McAvoy of Brewer, Alejandro Balsinde and Danny Menendez, and junior Myckie Lugbauer.
Mahaney project progressing
Next spring, the Bears will be playing on a state-of-the-art FieldTurf surface at Mahaney Diamond.
The new turf, which is the same product installed last summer on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium, will feature some contrasting colors to make the field look more like a traditional field.
In the areas where dirt normally would be present – on the basepaths, around the infield and on the warning track – a brownish-colored turf will be installed. Home plate and the pitcher’s mound will be the only areas to feature clay.
Trimper said he also hopes to install a new wooden fence around the outfield and may also implement some turf in the outfield that looks as though it has been mowed in two different directions.
“I set up with my lunch on the (Mahaney Clubhouse) deck and watch the bulldozers,” said an excited Trimper. “We’ve already had a couple verbals (commitments by recruits) and, schedule-wise, we’ll have six more home games (in the future).”