It was a cold early-spring day Thursday in Orono, but that didn’t stop the University of Maine baseball team from getting in its first official practice on Mahaney Diamond.
Contending with unpredictable northern New England weather is nothing new for the Black Bears, who are gearing up for the revamped Fairleigh Dickinson Classic this weekend in New Jersey.
Coach Steve Trimper’s team will now take on tourney participants FDU and St. Peter’s in a two-day event that will encompass six games. UMaine will face the Knights and the Peacocks on both Saturday and Sunday.
Since the construction at Fairleigh Dickinson’s Naimoli Family Baseball Complex in Paramus, N.J., is not yet complete, the Classichas been moved to a municipal field at Caven Point in Jersey City, N.J.
Trimper explained the facility should be sufficient in terms of playability but has some limitations. He said there are no restrooms, players will not be allowed to wear spikes and there are only low-level lights, which might not be adequate if play extends beyond daylight hours.
“It’s annoying, but we’ve got to play,” Trimper said.
UMaine and St. Peter’s play Saturday at 1:30 p.m., followed by a 4:30 p.m. contest pitting the Bears against FDU. On Sunday, UMaine and FDU play at 10:30 a.m., then the Bears and Peacocks square off at 1:30 p.m.
The field at Caven Point is located right on the Hudson River, not far from Liberty State Park near the Statue of Liberty.
Trimper said because of concerns about the lack of college-level amenities at Caven Point, he attempted to convince Fairleigh Dickinson and St. Peter’s to travel to Orono for the tournament. He said he even offered to significantly defray the teams’ expenses.
“We just can’t get teams to come up here,” Trimper said. “Our facility’s totally playable with the (Field)Turf.”
On the plus side, UMaine will have saved a considerable amount of money for bus services, lodging and meal expenses because of the abbreviated trip.
Concerns about the weather may also have been somewhat of a factor as temperatures in New Jersey are expected to be in the low 40s this weekend, some 10 degrees warmer than those forecast for Orono.
UMaine had originally been scheduled to play Sacred Heart on Thursday, followed by two games Friday and one each Saturday and Sunday in the FDU tourney. However, Sacred Heart’s field was deemed unplayable after a snowstorm and FDU’s artificially-surfaced facility wasn’t completed as planned.
The Bears are scheduled to play their home opener April 1 when they kick off a three-game series against Division I Bryant University of Smithfield, R.I.