ORONO — Usually, when the doorbell rings there is someone on the other side who wants something.
Last Saturday, numerous residents of Greater Bangor were pleasantly surprised to be on the receiving end when they answered the door.
The unsuspecting citizens targeted were season-ticket holders for the University of Maine women’s basketball team. Their visitors were small groups of Black Bear players who hand-delivered the 2011-12 tickets to the fans.
“What a surprise!” said Melvin Braverman of Bangor, who, along with his wife Barbara, is a longtime season-ticket holder of both Black Bear basketball teams. “It was such a nice touch late on Saturday afternoon to have three lovely young ladies standing there with our tickets in their hands.”
There was a similar reaction at the Bangor home of Ralph White and former Bangor Daily News columnist Joni Averill White.
“We were so excited,” she said. “We were jumping up and down, giving them all hugs.”
The Whites asked the trio of players, which included junior Shareka Maner and freshmen Kelsey Mattice and Amber Dillon, to pose for a photo on their front porch.
“I think it was a wonderful, neat thing for them to do,” Averill White said. “We were thrilled. Hopefully, they’ll build some interest.”
The outing proved educational and rewarding for UMaine team members. That was especially true of the first-year players.
“It actually made a lot of people’s days, so it felt good to do something for the community,” said Mattice, a guard from Cicero, N.Y. “They’re definitely big supporters of women’s basketball, so it was nice to show some gratitude in return for what they do for us.”
UMaine coach Richard Barron said the idea came from Eileen Flaherty, UMaine’s associate athletic director for compliance and its senior woman administrator.
“I was at Iowa State before coming here and their volleyball team did that when they started selling tickets to their games (which used to be free),” Flaherty said.
“I was talking to Richard and I knew how great it was in the community,” she added. “I think that kind of effort is appreciated.”
The players gained a deeper understanding of what UMaine women’s basketball means to its most dedicated fans.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Dillon, a guard from Jamaica Plain, Mass. “I felt very special and important to the people we gave the tickets to.”
Many of the patrons clearly were caught off guard by the unannounced visit.
“Somebody said they thought they won a million bucks,” Dillon recounted.
Perhaps most importantly, it put the fans and players face to face in a non-basketball setting.
“I think it was really good to get to see who our fans are and talk to them individually and just let them know that we’re excited for the season and we hope that they are, too,” said freshman Becca Knight of Alfred.
Barron received some first-hand feedback on the effort when he and his family attended church last Sunday.
It turns out the minister and his wife have season tickets and the preacher made note of the situation during his sermon.
“Clearly, the season ticket holders are the people who’ve stood by this program for a long time, through some lean years, and so we need that to be our enthusiastic base and we need to let them know that we appreciate them,” Barron said.
UMAINE MEN ADD EXHIBITION GAME
The UMaine men’s basketball team has added an exhibition game for the 2011-12 season.
Coach Ted Woodward announced the Bears will entertain the University of Ottawa on Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. in Memorial Gym.
Admission to the game is free.
UMaine fans can get their first look at the team Sunday at noon when the Bears face Division III Fisher College in an exhibition game at Alfond Arena. The contest is part of a doubleheader as the UMaine women play the University of New Brunswick at 2 p.m.