BANGOR, Maine — Picturesque Mansfield Stadium has always been one of Bangor’s featured attractions, supplying youngsters the opportunity to play baseball on a first-class facility.
And Ron St. Pierre, who has been the field manager at Mansfield Stadium since 1992, says the field is in “the best shape it’s ever been in” for this week’s Senior League World Series. This is the 12th year of the event at Mansfield Stadium
The SLWS brings 10 teams of 15-16 year-old boys from all across the globe to Bangor to vie for the honor of being called World Champions.
“We’ve learned a few tricks over the years,” said St. Pierre, who flies to Coors Field in Denver twice a year to watch how the grounds crew for the National League’s Colorado Rockies maintains the playing surface.
“I watch them before the game and the equipment they use and say to myself, ‘We ought to try that,’” said St. Pierre.
One of the innovations they are using this season are professional brooms that span seven feet.
The three brooms, which cost $170 apiece, are used to drag the infield. Each broom requires one member of the grounds crew to drag the infield and smooth it out.
“It enables you to take out the footprints without compacting the infield. When you use a piece of power equipment, it’s too heavy and compacts the infield all the time. And the brooms don’t create ruts,” said St. Pierre. “Three people can cover 27 feet in the infield by walking by just once.”
He said the Rockies grounds crew uses the brooms after every three innings, but the Bangor crew only do it after every game.
“The field is in great condition. We don’t have to do it any more than that,” said St. Pierre.
He said brick dust has been added to the warning track to make it “that much more even” and the new brick dust has “smaller chunks” than the previous brick dust, which makes it safer for the outfielders. The Bangor crew ordered 30 tons of brick dust.
The crew also has added new fencing spanning from the dugouts to the corners down each line, have covered the poles in the batting cage with two-inch foam padding, and have taken a couple of artificial turf circles to use as the on-deck circles instead of just painting circles in the field.
St. Pierre said the old fencing was 22 years old and needed to be replaced.
“I think we spent $6,000 on the fencing, and it looks real nice,” he said.
He said covering the poles in the batting cages makes it safer because balls used to ricochet off the poles and endanger those in the batting cages. Now the balls will be deadened by the foam covering on the poles.
He said the artificial on-deck circles were created out of leftover material from their halo kit. A halo kit is a circular artificial surface that is used behind the plate as a border between the dirt around the plate area and the grass leading to the backstop.
“A lot of universities use the halo kits so they don’t have to maintain the area in behind the [portable] batting cages [on the field] when they take batting practice,” said St. Pierre. “When we had the [painted on] on-deck circles, the kids would dig holes, and the holes would fill with water.”
St. Pierre said a recently obtained soil compactor enables crew members to “get rid of the lips” in the infield, which can produce bad hops.
“We went to Weber MT in Bangor to buy one and they actually gave us one [free],” said St. Pierre. “Now the grass is even with the infield. There aren’t any dips.”
He said the grounds crew spends in the vicinity of $20,000 getting the field ready, and the soil conditioner used on the infield means they don’t have to overwater it.
“It has been a fantastic year so far compared to last year,” he said.
St. Pierre said the field couldn’t be in the shape it’s in without the crew and volunteers.
“The infield is perfect,” noted Kennett Square (Pa.) pitcher Alex Pechin. “You get nice ground balls. It’s very hard to make an error. And the mound is awesome.”
“This is the best field I’ve ever played on,” said Kennett Square catcher Eric Duerr.