When the Bangor and Brewer baseball teams square off Tuesday in their mutual 2021 high school season opener at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, it will mark the first game in 623 days played on the field that Stephen King built.
And while Bangor is the home team for the 1 p.m. encounter, the archrivals will be acutely familiar with the complex by the end of the season.
Both high schools are calling Mansfield Stadium home this spring, as Heddericg Field in Brewer is unavailable. A new lighting system is being installed as part of a plan organizers hope will culminate with the installation of 210,000 square feet of artificial turf to cover the baseball facility and adjacent multipurpose fields.
“It’s really been a good collaborative effort, and we’ve been able to work out a schedule that would accommodate both schools,” said Dave Utterback, athletic administrator of the Brewer School Department.
Bangor High will continue to base its varsity and subvarsity programs at Mansfield Stadium, while Brewer also will play its games, and hold varsity practices and many subvarsity workouts, at the former home of the Senior League World Series.
“This is probably the best part of athletics,” Bangor High athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine said, “that when we play we’ll play to win and so will they, but we put the kids first.”
Brewer has had limited access to Heddericg Field for baseball in recent years due to waterlogged spring conditions caused by rain and snowmelt. The diamond is located below the adjacent Coffin Field softball complex and Brewer Shopping Center parking lot and the drainage system beneath the outfield is lacking.
The Witches’ varsity baseball team played only six of its 24 regular-season games between 2017 and 2019 on its home field and practiced there just twice in 2019. Last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sort of ironically, the two seasons when we may have been able to use Heddericg Field early are the two seasons that we aren’t using Heddericg Field early or at all, last year being the first one and this year due to the construction,” Utterback said.
Brewer players have gained considerable experience at Mansfield Stadium while coming up through the youth baseball ranks and as the visiting team at the high school level.
This year, the Witches will be the visiting team for two of its three regular-season games against Bangor and also will host the Rams at Mansfield for each team’s final contest before the playoffs.
Coach Dana Corey’s club will play at least 10 games at Bangor’s facility.
“In the past we’ve done the nomadic shuffle depending on where we could get on a field between Mansfield, Husson University or Mahaney Diamond at the University of Maine,” Utterback said. “But the closure of those campuses really focused us on looking at Mansfield early and talking with [Mansfield Stadium field director] Ron St. Pierre through the winter about how we were probably going to need a partner and need some help and they more than accommodated.
“[Bangor coach] Dave Morris has been unbelievably flexible in helping us out.”
Brewer is returning the favor this spring by sharing one of its athletic facilities with Bangor.
Bangor’s outdoor track and field team is homeless while construction is underway on a new eight-lane track and artificial-turf field at Cameron Stadium. The Rams are practicing, and will host a May 8 meet, at the Brewer Community School track and field complex.
The arrangement marks the return of a similar favor involving Vanidestine and former Brewer athletic director Dennis Kiah a decade ago. With the Brewer Community School under construction, its track teams were without a home, so they practiced across the Penobscot River at Cameron Stadium.
“[Utterback] also said that Dennis Kiah made a point when he retired as AD that if Bangor ever needed anything we owe them for the two seasons they were over here,” Vanidestine said.
“My response to Dave was, you don’t owe us anything, but he was more than happy to do it,” he said. “People have been great in bending over backwards to help each other, which we have to now more than ever. We move games, we try to move times, we do what we can to make things work.”