Kids play a baseball game on Heddericg Field in Brewer on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Credit: Lindsay Putnam / BDN

The outcome wasn’t what Logan Levensalor and the rest of the seniors on the Brewer High School baseball team desired Monday night, but even in a 12-4 loss to Bangor the most veteran of the Witches did something they hadn’t experienced before: play a game on their home field.

With varsity baseball and softball games between the two cross-river rivals taking place on adjacent fields barely 200 feet apart, an estimated 1,000 people from the neighboring communities were in attendance.

But while the Coffin Field softball complex has remained one of the top facilities of its kind in central and northern Maine, not only as the Brewer’s home for that sport but as an annual host of regional and state championship events, neighboring Heddericg Field has seen almost no baseball activity since 2018 due to drainage issues that leaves the outfield soggy for most of each spring due to the melting snow from a typical winter.

While the long-term goal to rectify the situation is to install artificial turf on Heddericg Field and the space immediately beyond its outfield fence, the current — albeit temporary — solution has been to refurbish the baseball diamond that required additional attention after the installation of new a new LED lighting system in anticipation of future upgrades to the complex.

A new infield was installed, warning tracks were restored after being dug up to run electrical conduits to the light poles, and metal roofing was placed atop the dugouts with the support of several local businesses and the tireless efforts of Brewer head coach Dana Corey, assistant coach Dennis Kiah and volunteer Phil Pushard.

“We’ve been working for hours and hours and hours on the field as far as getting it ready,” Corey said. “And we’ve had a lot of help from some businesses in the community.”

A fairly dry and breezy early spring led to the outfield being ready for play earlier than usual this year, just in time for the Witches to play their home game against Bangor truly at home rather than on the Rams’ home diamond across the river as originally scheduled.

“From what the field looked like two weeks ago it was a night-and-day difference,” Levensalor said. “There’s been no guarantees, it’s kind of been up in the air, but it’s cool to finally play some of my final home games on this field this year.”

It was fitting that Brewer return to Heddericg Field to face Bangor, as Bangor had hosted the Witches for games and practices at the city’s Mansfield Stadium throughout the last two seasons since the resumption of the sport from its 2020 COVID-19 cancellation.

“It’s been a complete, collaborative effort starting with Bangor coach Dave Morris,” said Brewer School Department athletic administrator Dave Utterback, who added that the pair have arranged schedules for the last two springs that allowed the best opportunities for both teams.

“Obviously Mansfield Stadium being open to taking us is in the spirit of why Mansfield Stadium was built,” Utterback said. “[Mansfield field director Ron St. Pierre] always reminds folks that it’s a field that was built for all kids, so we’re really appreciative of everyone over there.”

Morris, who coached varsity baseball at Brewer High School for 12 years before joining the coaching staff at his alma mater in 2009, sympathized with what Brewer’s players have endured without their own consistent baseball home and was glad the team’s seniors are beginning to have opportunities to play on their own diamond.

“They’ve really had a great attitude. I’m not sure everybody would handle it that way, playing at another site, especially at a rival’s site, so it’s a feather in their caps,” he said after Monday’s game.

“Heddericg’s always been a great atmosphere to play baseball — we have some experience being over here — and what better way to spend a Monday night than at a  baseball game with Bangor and Brewer. I’m just happy for their seniors.”

Brewer also has played home games at the University of Maine in Orono and at Husson University in Bangor during its time away from Heddericg Field, but at times the Witches have gone without an option, particularly during preseason and early in the spring when the outfield remained unplayable.

“There were some years when the first fly balls we saw were in games because we were still in the gym,” Corey said. “We didn’t have any place to practice.”

The field is named for Charles “Chatterbox” Heddericg, a civics and history teacher at Brewer High School from 1944 to 1971 who was the Witches’ baseball coach for 27 years.

Heddericg also had a side job as a “bird dog” scout who often brought the talent of baseball players around the state to the attention of the Boston Red Sox.

Heddericg was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, and in 1987 the Brewer High School District Trustees named the newly built baseball field behind the school in his honor.

The field’s late drying tendencies have been exacerbated in recent years by its location as it sits below Coffin Field and the Brewer Shopping Center parking lot and lacks a working drainage system beneath the outfield.

Brewer’s varsity baseball team logged just two full practices at Heddericg Field during Levensalor’s freshman season in 2019 after playing just six of its 24 regular-season games there over the previous three years because of the swampy sod.

A plan was conceived in 2019 to address the issue by installing artificial turf on Heddericg Field and the area just beyond its outfield fence, but efforts to fund the project privately were slowed by the arrival of the coronavirus a year later.

“We had envisioned pre-COVID that by this time we would be playing home games in every sport on a turf complex, and I felt like we were on our way to that vision prior to everything shutting down in March 2020,” Utterback said.

“We haven’t changed on that. We still have a lot of work to do but that’s our plan and our goal, to see that through. In the meantime, we have to maintain and get our resources that we have in Brewer back to a standard that’s expected in this community.”

While the recent efforts produced a scenic green, brightly lit Heddericg Field to host the first of two regular-season meetings between Brewer and Bangor — the rematch is set for June 1 at Mansfield Stadium — upcoming practices and future home games at the home of the Witches remain at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“I don’t think any of us dislike playing over there [at Mansfield Stadium],” Levensalor said, “but it’s cool to have our own home field where nobody else plays besides us.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...