If you were in-and-around campus this past summer, you probably noticed the periodic construction of a new addition to the University of Maine baseball team’s Mahaney Diamond complex. Unlike many renovation projects carried out by university departments and organizations, this one didn’t take long — construction took place between May and July.
Beside the Mahaney Clubhouse now stands the brand new Paul J. Mitchell Batting Pavilion, fully equipped with custom-made mahogany doors, a player’s lounge and tunnel access from the players’ locker room.
Prior to adding the batting pavilion, UMaine baseball’s most recently added facility was Mahaney Dome — a 200-by-200 foot, weather-protected turf field donated by Larry Mahaney and his son, Kevin, back in late 2006 — which now serves as a versatile haven for all forms of athletics associated with the university.
Although the dome has proven to be a very helpful asset, there are downfalls. According to head coach Steve Trimper, two main problems evolved: It’s dark and there are no defined cages.
“We’re inside so much that we’re fortunate enough to have the dome that Kevin Mahaney donated a few years ago,” Trimper said. “It’s been very sufficient for us. However, we’re constantly picking up baseballs and we’ve never really had a batting cage.”
The idea for a new batting pavilion crossed the mind of Trimper years before plans were finalized this year. According to him, the only thing that prevented the concept from becoming reality was lack of funds.
“Obviously money and budgets are tight now — not just in athletics, but around the university,” Trimper said. “A project like this has to be 100 percent fundraised and donated.”
The original plan began when willing donors Stewart and Linda Price of Oklahoma, approached the program looking to contribute funds in return for a dedicated area within Mahaney Diamond complex for his father-in-law, Paul Mitchell.
Mitchell is a native of Waterville, a Navy veteran and a member of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. He received his undergraduate degree at UMaine, continued on to earn his M.A. from Columbia University and is the brother of former Maine U.S. Senator George Mitchell.
Paul Mitchell played college baseball as a Black Bear during his undergraduate tenure through the 1940s, which is why donating to the baseball program seemed most appropriate to Price.
As soon as a plan for the batting pavilion was decided on, funds were ready to be dispersed and the university had approved proposals, donors and contractors immediately ready to go to work. For this reason, the project took an admirably short time to finish.
“We knew exactly what we wanted, we had the money already in place and the design was done,” Trimper said. “The contractors all stepped up and wanted to get it done by a dedication date, which is why they worked nonstop and you saw the thing go up in two months.”
The batting pavilion did end up costing more than initially expected, but that’s when Kevin Mahaney stepped up to the plate.
“He approached me, saying, ‘Well, this is a great upgrade for baseball and the area,’”
Trimper said. “He helped finish it up with a couple of other donors and it got completely fundraised.”
Additional fundraising help came from Tom Savage and Paul Hannigan.
In comparison to the ongoing renovation work on The Pit and Field House, this project was at a smaller scale. According to Trimper, not having to deal with heating, plumbing and electric, in combination with an intricate design, proved to help this project finish quickly.
This isn’t the first time the team has had workable batting cages for players. In more recent years, UMaine’s batting cage has been tucked inside the corner of the north side of the Field House, and it wasn’t always treated kindly, to say the least. A $47,000 ProBatter machine — a visual simulator used by batters — was constantly being mistreated after being moved around nonchalantly.
Luckily, coach Trimper and the baseball program were able to trade in the old ProBatter machine for credit in order to purchase a brand new one.
“With the new [batting pavilion], we have a designated spot [for the ProBatter machine],” Trimper said. “It will now have a much safer environment.”
The batting pavilion will prove immensely beneficial for the team during the winter training months and will also provide more time for other teams to train inside the now less occupied Mahaney Dome.
“It helps our players hit nonstop throughout the year, and it also frees up dome space so maybe one of our guys is working on a tee in the winter time and other teams can use the dome a little bit more,” Timper said. “Our players are constantly going to have a place to work out.”
After a few lockers were moved and a hole was made in the wall, the batting pavilion and clubhouse are now attached, with a brand new door and tunnel separating the two buildings. Along with the special area for video equipment, the players’ lounge will allow players to watch teammates train inside the cages. Doors to the batting pavilion will be locked for most of the year, but access to both the baseball and softball teams will be accommodated for at all times.
The batting pavilion will also serve as a center for community-related events, such as camps and clinics for young players, nurturing talent within local lines.
A dedication ceremony was held on Aug. 21 outside of the new facility. Speakers included UMaine Director of Athletics Steve Abbott, UMaine President Paul Ferguson, Price, former Sen. George Mitchell, Kevin Mahaney, Paul Mitchell, coach Trimper and junior infielder Mike Connolly.