The result wasn’t what Logan Levensalor and the rest of the Brewer High School senior baseball team wanted Monday night, but even in a 12-4 loss to Bangor, the Witches veteran did something they’d never experienced before: play a game on their home field.
Because baseball and softball games between the two Cross River rivals were played at adjacent fields barely 200 feet apart, an estimated 1,000 people from neighboring communities attended.
But while the Coffin Field softball complex has remained one of the premier facilities of its kind in central and northern Maine, not only as the brewer’s home for the sport, but also as the annual host of regional and state championship events, neighboring Heddericg Field has seen almost none Baseball activity since 2018 due to drainage problems leaving the outfield wet for most of each spring due to a typical winter’s melting snow.
While the long-term goal to remedy the situation is to install artificial turf on Heddericg Field and the plaza immediately behind the outfield fence, the current – albeit temporary – solution has been to refurbish the baseball diamond that was built after the Installation of new A new LED lighting system required additional attention in anticipation of future upgrades to the complex.
A new inner field was installed, warning tracks were restored after being dug up to run electrical lines to the light towers and with the help of several local businesses and the tireless effort of Brewer head trainer Dana Corey, assistant, metal roofs were put on the shelters attached trainer Dennis Kiah and volunteer Phil Pushard.
“We worked hours and hours and hours in the field to get it ready,” Corey said. “And we’ve had a lot of help from some businesses in the community.”
A fairly dry and breezy start to Spring meant the outfield was ready earlier than usual this year, just in time for the Witches to truly play their home game against Bangor at home, rather than on the Rams’ home field on the other side of the field as originally river planned.
“It was a day-night difference from what the field looked like two weeks ago,” said Levensalor. “There were no guarantees, it was kind of in the air, but it’s cool to finally be able to play some of my last home games on this field this year.”
It was fitting that Brewer returned to Heddericg Field to face Bangor, as Bangor has hosted the Witches for games and practice at the city’s Mansfield Stadium for the past two seasons since the sport resumed following the COVID-19 cancellation in 2020 had.
“It’s been a full, collaborative effort, starting with Bangor coach Dave Morris,” said Brewer School Department athletic administrator Dave Utterback, who added that the pair had arranged schedules for the last two springs that offered the best opportunities for both teams .
“Obviously, Mansfield Stadium’s openness to us is in the spirit of why Mansfield Stadium was built,” Utterback said. “[Mansfield field director Ron St. Pierre] always reminds people that it’s a field that was built for all children, so we’re really thankful for everyone over there.”
Morris, who coached college 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 endured without their own steadfast baseball home, and was glad that the seniors of the team are beginning to have the opportunity to play on their own diamond.
“They really had a great attitude. I’m not sure everyone would deal with it that way playing on another side, especially a rival side, so it’s a feather in the cap,” he said after Monday’s game.
“Heddericg has always been a great atmosphere to play baseball – we’ve got some experience 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 has also played home games at the University of Maine at Orono and Husson University at Bangor during his absence from Heddericg Field, but sometimes the Witches have been left without an option, particularly in the preseason and early spring when the outfield remained unplayable .
“There were a few years where we first saw flyballs in games because we were still in the gym,” Corey said. “We had no place to practice.”
The field is named for Charles “Chatterbox” Heddericg, a civics and history teacher at Brewer High School from 1944 to 1971 and the Witches’ baseball coach for 27 years.
Heddericg also had a part-time job as a “bird dog” scout, often alerting the Boston Red Sox to the talent of baseball players across the state.
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, being below Coffin Field and the Brewer Shopping Center parking lot, and lacking a functioning drainage system under the outfield.
The Brewer collegiate baseball team completed just two full practice sessions at Heddericg Field during Levensalor’s inaugural season in 2019, after playing just six of their 24 regular-season games there in the past three years due to the swampy turf.
A plan was drawn up in 2019 to address the problem by installing artificial turf on Heddericg Field and the area just behind the perimeter fence, but efforts to privately fund the project were slowed a year later by the arrival of the coronavirus.
“We had a vision before COVID that we would be playing home games in every sport on a grass complex at that point, and I felt like we were well on our way to that vision before everything shut down in March 2020,” Utterback said .
“We haven’t changed anything about that. We still have a lot of work to do, but that’s our plan and our goal to pull this through. In the meantime, we need to conserve our resources that we have in Brewer and bring them back up to a standard that is expected in this community.”
While recent efforts have produced a scenic green, brightly lit Heddericg Field to host the first of two regular-season meetings between Brewer and Bangor – the rematch is at Mother Nature’s mercy for the 1 Witches Remain.
“I don’t think any of us don’t like playing over there [at Mansfield Stadium]’ said Levensalor, ‘but it’s cool to have your own home stadium where nobody but us plays.’