Midcoast Athletics

Renovations underway at Rockland baseball, softball fields

Posted:  Monday, August 7, 2017 - 8:30am

ROCKLAND — As thousands of people gathered in Rockland for the 70th Annual Maine Lobster Festival Thursday, Aug. 3 and Friday, Aug. 4, a group of locals gathered across town at the Thomaston Street diamonds to begin renovations. 

The renovations project kicked off its fundraising efforts in May with an auction, followed by a yard sale and raffle tickets for Boston Red Sox game. The group is still in the process of raffling tickets for a Billy Joel concert and another Red Sox contest. 

On Thursday, Jim Hall, crew members of George Hall and Sons — who donated $7,500 in services — and Bill Lappanen began removing bushes and trees to not only eliminate ticks, but also make it easier to locate baseballs and softballs that normally could get lost in the vegetation. The crew also worked on “grading and re-trenching for drainage,” according to Doris Norton. 

“Seeing the George Hall excavator clearing around the field was like a dream come true,” Norton said in a press release Monday. “It’s the first step we needed to reach our goal of having games played in Spring of 2018.”

On Friday, fencing around the softball field and backstop were removed. Newport Fence will be erecting the new fence and backstop, according to Norton, while the baseball field will include new fencing to enclose pitcher’s in a new bullpen area, the dugouts and wood replacement on the backstop. 

The dugout work, which will also include siding and roof repairs, will be the next project. Viking Lumber has donated shingles valued at $1,500 and removal of rotting siding and leaking roofs will be removed soon by volunteers, Norton noted in the release. 

The group, officially known as Oceanside Improvement Fund, Inc., is spearheaded by Norton, the organization’s president. The non-profit aims to raise money in order to give makeovers to the Robert Morrill baseball field and the soon-to-be Gene Drinkwater softball field. The two fields located on Thomaston Street in Rockland are currently occupied by the district’s middle school diamond squads. The high school teams use fields in Thomaston that were once used by Georges Valley. The plan is to have the varsity teams utilize the Rockland fields and the middle school teams utilize the Thomaston fields upon completion of the renovations.

The group has received school board approval from Regional School Unit 13 to raise these funds and has received school board support to budget “adequate funds to maintain and upkeep these fields once the improvements have been made,” according to a statement posted on the group’s Facebook page.

The organization hopes to have the renovations completed in time for the 2018 season, with regular season games slated to begin in mid-April.

Although total costs for the renovation initially had been calculated to be $425,000, Norton stated in an early July email that the “budget has changed as we have [been] given more information.” For instance, the group was “able to determine [the] drainage system was working” thanks to the City Public Works Department along with William Leppenan and Jeremy Tolman who “cleaned out [the] catch basin” so the city could smoke tested the drain pipe which resulted in “no breaks or clogs” being discovered. “That study saved us $50,000,” Norton stated.

The group has raised just under $26,000 through fundraisers as of early July and Norton said the group “hope[s] to raise another $4,000” with the two ongoing raffles. 

According to a Facebook post, the group was able to find a buyer for the recently-removed fences, which “will help pay for the new fence.” 

The two infields will also be brought to higher-standards. Both infields “need to have infield mix [to] make them playable,” Norton stated, while the baseball field “will need to have the infield grass removed and replace[d] with turf.” 

This story was originally published Saturday, Aug. 5 at 10:45 a.m. 

Reach George Harvey and the sports department at: sports@penbaypilot.com