Augusta Babe Ruth Infrastructure
McGuire Field was completed in 1979 and Morton Field a year later in 1980. McGuire Field was completely fenced with dugouts, backstop, and a press box/storage building. Morton Field was not fenced but did have a backstop and dugouts. Very shortly after completion, Morton was vandalized by dirt bikes and 4-wheel drive vehicles. The damage was so bad that the entire field had to be roto tilled. Before this was done, it was necessary to raise money for fencing. This was accomplished and the fencing was erected by ABRL volunteers. Back then, all posts were set in concrete, so it was necessary to mix our own using a gas-powered mixer as electricity was not available.
Cony High School baseball started using McGuire in 1980, and it soon became apparent that the dimensions of the original field were not adequate for a higher level of play. ABRL volunteers installed new fencing increasing the power alleys from 330 to 360 and center field from 350 to 400. This allowed play for all levels. Morton was built to accommodate football in the outfield area, so dimensions of that field were more than adequate with a depth of 440 at center field.
Performing our own maintenance required the purchase of mowing equipment and other maintenance items. These items needed to be safely stored so additional space was needed. Two wings were added to the main building at McGuire. All work was performed by volunteers.
After hosting the Eastern Regional 13-year-old Babe Ruth tournament in 1983, the league felt additional improvements were needed. First of all, the concession stand was powered by gas. The lights were gas, refrigerator gas, the grill was gas, and the PA system had to be run from a generator. ABRL along with other organizations on Piggery Road entered into a contract with CMP Company to provide electricity to the complex. A five-year cost of about $5,000.00 was undertaken, but we were now powered up.
Seating has always been important, and the league acquired and assembled many sets of aluminum bleachers over the years as more and more events were being conducted on our primary field, which was McGuire at that time. The acquisition and erection of the steel/aluminum bleachers at Morton changed the dynamics of field usage as Morton could handle much larger crowds than McGuire. The league still places equal importance on both fields, but Morton has become the primary field because of this factor.
An essential part of a baseball complex is having bullpens and also batting cages. With two fields, ABRL undertook a program of building these facilities on both fields. Initially, a pitching machine was installed at McGuire but has been replaced by live pitching.
For many years, irrigation of fields was a major concern as July and August brought hot, dry weather, and the fields would dry out and turn brown. Utilizing city water for irrigation was not financially within our reach so the ABRL embarked on a program of utilizing well water and a system of underground piping along with hoses to solve this problem. A well was drilled to a depth of 850 feet, and subsequent additions to increase water pressure were added including storage tanks and another pump. Utilizing hoses and sprinklers is very labor intensive so the league received some financial assistance which allowed for the installation of an in-ground irrigation system. Over time, both fields have been irrigated and additional pumps and storage tanks have been installed.
Maintaining two baseball fields and considerable outside green areas requires a lot of maintenance, including moving, weed whacking, fertilization, weed control, and aeration. Kennebec Savings Bank has been a great supporter of our league, providing funding over the years that allowed us to purchase commercial mowers, utility vehicles, and large New Holland tractor that has a loader bucket, and attachments for a rototiller, aerator, and a post hole digger. This vehicle is stored at Augusta Babe Ruth but is available for use by each organization within the complex. Proceeds from the Bob Burns CA.R.A. Open golf tournament, and fund-raising activities by Augusta Babe Ruth also assisted in the acquisition of the necessary equipment.
With a large inventory of equipment, it became necessary to construct storage buildings to keep the equipment out of the weather and relatively safe from vandalism. The first structure which served dual purposes including concession, storage, and press box was built by the August Vo-Tech and transported to the site by Ralph Stiman where it was bolted together and secured to the foundation. In later years, two wings were added with construction labor donated by Lloyd Pilsbury, Walt Golden, and Joe Linscott. The second building was also built by students at the technical center, but construction was on-site. This building housed the drilled well, expansion tank and pump, as well as some of our growing inventory of maintenance equipment. The drilled well was only supplying about seven gallons of water per minute which was definitely not sufficient to irrigate two fields. The solution was to install two 1500-gallon storage tanks and another pump to increase water pressure. The installation was done by Bowie Brothers Well Drilling at a very favorable rate. The drawback to this was that we a loss of considerable storage space.
After purchasing the New Holland tractor, another storage building was needed. Mark Dumont, a member of the Babe Ruth board agreed to fabricate a large storage building at his residence, and transportation to the site would be done by Ralph Stiman. Ralph also donated the main girder and the large overhead doors. The work was completed, and the building was transported and attached to the foundation. A steel entry door was fabricated by Mark Newcomb using steel donated by Ralph. This building is very well built and currently houses much of our larger equipment.
A third building was required for Morton Field to serve as a press box and also storage. This building was constructed in 1991 by a crew of Augusta Babe Ruth volunteers capably led by Don Santerre and Jim Kidwell. The building was subsequently moved to a new location when the 1800 seat bleacher project was begun. The two-story building now is used for storage of baseball equipment and material such as chalk, Turface, cement, and fertilizer.
For many years, field drainage was not a huge problem. Wet weather usually occurred in April and early May, and after that the irrigation system would be turned on to keep the grass from browning up. About the year 2007, the weather pattern changed, and we began to experience heavy rains throughout June, July, and August. These rains caused many postponements and some cancellations of events. The fields, when constructed, did not have under drain as this was an item, we could not afford but we were reaching the point where something needed to be done. Joe Linscott, in consultation with Steve Roberge of SJR Engineering, developed a five-year plan to install drainage on both fields. It was felt this amount of time would be needed as the work would have to be accomplished during a relatively short time frame in order to have the fields playable the following year. Many elevations were taken, and a drainage plan was adopted. Preliminary estimates obtained from local contractors indicated the cost of excavation would be more than we could afford. We then revised our plans increasing the distance between drainage lines and settled on performing most of the labor with Babe Ruth personnel. Several local businessmen helped the league financially, and we were able to obtain reduced pricing for materials.
Work began in late summer 2009 with the first contractor being E.H. Vining & Sons of Farmington. The work consisted of digging a main collector from left centerfield at Morton to a catch basin located easterly of first base. The drainage material was provided by E.J. Prescott Company and consisted of flexible plastic chambers that were enclosed by a material that would prevent small dirt particles from entering. Lateral lines were dug at a 45-degree angle and taped to the drainage in the main collector. The excavated area was then backfilled with sand and compacted. The sand was applied to within 4 inches of finish grade. The final application was loam. The project was hampered by wet weather and a partial collapse of the main ditch. Excavated material was removed at first, but as the rain came this was not possible so the material was side cast and removed at a later date. A considerable amount of labor was supplied by Augusta Babe Ruth with Al Cloutier, Steve Brooks, and Joe Linscott being there every day. Many irrigation lines were cut, and these had to repaired. It took many days to clean up after the contractor left due to the wet weather.
The second year went a little smoother as we were able to start earlier, and the weather was better. Scott Lyon was the contractor as Vining was not available. Work was confined to Morton Field and the same type of herringbone layout was used. Scott Lyon was able to do all of the excavation with an excavator and all material was transported from the site and placed in an area to be graded at a later date. Again, the league supplied all of the labor required to install the drains, transport sand to the excavated area, connect the lateral drains to the main collector, compact the sand, and place loam in the top layer. Again, Al Cloutier, Steve Brooks, and Joe Linscott were there for the duration of the project. Other league officials including Chic Clarke, Earl Kingsbury, Gary LaPierre, Garry Markoff, Gary Duncklee, and Don White also assisted.
The third years’ work was also confined to Morton Field and included additional drains being placed in center field and right field. A network of drains located between third base and the third base dugout connected to an underground tank that had been installed by the City of Augusta the previous year. This tank was placed in the ditch that parallels Piggery Road. Connected to the underground tank is a 300-foot ditch with underdrain and covered with sand.
The fourth years’ work shifted to McGuire and consisted of installing a network of drains that covered half of the field. This area located on the northerly portion of McGuire has always been the wettest and therefore was addressed first. In addition to the usual crew of Babe Ruth volunteers, Don White, a board member who works in law enforcement, was able to obtain six pre-release prisoners from the Dept. of Corrections. These individuals were good workers and helped us greatly. Scott Lyon was our contractor and in addition to giving us a reduced rate, he also donated sand, and obtained donations of sand from H.E. Sargent.
2013 was the fifth year of our drainage plan and the rest of McGuire field was completed. Again, we had the services of pre-release personnel for several days, but Steve Brooks and Joe Linscott were the work force for Augusta Babe Ruth.
The league was very fortunate to have the services of Ed Bowie and his company, Bowie Brothers Well Drilling, as many irrigation lines were severed and had to be repaired. Ed saw to it that this work was done promptly by his very capable employee, Dan Woodward, and the only cost to the league was for materials. Others who assisted during these years were Jake Albert, Paul Potvin, Garry Markoff, and Charlie McDonald.
The five-year project was a huge undertaking by the league and would not have been possible without the help of several local businessmen who wish to remain anonymous, the engineering expertise of Steve Roberge, the many donations of material and reduced costs from E.J. Prescott, Scott Lyon, Pike Industries, Bowie Brothers Well Drilling and the many hours of labor supplied by the pre-release personnel, and of course the Babe Ruth volunteers.
One feature that sets Morton Field apart from most other baseball fields in Maine and that is the 1800 seat steel/aluminum bleachers. The credit for locating the bleachers at Morton Field belongs to Gary Burns, a long time C.A.R.A member and past president. Gary served on the Augusta City Council and was aware of the bleachers that had been located at Hadlock Field in Portland and then purchased by the City of Augusta for use at Capital Park. The intended use fell through and through Gary’s effort the city council transferred them to CARA along with some funding for their erection.
All of the components were located at Capital Park and had to be transferred to Morton Field. This was accomplished by a crew of volunteers led by Bob Burns of Bob Burns Construction Company and Ralph Stiman. Two frontend loaders were required for the project along with several low bed trailers and many pickup trucks. The project took an entire day. Before work could begin, a considerable amount of site work was required including ditching, installation of hundreds of feet of covered pipe, and connection of an inlet and outlet to a catch basin. After ditching was completed, Lajoie Brothers constructed all of the footings for the structural members to be secured to. When the foundation work was completed, the structural steel was put in place. This work was accomplished by Ralph Stiman and Bob Burns, ably assisted by Pete Burns and Tardy Burns. An additional steel support member was needed, and this work was done by Darryl Dumont along with Ralph Stiman. Once the structural members were in place, a large crew of volunteers began the tedious work of bolting the planks, seats, and risers to the superstructure. This was slow work and all of the material had to be hand carried and set in place. The plans were not of great help and much study was required in fitting everything together. The bleachers did not include a press box, but an opening was available for placement.
Funding for materials to build the press box was supplied by the Linscott family, and Ralph Stiman assembled a crew of volunteers to build the structure at his shop located on West River Road. Upon completion, the unit was transported to the site and set in place by W.H. Green Crane Service. Ralph Stiman’s crew welded the press box to the superstructure.
After completion, it became apparent there were some safety issues particularly with the lack of chain link fencing on the sides and rear. Today’s safety codes require these areas to be enclosed. Joe Linscott and Bud Folsom undertook the task of installing chain link on these areas, and over the years additional safety features have been installed including handrails, fencing on the handicap ramp, and entry portals. Steps have also been taken at McGuire Field to bring the existing bleachers up to code including placement of risers, additional planking, and chain link fencing on the sides and rear portions.
Not having deep pockets means it is necessary for the league to perform as much of the required work as possible, and to seek out donations and reduced pricing whenever necessary. By utilizing our own resources as much as possible develops a pride of ownership that would not be there if everything had been given to us.