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Maintaining fields requires team effort
The saying goes “April showers bring May flowers.” With spring sports in full swing, teams have already felt the effects of the season’s inclement weather.
Baseball and softball both cancelled games due to rain the weekend of March 29. Baseball has five cancellations on the season, while the softball team had its first five games cancelled.
Considering the size of the school and grounds crew staff, the protocol for cancellation and maintenance requires a high amount of cooperation between facilities and the athletic teams.
Bill Mecca, senior associate athletic director, is responsible for the daily internal operations, specifically scheduling practices and games. Mecca, in conjunction with facilities and the athletic teams, makes a judgment call on whether the field is playable or not.
If they determine cancellation is necessary, everyone goes into the maintenance process. Players, coaches and the maintenance staff all undertake responsibilities, including notifying umpires, the opposing team and public safety of the cancellation. The notice also needs to be posted on the web for the public to see.
“You just get everybody working in the same direction,” Mecca said about the process. “Everybody has the oars in the boat and you’re rowing in the same direction. Honestly, after the years, it works kind of seamlessly.”
The field also needs to be covered in order that a reschedule or practice might be salvageable as soon as possible, Mecca said. Typically, baseball and softball games are not rescheduled.
The window for doing so is small, Mecca said, with makeups typically held on Monday only if a weekend game is cancelled.
“We keep our fingers crossed,” Mecca said. “If the field’s just not ready, you can’t play.”
John Copela works closely with Mecca on the process. As the senior superintendent for grounds on the Mount Carmel campus, he heads a staff that works to keep the fields in usable conditions.
Copela said his main responsibility when it comes to the fields is to keep everyone safe. That includes anything from ground and fence repair to bases.
“We always want to make sure that the game is played safe,” Copela said. “We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Copela and facilities workers go to reasonably great measures to keep these fields in what Mecca feels is tip-top shape. New England winters can leave the campus coated in snow, an issue Copela has to find a quick fix for. After consulting with people at professional ballparks, they suggested black sand to melt the snow.
Copela used the sand to clean up the flash snow storm that occurred last week and made the field practice ready, an accomplishment he and his crew are proud of.
“I try to consult with a lot of other pros, try and take it to a higher level for us,” Copela said. “That’s what we do here. I’m trying to promote that. I got a great crew. I can’t talk enough about it.”
The fields are not organized as independent entities, they are contiguous with each other. At any given point, students could be using one in plain sight while there is a game happening on the other. Unlike the stadium style fields at larger universities, baseball and softball are out in the open.
Quinnipiac, as an institution, has to delegate specific budget amounts to different sectors. At a school dominated by ice hockey, Copela and Mecca both feel spring sports are represented and maintained well with what they are given. The softball field was redone last season with new equipment for the batting and pitching cages.
Copela said equipment repair, instead of buying new equipment, is the mentality in upkeeping the fields.
“We try to appease as much as we can with what we have to work with,“ Copela said. “We repair and replace as we need it. For what we have, it’s great.”
The field arrangement does not bother players and coaches, Mecca said. He owes this to a strong relationship between the student body and athletics, but also to facilities workers who keep the fields in suitable playing conditions.
“Everyone in a dream world wants to play in Yankee Stadium, but this isn’t Yankee Stadium,” Mecca said. “It’s Quinnipiac University that prides itself on doing things the right way and our facilities guys deserve all the credit.”