High school spring sports

Closer to home: Mariner baseball, softball, lacrosse now plays in Rockland

Previously, older athletes played on Thomaston fields — which now are for middle school athletes
By Mark Haskell | Apr 09, 2018
Photo by: Mark Haskell The softball field on Thomaston Street.

Rockland — Those who have the address to the baseball, softball and lacrosse game fields for Oceanside High School in their GPS would be wise to look into reprogramming for the coming spring seasons.

After the school’s teams have played its games in Thomaston since its inception in 2012, the teams now will play games in Rockland after a major overhaul to the baseball and softball fields on Thomaston Street.

The Mariner softball team will play its games at South Field, the baseball team at Robert “Bob” Morrill Field and the lacrosse team at Dr. Wesley Wasgatt Field — all on Thomaston Street — the latter of which also is the school’s football field.

Previously, Mariner baseball and softball teams played games at the fields near Oceanside Middle School (the former Georges Valley High School) and the lacrosse team played on Sam Pendleton Field, which hosts soccer games, all in Thomaston.

In turn, the middle school teams traveled to the Thomaston Street fields to compete in games.

Thus, these changes mean Oceanside High School athletes will play on fields in the same city as their school, while the middle school athletes will play on fields within walking distance of their school.

“The fields are pretty much ready to go,” said Doris Norton, president of the Oceanside Improvement Fund. “We need to finish painting the dugouts and putting up some decals. They were down there [recently] measuring for putting up the new scoreboards that Machias Savings Bank donated to us. They donated one for the boys and one for the girls and the money to install them.”

Oceanside athletic director Molly Bishop said the change was a necessary one due to the distance that high school and middle school students have been forced to travel to play their respective games.

Initially, when the former Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School combined to form Oceanside High School in the fall of 2012, the decision was made to have the varsity baseball and softball teams play in Thomaston at the former Georges Valley fields and for the middle school programs to use the Morrill and South Field in Rockland.

At the time, what was then Rockland District Middle School — which then held students in grades 5-7 — was within walking distance to Wasgatt, Morrill and South fields, while the former GVHS became Oceanside High School West, which housed eighth- and ninth-grade students.

Oceanside High School East, which was formerly Rockland District High School, housed high school students in grades 10-12.

Since that time, many Regional School Unit 13 buildings have been closed and/or consolidated.

The former Oceanside High School East has become Oceanside High School, the former Oceanside High School West has become Oceanside Middle School and RDMS — located directly next to South School — eventually merged with that school, which now houses elementary school students.

Thus, high school students now are significantly closer to the fields on Thomaston Street in Rockland than before, while middle school students will have their playing fields within walking distance of their school.

Bishop said she is “thrilled” with the changes and that “logistically, it just doesn’t make sense to be busing kids from Thomaston to a different town where none of their stuff is.”

“We’re trying to provide the best opportunity [and] develop a culture where the kids that are currently in school get to have three of the best fields to play their three sports on,” she said. “We’ll be able to draw a few more fans. Teachers from high school might actually be able to make it down to the field in Rockland as opposed to being stuck in traffic trying to get to Thomaston for a 4 o’clock game.”

The efforts to make it all happen have been a labor of love, put in motion by Norton and the Oceanside Improvement Fund.

Dennis Norton, the treasurer of the group, said roughly $130,000 has been raised to make the transition a possibility.

“It’s been great,” said Doris Norton. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs and it’s been tough at times, because a lot of people didn’t believe in it [and] a lot of people didn’t think it was necessary. But we found those people who really thought it was [and] the school was behind it.”

Doris Norton added that among their many donations, they received a $2,000 donation in memory of the late Ed Mazurek —a longtime teacher and former RDHS varsity football and softball coach — who passed away in October.

The fields in Rockland have updated dugouts, new fencing and the baseball infield has been completely redone, in addition to a revamped drainage system that will make Morrill Field — previously famous for getting soggy, particularly in left field — significantly less buoyant.

One of the initial large anticipated expenditures for the project was a new irrigation system, but the current one was later found to be sufficiently clogged with rocks, trash and other debris.

“After that was cleaned out the city came over and blew smoke through the whole thing and found out it was still in great condition,” said Norton. “And the smoke rose up through. That was a big savings for us.”

Bishop said the revamped drainage system “has made a tremendous impact already” and, unlike many schools around the state currently, are “in good shape” in terms of field conditions to start the regular season.

“The Nortons have done a tremendous job on this project,” said Oceanside softball coach Rusty Worcester, who has led the Mariners since 2012 and coached Georges Valley for the previous 11 seasons. “And I want to thank them and anyone else involved in this huge project. It's sad, but looking forward to a new beginning for me. I have coached for 17 years on the Thomaston field. But now it will be the start of a new field and new memories for my team and I.”

Worcester also included “a friendly reminder we sometimes hit home runs to left field,” in reference to the fact that parking often lines up along the outfield fence at the Thomaston Street facility.

Mariner baseball coach Don Shields, who has led his team since 2012 and guided the Buccaneers the previous three years, echoed Worcester’s sentiments and said “Dennis and Doris Norton have done a great job spearheading this project and we can’t thank them enough.”

"We're excited to play at Morrill Field,” he said. “It has been outstanding to watch the field go through this transformation and it looks awesome. The work to repair the drainage has been great as the outfield is already dry and we are looking forward to playing on the new infield, that saw new sod laid down last year."

Varsity and junior varsity softball players will now only have to travel 1.7 miles from OHS to their home field, as opposed to the 5.3 miles they previously traveled to their home diamonds in Thomaston.

While the middle school students are now a mighty home run’s distance from their school to their respective diamonds.

“It makes sense for all the kids that are going to Oceanside to be able to play on fields in Rockland,” said Norton. “And the middle school parents should be very happy that now their kids can just walk out the back door of the middle school in Thomaston and have ballfields to play on.”

Bishop said “logistically it just makes a whole lot more sense. It didn’t necessarily make sense before when you had all these kids in different buildings, but now it does.”

Only two significant hurdles remain: The painting of the dugouts, which will be done once conditions become drier, and the erecting of the Oceanside scoreboards, which Bishop says, while “weather dependent,” will hopefully be finished before the baseball and softball team’s regular-season openers on Tuesday, April 17 at 1 p.m. against Maranacook of Readfield.

Norton thanked many individuals and area businesses for their help in various aspects of the project, including George Hall, Karl Meklin, Billy Leppanen, Clay Fowlie, Tony Simaitis, Gerald Weinand, Bruce Gamage and Becky Gamage, along with Viking Lumber, EBS, E.L. Spear, Claybrook Landscaping, George C. Hall and Sons, Machias Savings Bank and Gartley and Dorsky Engineering,

J.K. Kalloch Landscaping, Ferraiolo Construction, Jake Barbour Inc., Rankin’s Hardware, Law Offices of James W. Brannan, Lakeside Printing, Rockland Elks Club, Masters, Fowlie & Engelberg CPAS, Courier Publications, The Free Press and Frank FM.

The varsity baseball and softball teams also will don new uniforms this season, to go with their “new” fields.

While Morrill Field originally was dedicated in 1992 to the longtime Rockland baseball coach and teacher Robert "Bob” Morrill, there will be a rededication ceremony on Saturday, April 21 at 11 a.m. in Morrill’s honor — along with the dedication of the softball field as Gene Drinkwater Field.

Drinkwater was a longtime coach in the district, who most recently coached middle school softball until he passed away in 2015.

According to Norton, there will be a cookout and home run derbies also planned for the day’s events. It was scheduled on a non-game day so that subvarsity players — who are typically on the road when the varsity teams are at home — will be able to be present.

The lacrosse team’s move to Wasgatt Field was more of a byproduct of the baseball and softball team’s realignments.

Oceanside girls lacrosse coach Angie Vachon, a GVHS graduate, said while Sam Pendleton Field holds many memories for her, it was a move that made too much sense to ignore.

"Speaking with a few of my current players, they are excited to feel and be more a part of the Oceanside High School sports community," she said. "And what better time to start a new beginning than with our baseball and softball teams as they enjoy their new digs? It also will be much easier for our athletic director and athletic trainer to be centrally located. With tennis being just up the road at the high school, they can be present much easier now. The team and I are looking forward to making Wasgatt into a lacrosse field for the spring and building on the many memories of seasons' past."

“The kids have said that they love the idea that they’re all going to be in the same place,” said Bishop. “Which is nice, and, isn’t that why we’re doing this? For the kids?”

Bishop said there are no plans to relocate the high school soccer teams, which will continue to play their games at Sam Pendleton Field — behind OMS — in Thomaston.

In the past, the Thomaston Street fields were the home of the Rockland District High School Tiger baseball and softball teams and, prior to that, the softball field included Little League baseball and softball games.

The softball field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The softball field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The softball field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The softball field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The softball field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The storage facility and area between the baseball and softball fields on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field on Thomaston Street. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
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