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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Baseball has been played at the University of Maine since 1881. For years, the team played in several locations around the Orono campus. In the early 1980s the school built Mahaney Diamond for the Black Bear baseball team. The field is named for Larry Mahaney, an area businessman and philanthropist who graduated in 1951. His donations allowed for several renovations to the park.
In addition to serving as home of the Black Bears, Mahaney Diamond has served as home of the Bangor Blue Ox and Bangor Lumberjacks of the independent Northeast League. The field has also served as host of NCAA Northeast Regional and America East Conference Tournament.
UMaine has qualified for 16 NCAA Tournaments and seven college World Series. Nineteen former Black Bears have played in the major leagues.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There is a small shack behind the grandstand which houses a snack bar. Choices are limited here, but it is nice to have food available. It's an option not many college ballparks in the area enjoy.
Hungry Black Bear fans can enjoy snacks including hot dogs, pretzels and nachos. Popcorn, assorted candy, cookies and whoopee pies are sold here.
Coca-Cola products are sold at Mahaney Diamond. Perhaps the most popular items sold here on cold Maine spring afternoons are cups of coffee and hot chocolate.
A small merchandise table is set up behind the grandstand, offering assorted UMaine t-shirts, hats and sweatshirts.
Fans looking for an elaborate game day presentation may be disappointed by the laid back, relaxed atmosphere at Mahaney Diamond. PA announcements are limited to lineup announcements and an occasional sponsor message. The focus here is on the game going on down on the field, which is something that will surely be appreciated by baseball purists.
The University of Maine is located in the small town of Orono, which is located in the center of the state. With a population of just over 10,000 permanent residents, the town is actually smaller than the University.
Downtown Orono is located about two miles from the UMaine campus. Several fine restaurants can be found on Mill Street, including the original location of Pat's Pizza, a Maine pizza institution. UMaine students flock to The Family Dog for gourmet burgers. Fans looking for a more traditional pub experience can check out the Orono Brewing Company, Woodman's Bar and Grill, or Bear Brew Pub.
Many fans will choose to travel to nearby Bangor, Maine's third largest city, where there are more options for dining, lodging and entertainment. Be sure to stop by the giant Paul Bunyan statue for a photo, or visit famous Bangor resident Stephen King's house.
UMaine draws between 400-500 fans for the typical weekend Black Bears game.
You have to be a dedicated fan indeed to watch a baseball game in the typically brisk Maine springtime. The Black Bears do have some surprising support from the community and student body. What the student section lacks in numbers they make up for in enthusiasm. While the students who attend Black Bears baseball games can't compete with the "Maineiacs" who pack Alfond Arena for hockey games, they can be quite entertaining.
Mahaney Diamond is easy to get to from Interstate 95. Simply take exit 193 (Stillwater Ave.), turn towards the shopping center, take a right onto College Ave., and turn left onto Munson Rd. at the first University of Maine sign. The campus is located about two miles from the highway.
All the athletic facilities are grouped together on the northern edge of campus. Mahaney Diamond is tucked in behind Alfond Stadium. Parking lots are located a short walk from the ballpark, adjacent to and in between the hockey arena and football stadium.
Most of the seating at Mahaney Diamond consists of metal bleachers with backs. In an unusual twist, the seats further down the line have the fancier seats, as there is a section down either baseline that consists of individual folding plastic seats.
Much of the area behind the grandstand consists of dirt paths, which can become muddy during the Maine thaw. Fans would be well advised to walk carefully around the ballpark.
Tickets for Black Bear baseball games cost six dollars, with a two dollar discount given to youths and seniors. UMaine students are admitted at no charge. While six dollars is not a steep price to pay to catch some quality college baseball, UMaine is one of the few schools in New England that charges an admission fee to attend games.
Parking in the lots near Mahaney Diamond is free, and the prices at the snack bar are inexpensive. An afternoon at a Black Bears game will certainly not break the bank.
An extra point is awarded for the Mahaney Clubhouse, an indoor training facility down the left field line. A party deck is built into the side of the building and is rented out to groups on occasion.
The field turf playing surface ensures that Mahaney Diamond is playable even during the cold, short Maine spring.
While far off the beaten path (the closest division one baseball school is a four hour drive away), Mahaney Diamond is a quality ballpark. Just remember, this is New England, where the spring weather can be extremely fickle and unpredictable. Postponements, cancellations, changes in schedule and even changes in venue can and do happen regularly. The weather in Maine usually doesn't turn until after the college baseball season is almost over. If planning a visit to Orono, be flexible.
Follow all of Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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