POV: The forgotten team across the street

Utica’s softball field an eyesore and inadequate facility


Emily Joss

The Greenman Softball Field across the campus of Utica University.

Emily Joss, Sports Editor

Utica University prides itself on its athletics, allocating much of the institution’s budget toward impressive facilities. The school is the home to one of largest domes in North America, utilizes an auditorium that seats thousands of fans and recently built a multi-million dollar multipurpose turf field and track. 

The school has made many impressive and important improvements in recent years, though the university’s softball team never seems to be a part of the plans. 

Being the only sport without a field on campus, the softball team uses a men’s slow pitch-sized field across the street that isn’t even owned by the school.

The lack of ownership by the school has shown to cause significant problems in recent seasons as the field is in need of serious repairs. 

Late last season, a windstorm knocked over a light pole on the third base side and the lighting has yet to be replaced since there is confusion over whether the city of Utica or university should be responsible for replacing it, Mineo said. 

The field also has no water, which means it doesn’t have sufficient bathrooms, and the team has yet to be granted heat in the dugout– a must for softball teams in the northeast and specifically those in Central New York as the weather doesn’t warm up until the end of the season. 

Being off campus and bordering the side of the school opposite the freshman dorms, commuting to practice and games is much more difficult for the softball underclassmen than for any other sport. 

“I am lucky enough to have a car on campus but many of my teammates can not say the same,” freshman Taylor Kraft said. “The freshman dorms are far away from our field off campus and it is at least a 10-minute walk to get there. When a teammate is unable to drive you, it’s a hassle with all of your equipment.”

Head coach Patrick Mineo said that he’s been told for years that the fields would soon be built on campus and was most recently informed that it will be connected to the dome where Pioneer Village now resides.

There was talk of softball lines being put on the multipurpose turf, but dugouts, lights and a fence did not come with the offer and the idea was quickly abandoned. In replacement, the softball field was given wifi that provides a blurry recording of the games from a single camera behind home plate. 

With a field so far away, not many people are even aware of its location including players when they first come to campus. Sophomore outfielder Abbi Finch said spectator attendance for the team would increase if the field were in a more convenient location.

“I personally feel that a big reason we don’t get a huge student turnout is because it’s off campus and other students do not want to go across the street or worry about parking,” Finch said.

Of the most serious concerns pertaining to the disposition of the field is how unlevel the field of play is. The team already plays on a men’s slow pitch field which means the infield dirt is several feet deeper than what is normal. However, the worst part of the field is what occurs after the dirt ends. 

According to NCAA guidelines, it is recommended that the entire playing area be graded .5% from the edge of the pitcher’s plate to the infield/outfield rim and 1% to the boundaries of the field.

In other words, from the edge of the infield dirt to the center field fence, the ground should drop one inch every 10 feet to accommodate proper drainage. The school’s center field fence is 220 feet from home plate and 135 feet from second base- requiring a 13.5 inch drop. 

This seems significant but in reality shouldn’t be noticeable over so much space. This team’s home field, however, is so unlevel that measurements don’t even have to be taken to be aware of its discrepancy. 

Not only does this not abide by NCAA guidelines, but it also is a serious injury hazard for infielders running back on balls. 

Mineo recalled several instances when games have been won and lost due to the discrepancy of the outfield, especially balls being caught that shouldn’t have if the ground was at the level it should be. 

According to senior catcher Brooke Catlin, much of the team shares the same opinion.

“I’d say I feel like we’re being dismissed as a program and we are at a disadvantage compared to other sports here,” Catlin said. “Many other sports are provided with money and equipment for better opportunities and we don’t get that. Also, I think it’s easier for us to be forgotten because they won’t put a softball field on campus so we’re brushed under the rug.”