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After 21 Years, Finally Hartford Gets To Play At Home

Hartford, CT – Road trips for home games have ended. For the first time in 21 years, Hartford will play a baseball game on campus. The game against Sacred Heart Tuesday at 3 p.m. will be a proud occasion for the Hawks, whose most famous baseball alumnus is Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros. “The field makes your jaw drop,” said second baseman Frank Cipolla, Hartford’s top hitter (.336) last season. “It’s state of the art.” The baseball field is located behind the softball field. The outfield and infield have A-Turf, an artificial playing surface. The dimensions are 325 feet down each line, 375 to the power alleys and 400 to center. The still-unnamed field is part of Phase I of Hartford’s “Home Field Advantage” project, which includes the renovation of the soccer and lacrosse facility, Al-Marzook Field, and the relocation and construction of the softball field. “We’re going to get more games in and be able to practice earlier,” baseball coach Jeff Calcaterra said. “And the backdrop is the Hartford skyline if you’re looking out of the right-handed batting box. Our president [Walter Harrison], athletic director [Pat Meiser-McKnett], alumni and the community are behind this.” The Hawks (0-3) have 22 scheduled home games, including five doubleheaders. They played home games last season at Memorial Field in Simsbury and Muzzy Field in Bristol. St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield was a practice site. “If it was a long home doubleheader, we’d get back late to campus, so it felt just like a road game,” Cipolla said. “I’m a senior and have never experienced a true home field. Now we all will.” Finding the right location and generating funding were two reasons Hartford has been without a campus field for so long. Meiser-McKnett said the cost of Phase I is about $7 million. Phase II, which includes the construction of a rubberized track, is about $3 million. She said Hartford’s fundraising total for the $10 million project is more than $5 million. “We’ve been working a long time on this, and it has been so needed,” Meiser-McKnett said. “We’ve had a long, fine baseball history, going back to the late 1940s and ’50s and also with Jeff Bagwell and Earl Snyder [who has played parts of two seasons with the Cleveland Indians and the Red Sox]. President Harrison is a baseball fanatic. Baseball is important to us and important in our state.” Lights are scheduled to be installed at the baseball field after the season. “Down the road, we would be interested in having America East, CIAC tournament and NCAA regional games here,” Calcaterra said. Right now he’s trying to get his team to improve on last season’s 6-30 record. “This is a whole new era starting here,” Cipolla said. “We can’t wait.”

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