New ballpark levels the playing field for Mercer baseball
Published 1:20 am Saturday, April 22, 2023
By MIKE MARSEE
HARRODSBURG — No hits? No worries.
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The Mercer County Titans didn’t manage a hit Tuesday night, but they got what they wanted most out of a historic evening for their program.
Mercer finally got to play its first game in a sparkling new baseball facility that players past and present have longed for, and the Titans got to christen their new ballpark with an important victory.
“It’s a great way to break the new field in,” senior pitcher Evan Hart said. “Getting no-hit is not a good thing, but we found a way to get a district win and break in a new field.”
Even without a hit, Mercer defeated East Jessamine 1-0 in the inaugural game at a facility that has amenities for players and fans that the Titans’ former home just down Moberly Road could never match.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mercer principal Spencer Tatum said. “Amos Black Field has a lot of good memories there, but this is state of the art here, and that’s what our kids deserve.”
The new ballpark puts the Titans on a level playing field both literally and figuratively. The elevation at Amos Black Field, the only home Mercer baseball had known until Tuesday, rose sharply in the outfield, cresting several feet higher at the center field fence than at home plate.
“It’s a lot flatter,” senior center fielder Jonathan Logdon said. “I love it. It’s so much better. You’ve got all the room around you in the world, there’s no hill, no running backwards up center field. It’s awesome.”
Mercer, which reached the state finals twice in the 2010s, is also now on equal footing with other good programs that have long had better ballparks.
“This program has been in need of a top facility for a long, long time,” Mercer coach Cody Christopher said. “You don’t have many schools that have region titles and state runner-ups on their resume that don’t have top facilities.”
The Titans are glad they finally have one.
“It’s finally good for a good program to have a great field,” Logdon said.
The new ballpark is part of a $7 million investment in Mercer athletic facilities that also includes renovations to the softball and soccer fields.
Both the baseball and softball fields, which are side by side, have roomy dugouts, locker rooms for the home teams, enclosed bullpens and buildings for restrooms, concessions and press boxes.
The first new baseball park to open in the area in 25 years is a spacious facility in every sense. The field, which has an artificial turf infield and a natural grass outfield, measures 330 feet to the foul poles and 360 feet to center field and has considerable foul territory.
“I like the size of the field,” Hart said. “It’s a graveyard. There aren’t many people going to hit it out.”
Outside the lines, there is bleacher seating for about 400 fans plus space for folding chairs and standing room.
“As important as the playing surface is, I think the fan experience is just as important,” Tatum said. “You’ve never been able to experience a game at the old field where you had a good line of sight … so I think it’s just as exciting for the fans as it is for the players,” Tatum said. There’s been talk of it for many, many years and to see it finally come to fruition, it’s just a great day for our school and our community
A number of former players were part of the opening night crowd that saw Hart throw the first pitch at 6:31 p.m. Here were some of the firsts at the new ballpark:
• First pitch — Hart, a strike to Caleb Cadle, who struck out swinging.
• First baserunner — Andrew Sheperson, Mercer, hit by pitch in the second inning.
• First hit — Anthony Kidwell, East Jessamine, a single in the fourth inning.
• First run — Carter Devine, Mercer, in the sixth inning.
• First RBI — Jackson Doughty, Mercer, on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
• First winning pitcher — Hart.Hart, a Kentucky signee, struck out 14 batters and allowed only two hits and three walks. East Jessamine’s Will Harrison threw six hitless innings and allowed three walks.
Mercer’s Devine walked in the sixth inning, stole second and third bases and scored the game’s only run on a sacrifice fly by Doughty.
The first win was significant, but there will be more important games to come on the new field, perhaps next month. The Titans will host the 12th Region Tournament at their new park if they win the 46th District.