New facility brings needed improvements to baseball field

| 4/2/09 12:31am
The new Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park can accomodate up to 1,650 fans in permanent and additional seating.
by Chris Parker / The Dartmouth

"This game has special significance for us just because it was the first game. There has been so much buildup to it with getting the field ready and functional," head coach Bob Whalen said.

Big Green slugger Nick Santomauro '10 said hitting on the new field took some adjustments.

"Our mound is up there," he said. "You need to get used to that. When a kid is 6'4" and looks all of a sudden like he is eight feet, you need to adjust. We'll adjust. We'll get the home-field advantage."

Bad weather and unexpected discoveries below ground at the field's site caused significant delays to the project.

"Dartmouth is just so old that you never know what you're going to find underneath the ground," Jim Hunter of Clark Construction, which led the project, said in a previous interview with The Dartmouth.

A minor controversy also arose when the construction company removed 18 pine trees that lined the old outfield fence off Park Street, Hunter said, but he defended his team's decision.

"Those 18 pine trees were really bad," he said. "It was time for them to go."

The renovations to the Red Rolfe Field were made possible thanks a $5.2-million donation from the late Mike Biondi '79 and Cindy Ginn Biondi '80. Mike Biondi was a first baseman for the Big Green in the late 1970s. He died of cardiac arrest in November 2007, and less than a year later, the idea of creating a new field using the donation was introduced.

The new park brings several much-needed upgrades to the old Red Rolfe Field, which was plagued by poor drainage, inadequate dugouts and difficult sight lines for batters.

The new field features an artificial FieldTurf surface which replaces the natural grass in both the infield and outfield. Whalen said in a previous interview with The Dartmouth that the turf field will allow the team to begin practicing outdoors in Hanover much earlier in the year. The team used to have to wait for the field to dry out from melted snow before moving practice out of Leverone Field House.

The field also features increased seating for fans. There are 650 permanent seats, as well as 1,000 additional temporary seats along the first- and third-base sides.

The old field had one of the deepest outfields in collegiate baseball, especially to straight-away centerfield, where the left and right field fences formed a right angle. The new park has shortened the distance to centerfield considerably, bringing the fence to 402 feet from home plate. The leftfield wall stands at 325 feet, and a homer to right must fly 340 feet.

While Dartmouth had just one full practice on its new field before Wednesday's game against Siena, the players seemed to have already gotten the hang of snagging ground balls off the new playing surface. The Big Green committed just one error in the field, compared to five by the Saints.