West Windsor, N.J. - Construction vehicles lined Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) baseball field on June 21, as the Athletics Department got the green light to start a month-long renovation to convert the infield to turf.
The project was two years in the making, according to Athletics Director John Simone. “We got the OK to start construction in January 2019 and five months later, here we are,” said Simone, adding that the MCCC Foundation loaned the Athletics department the funding necessary to complete the venture.
“Once the field is done, we’ll be able to start repaying the loan through community use,” Simone said.
Mercer’s first experience with turf came in 2001, when the college made over its soccer field. That endeavor proved beneficial, as Simone and his staff have been able to rent out the field (which is also home to Mercer’s lacrosse team) for local sporting events. Earlier this month, the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IMLCA) held an Adidas-sponsored tournament at Mercer.
“We’ll be able to keep building out our ability to support local athletics and community programs with this state-of-the-art facility,” Simone said.
The new field will also support the advancement of Mercer’s baseball program. With a remodeled diamond, the Vikings will be one of the only teams in the area to play on turf.
Regularly touted as one of the top programs in the country, Mercer baseball is a mainstay in national competition: The Vikings made the National Junior College World Series in three of the last five seasons and were most recently runners-up in 2017. This season, Mercer ranked 11th in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
Baseball Head Coach Fred Carella is excited to see the job completed. “This project is in an investment in Mercer’s programs during a time in which many schools are cutting back,” Carella said. “This is a big selling point to potential student-athletes who want to know they will be attending an institution that takes athletics seriously.”
As far as competing on turf is concerned, Carella believes his team is ready to make the switch.
“Most of our players have played on turf before and have practiced on our turf soccer field, so there shouldn’t be too great of an adjustment to make,” Carella said.
The biggest impact the new infield will have, Carella said, is that the team will be able to host games nearly all year long. After dealing with game rescheduling and cancelations due to a rainy spring season, the improved drainage of the turf facility will provide better access to practice and game locations.
“Having a turf infield will limit how much time we spend preparing the field the day after a storm,” Carella said.
According to Simone, the field should be ready for turf installation in July, with the repairs to be completed by August. Upon completion, Mercer will shift its focus on converting the softball field to turf.