The Bangor West All-Stars were fresh from winning the Maine Little League baseball championship on a dramatic, walk-off grand slam in extra innings during the summer of 1989.
But as the team was ready to graduate from the smaller dimensions of a Little League diamond to a traditionally sized baseball field to compete in Junior League the following spring, the field it planned to call its home base on outer Union Street needed work.
So much work, in fact, that the team’s coaches — including famed horror writer Stephen King, whose son Owen played on the Bangor West squad — conceived a plan to create a world-class baseball facility in the Queen City fit for all young players to use.
By the summer of 1992, the $1.2 million Shawn T. Mansfield Stadium, funded by Stephen and Tabitha King and located in the city’s Hayford Park just behind the Kings’ West Broadway home, was ready for play.
Thousands of games have been played and even more baseball dreams have been fulfilled during the last three decades on the so-called Field of Screams since Webb’s RV defeated WZON 10-6 at Mansfield Stadium on June 20, 1992.
Those battles have ranged from local Junior League and Senior League contests to a 15-year run of the Senior League World Series from 2002 through 2016, and from Bangor High School and American Legion regular-season games to state championship matchups and tournaments featuring teams from around the state.
And while the Senior League World Series was moved from Bangor to Easley, South Carolina, in 2017, the 2022 Senior League East Regional tournament is scheduled to be held at Mansfield in July for the first time since 2019, after a two-year, COVID 19-related absence.
Mansfield Stadium’s 30th anniversary will be celebrated next Wednesday when Bangor High School hosts rival Brewer High School in a mutual regular-season finale.
A pre-game ceremony will be held just after Bangor conducts its Senior Night observance and just before the scheduled 7 p.m. first pitch, in part to recognize three stalwarts who have been pivotal in the stadium’s operation for the last three decades: Ron St. Pierre, David Mansfield and Jimmy Owens.
As field director, St. Pierre has overseen maintenance of the playing surface since the field’s inception with considerable assistance from Owens, while Mansfield has run the stadium’s concession area, among his many duties.
The stadium is named after Mansfield’s son, Shawn, who used a wheelchair and died of cerebral palsy at age 14. A plaque dedicating the stadium to Shawn Mansfield and all the other boys who never got a chance to play baseball is located at the stadium’s entrance.
St. Pierre and David Mansfield, who both were coaches for the 1989 Bangor West Little League team with King and Neil Waterman, were named recipients of the 2020 Citizen Volunteer of the Year Award from the Maine Recreation and Park Association for their efforts at the stadium.
“You look at Ron, and because of his willingness and standard of excellence he wanted things right and he was able to work with Stephen King to get the things he needed to make it right. That relationship was huge,” Bangor High School athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine said.
“It’s in the condition it’s in because of the efforts those four people put into it, and it’s created so many great experiences for kids.”
Wednesday’s activities also will include stadium trivia and remembrances reflecting the facility’s history and importance to the local and regional baseball community that will be shared between innings during the game.
“I think it’s been a Field of Dreams for a lot of kids, and not just from Bangor,” Vanidestine said. “We’ve had teams from a lot of communities come here as well as teams from around the country and around the world. This stadium has touched a lot of lives over the years.”
One of those perhaps most influenced by Mansfield Stadium since its inception is Brewer School Department athletic administrator Dave Utterback, beginning when he watched the stadium being built from his desk as a young student at the nearby Thirteenth Street School
“It was right out the window,” he said. “I probably didn’t pay attention to the class very much because I was watching it being constructed. Then I’d walk right by it to go home, and when I went to Fifth Street Middle School [now the James F. Doughty School ] I’d stop and watch the Bangor High team practice.”
Utterback went on to play for Bangor High School and work on the Mansfield Stadium grounds crew for many summers. He also coached Senior League and high school baseball there and for the last two springs has watched as his Brewer High School teams have practiced and played home games across the river because of drainage issues at their own field.
“I’ve gone through every level of what that stadium has to offer, and when you think back over 30 years to what that place has meant to people as a stage for games it’s pretty remarkable what it’s become for a lot of people,” Utterback said.
“People see it not as a hidden gem because it’s widely used during the baseball season, but certainly as a destination point for anyone who’s interested in baseball or the history of Stephen King, for that matter. It’s a pretty special place for a lot of people.”