Paul Mitchell’s brothers each have something named after them. George, the former United States Senator, has a school in Waterville that bears his name. John, an assistant basketball coach at Colby College for decades, shares the school’s basketball court with longtime head coach Dick Whitmore.

“The only thing I have named after me is, nothing at all, really,” Mitchell said.

Now it’s Paul’s turn.

Next fall, the University of Maine baseball and softball teams will start taking batting practice in the brand-new Paul J. Mitchell Batting Pavilion.

A second baseman at Maine in the late 1940s, Mitchell’s daughter and son-in-law, Linda and Stuart Price, made the lead gift to get the $454,000 project running. They chose to name the facility after Mitchell, who has had a lifelong love affair with baseball. Other donors include Kevin Mahaney, Tom Savage and Paul Hannigan.

“It isn’t absolutely essential that it’s built, but it certainly enhances the program,” Mitchell, 86, said. “We used to practice in the fieldhouse in the winter time, but you had a lot of competition for space there. You couldn’t really do the batting that you wanted to do.”

The building will be an offshoot of Mahaney Clubhouse, which houses the baseball team’s locker room and offices, and will take up the space where the outdoor batting cages now sit. It will be home to two indoor batting cages that can be used for baseball or softball.

The Black Bears have good pitching, baseball coach Steve Trimper said to Mitchell, who hopes the indoor batting cages will help the hitters catch up.

“Even if you’ve got good pitching, you’re not going to win very many games if you can only score one or two runs,” Mitchell said.

College baseball has changed since Mitchell played more than 60 years ago, and the new batting facility will help Maine remain a viable Division I program. When Mitchell played at Maine, the team played an 18-game season. It wasn’t until the arrival of coach Jack Butterfield in 1957, then John Winkin in 1975, that the Black Bears rose to national prominence, playing in seven College World Series between 1964 and 1986.

This season, the Black Bears opened the season at Clemson, in South Carolina. Mitchell’s Black Bears never left New England.

“The southern trips they take today, they go to Florida, California or Texas. Those are really trips,” Mitchell said. “Our southern trip was to Storrs, Conn. Or Kingston, R.I. Or Amherst, Mass.”

Mitchell played ball at Bates College for a season before heading to UMaine, where he played second base and hit leadoff.

“I did one thing well. I hit well. I led off everyplace I played. My fielding would be OK,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell likes that Maine plans on making the facility available for high school teams to use. There’s a lot of good baseball and softball played in this state, he said. He’s happy to have his name on anything that will make it even better.

It wasn’t long ago that Mitchell would head over to Gifford’s in Waterville, and take swings in the batting cages there. When he visited Linda and Stuart in Tulsa, Okl., he’d also swing by their neighbors house. The neighbor had a batting cage, and Mitchell would take his hacks there, too.

“He’d feed the balls into me,” Mitchell said. “I just loved getting up there and taking cuts.”

When he spoke to Trimper, Mitchell joked that on the day the building opens, let me take the first cuts.

“The kids are going to have a wonderful time. I wish it weren’t going to be 65 miles away. Even at this point, you’d like to think, ‘I’ll go up and take a few cuts.’ ” Mitchell said. “It’s a great game, baseball. It’s a great game.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


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