Every visiting player on their first visit to Farmington’s Hippach Field stares at the right field foul pole. First in disbelief, then in anticipation — especially the left-handed hitters.

The right field foul pole at Hippach is a measly 266 feet from home plate. A left-handed hitter with just the minimum pop in his bat can pull a pop-up for a home run at Hippach Field. Chris Bessey, the University of Maine at Farmington baseball coach, always counsels opposing coaches to tell their teams not to think about the short field. It doesn’t affect the game as much as you would think, Bessey said. Until it does.

“One of the first things when people come to the field they see that 266. I’ve said that never really comes into play, then we end up hitting two (Saturday) that were just pop-ups that ended up going over the fence,” Bessey said.

“I think it’s every lefty’s dream to use that to their advantage. At the same time, I think what we do very well as a team is work on hitting line drives. Some swings just happen to go over,” UMF senior Jimmy Neal, who also called Hippach his home field as a high school player for Mt. Blue, said.

On Saturday, it was the Beavers’ Tom Grady and Ben Keene who each hit what would have been routine fly balls almost everywhere else for home runs in a 16-5 win over Lyndon State. Bessey is quick to point out that Hippach isn’t short all the way around, like for example, the ballpark once used at Livermore Falls, which was close to 300 feet from foul pole to foul pole. Unless a hitter belts his lazy fly ball right down the right field line or close to it, the ball’s not leaving Hippach.

“It juts out pretty quick to the power alley (333 feet),” Bessey said. “Old Livermore Falls high school field, that’s like 300 (feet) all the way around. That was like a homer dome there.”

Hippach Field is not alone in its quirks. A few teams in central Maine play on fields known for idiosyncrasies.

The ballfield at Gardiner Area High School, for example, is one of the rare places where the distance from the plate to the foul poles is farther than to dead center field. According to Rob Munzing, who coached football and baseball at Gardiner, It’s been that way since the field opened in 1981.

“The fence line runs right along the property line and the idea when it was being built in the late 70s was to have enough space for a practice football field,” Munzing said.

In the past Maranacook had a short fence, particularly to left field. This season, the Black Bears will go with no fence at all. Faced with problems anchoring the breakaway fence used in the past, Maranacook elected to simply remove it. Now, it’s hit it to the power alleys and run as hard as you can.

“Get all you can get,” Maranacook coach Eric Brown said.

Lawrence baseball coach Rusty Mercier knows that old Livermore Falls field well. Mercier said he hit eight home runs there as a player for the Andies one season. Now, as coach of the Bulldogs, Mercier sees his players deal with a baseball obstacle course at Lawrence’s Keyes Field.

Keyes Field is a dual-use field. Left and center field make up a large portion of Lawrence’s football field. One of Lawrence’s goal posts is anchored just four feet into foul territory down the left field line at Keyes, making the uprights barely in foul territory.

Now in his sixth season as Lawrence’s coach, Mercier has seen a handful of left fielders in a full sprint after a ball, only to see the goal post at the last moment and pull up. Luckily, Mercier said, nobody has crashed into it since he’s been coaching at Lawrence. He has seen left fielders hit the goal post on a throw back to the infield. There have been discussions, but no plan of action, to remove the goal post during baseball season, Mercier said.

“I always say in the pregame meeting if your left fielder is near this have him step away. I’ve seen (a throw) ding off the post,” Mercier said.

In recent years, Lawrence has run a portable fence from left center field to right. Before that, center and right field included the entire football field. One of the football light towers was in play in right field. Now, it sits just beyond the fence alongside a new baseball scoreboard.

The distance marker at the right field foul pole is marked at 310 feet, although Mercier said it may be close to 303. The introduction of the BBCOR bats, which lessened the trampoline effect of the struck ball off the bat, made it possible to install the portable fence for baseball at Keyes Field, Mercier said.

“Prior to that we were hitting it beyond that pole,” Mercier said.

Football at Keyes also has led to a slight drop in the outfield just behind second base, where the visitors bleachers are in the fall. Infielders backing up and outfielders coming in need to pay attention to their footing, Mercier said. Even with the flaws, Mercier loves his home field. On Tuesday afternoon before practice he looked around at the neighborhood surrounding Keyes Field.

“Having said all that, it’s still a nice place to play and watch a game,” Mercier said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM