BAR HARBOR — Nick Corson has fond memories of playing baseball on the little field in Town Hill.
When he was a kid, Corson, a recent graduate of Mount Desert Island High School, used to go to the tiny field sandwiched between the village’s playground and fire station on a daily basis. The field, a mere stone’s throw from Corson’s home, was the perfect place to play catch and take batting practice with his father.
“He would always take me to play there,” Corson said. “We live within walking distance of the field. … It was a great place for us to get some fresh air and for me to practice.”
The days spent sharpening his skills on that field have taken Corson, now 19, to high school baseball stardom and a spot on the Thomas College squad next spring. To give back, Corson has launched a project to prime the field for a new generation of players.
Corson has spent the spring and summer months revamping the Town Hill field into one of MDI and Hancock County’s top youth facilities. His hours of building, sodding, fundraising and organizing have produced new dugouts, batting cages and banners in place with a new infield set to be laid down in the coming days.
Corson first pitched the project last July as part of his senior exhibition, a graduation requirement for students at many Maine high schools. The idea immediately got the support of his senior exhibition supervising teacher, Kate Muzzy, as well as Athletic Director Bunky Dow, Acadian Youth Sports Board members Kyle McKim and Andy Shea and the Town Hill Village Improving Society.
To raise money for the projects, Corson began selling banners with advertisements that would be displayed along the fences that line the field. He also scheduled four baseball clinics to be held in the high school gymnasium throughout the month of March.
Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus pandemic meant that the clinics scheduled for the last half of March could not be held. Yet the pandemic did provide Corson with something valuable: lots and lots of free time.
“I think COVID helped me in that way because it allowed me to spend more time working on the project,” Corson said. “I was able to really focus on the work and get in a lot more community service hours.”
The improvements are already striking. The old dugouts have been replaced with new ones matching the MDI and Acadian Youth Sports color scheme, and a wooden fence has been added behind them. A yellow crown and markers denoting the distance from home plate have been added to the outfield fence, and just outside the field of play, a new batting cage has been placed between the right-field fence and the playground.
Corson, who missed MDI’s 2019-20 basketball season after suffering a knee injury, had to complete a significant portion of the work before having ACL surgery in May. Since then, he’s focused more on the financial aspect of the project and hired a lawn-care company to ensure the field remains in top shape as he heads off to college.
“I think the financial part of it has definitely been the toughest part,” said Corson, whose final estimate of the project’s cost came out to roughly $15,000. “Fortunately, the community really stepped up and rallied around me to help get everything done.”
Shea, Dow and others have helped Corson with other parts of the project, including the clinics at the high school and some of the organizing efforts. Yet while others have helped Corson along the way, they’ve all been quick to deflect credit to Corson for making the project happen.
“That was all Nick Corson,” Shea said. “He coordinated all the different pieces, did the fundraising [and everything else].”
When the final pieces of the infield are laid out in the coming days, the project will, at last, be complete. That will mark a fitting conclusion to a year–long project that’s seen a downtrodden baseball field transformed into a vibrant pillar of Town Hill.
Between nursing his knee and lobstering, Corson likely won’t have time to spend time on the turf or in the batter’s box at the rebuilt field this summer. Someday, though, when he’s back to full health and sports are back in full swing, he’ll be able to take a few cuts of his own — and watch a new crop of future baseball stars play at a place to which he’s given new life.
“It’s all about the community,” Corson said. “I got a lot of support for the project from a lot of people, and it’s a dream that it turned out the way it did.”