It’s Friday afternoon here at Dodd Stadium and we’re in full swing. Field maintenance maestros Bryan Barkley and Ryan Lefler are busy getting the stadium ready for Saturday’s high school doubleheader between Plainfield and Lyman and St. Bernard and Griswold.

Ryan Lefler performing his magic on the Dodd Stadium infield.

The bullpen with a fresh coat of paint

The refurbished look of the press box

With UCONN playing its final home game at Dodd this coming Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. against the University of Rhode Island; the Tigers will also be hosting the Northeast Conference Tournament next Thursday through Sunday. The top four teams in the conference will reach the double-elimination tournament with the winner getting an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. “Tale of the Tigers” sat down with Northeast Conference Director of Communications and Social Media Ralph Ventre to get a feel for the NEC Tournament and the conference’s thoughts on playing at Dodd Stadium.

“This is our second year in Norwich,” said Ventre. “We came up there not knowing what to expect. When we got to Norwich, the first indication that this was going to be a great tournament came when the field was underwater and the grounds crew did such a great job. They worked hard for a game that wasn’t even theirs.”

Ventre explained the feeling of the conference following the 2011 tournament.

“Our main focus when we conduct a championship is the student-athlete experience. From the playing surface to the atmosphere, Dodd Stadium provides a first class experience.”

“You have to understand that with exception of Sacred Heat, who plays its games at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on the field of the Bridgeport Bluefish, not every team plays its games on natural grass. That’s a real treat for us.”

The sport of baseball has provided plenty of notoriety for the conference.

“Some of our athletes that have reached the higher levels have helped us break into the press,” said Ventre. “Evan Scribner, who played at Central Connecticut (made his Major League debut) with the Padres in 2011. His brother Troy is one of the star pitchers on Sacred Heart. Andrew Bailey of the Red Sox played at Wagner.”

With Connecticut schools winning the last two championships (Sacred Heart in 2011 and Central Connecticut in 2010), there should be plenty of local interest in next week’s tournament. Tickets are on sale now at the Dodd Stadium Box Office.

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