Mainers can play baseball. While we don't have the sheer numbers of college-level players and even professional athletes that warmer states boast, for a state with a small population and our baseball fields deemed uninhabitable (or at least, unplayable) for large portions of the annum, Mainers do just fine.
Beginning Wednesday, I'll be on the Cape, watching my son and his Wheaton Lyons teammates, take on six other opponents, in the NCAA Division III Regional tournament, in Harwich, Massachusetts. Mark is a senior, so this will be a sentimental three or four days, for me. We've developed much of our father-son relationship on lonely baseball diamonds, with me throwing batting practice and as he got older, lining baseballs back at his father, watching time erode my former cat-like reflexes. While the Lyons have had a remarkable run this spring, including a team record 24 game winning streak, #6 ranking in the country and the #1 seed in the regional, this will all be for naught, if they can't advance to the Little College World Series, in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Division III baseball doesn't receive the fanfare (or the scholarships) of the Division I brand of college baseball, but for the young men who play, actual student-athletes, they bring much of the same intensity, passion, and often level of skill to the game, of their bigger, sometimes faster, large-college counterparts. For me, small-college ball seems somewhat purer.
Against my own personal storyline, is the Maine backdrop of three Maine small colleges being represented, with their large contingents of Maine born and bred ballplayers. I'm hoping some of Maine's sports reporting community will pick up on this. I've send the following release to many of my contacts, in hopes that this story gets picked up.
Maine well-represented in NCAA baseball tourney
In college baseball circles, Division I programs often receive much of the attention and the lion’s share of press coverage. In New England and more specifically, Maine, Division III baseball, while sometimes overlooked, has often overshadowed and often outperformed Maine’s lone Division I program, headquartered in Orono.
It’s been over two decades since the Black Bears, then coached by the legendary John Winkin, appeared in the College World Series. On the other hand, Ed Flaherty’s USM Huskies have won two national, small college championships, in Division III, first in 1991, then again in 1997.
This year’s Division III, Northeast Regional, in Harwich, Massachusetts, features an abundance of Maine-grown baseball talent, with three Maine-based schools participating. Never before has the Pine Tree State been this well represented in a regional college tournament, before.
With Bowdoin College, USM and St. Joseph’s College all participating among the seven seeded teams in Harwich, there are 51 Maine-born players on the various rosters of the combatants. Bowdoin and St. Joseph’s are making their first appearances ever, in a NCAA regional baseball tourney.
Even Massachusetts-based Wheaton College, the #1 seed, as well as 6th ranked team in the country, has six Maine players on their roster, with four position players that start and another considered one of the Lyon’s top starting pitchers.
In addition, many of these players have all played one or more summer’s in Portland’s Twilight League, Maine’s premiere summer college baseball league.
Here is the breakdown of teams and number of players from Maine:
USM (seeded #5)-19 players
St. Joe’s (seeded #2) 18 players
Bowdoin (seeded #7)- 8 players
Wheaton College (seeded #1)- 6 players
That’s 51 players with roots firmly planted in Maine! Who says Mainers can’t play baseball, particularly of tournament-caliber quality?
It would seem quite obvious to me that there is something newsworthy about this, certainly from a sports perspective.