POLAND – After months of work and fund-raising, a varsity baseball team’s dream trip to Florida was nearly canceled Sunday when the head coach failed to show up with airport transportation or the team’s money.

Sixteen players, their parents and chaperones gathered at the high school at 4:30 a.m. Sunday for the first leg of a spring training trip to Cocoa Beach. The players had spent most of the school year holding bottle drives, calendar sales and other events to raise more than $14,000 needed for the Florida venture.

They had taken similar training trips to Connecticut in 2003 and 2002. Both had been with head coach Charlie Green and both had been successful.

On Sunday, the group planned to meet Green in the empty parking lot at Poland Regional High School and ride in rented vans to Logan Airport in Boston. But by 5 a.m., neither Green nor the vans had shown up. Superintendent Nina Schlikin and Ike Levine, chairman of the Poland School Committee and father of one of the players, got the first anxious phone calls from parents.

“The question then was do the young men go or don’t they go?” Levine said. “Safety was the primary concern.”

When the coach still hadn’t shown up by 5:30 a.m., Schlikin asked the junior varsity coach, who was traveling to Florida as a chaperone, to take over Green’s responsibilities.

Officials agreed that the players had proper equipment, the required plane tickets and more than enough chaperones, but the group had no transportation to Boston.

Parents dashed their players to the airport in their own cars, forming a caravan connected by cell phone calls.

The team made its 9:30 a.m. flight, but found no rental van waiting for them in Florida, either. And the Cocoa Beach spring training facility said it had received the team’s deposit, but had no record of the required $5,400 final payment.

A chaperone paid about $300 for a rental van in Florida and the spring training facility agreed to accept the teenagers – providing the usual room, meals and training – while Poland officials sorted out the situation.

With their students safely on their way, school officials in Maine turned their thoughts to the missing head coach. They called the police.

“There was some concern for his personal safety,” Levine said.

Green was found uninjured about 12 hours after his players began waiting for him in an empty high school parking lot.
Checks found, uncashed
Officials learned that deposits for the trip had been sent to the appropriate people, but Green failed to send in the final $5,400 check to the spring training facility and the final $300 check to the Florida rental car agency. Both checks had been made out to the proper people and were found uncashed.

“The fees were paid this morning,” Levine said Monday.

The rental van didn’t show up in Poland because of a logistical problem.

Citing confidential personnel issues, school officials would say only that Green was unhurt and was dealing with personal problems. He did not attempt to steal any money.

“We’re still investigating,” Schlikin said. “As far as we know, everything is accounted for.”

Officials declined to say whether Green has been placed on leave.

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