Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles on the Class of 2007 inductees.

AUBURN – As hard as he tried, all he could connect with was air.

He became an all-star baseball player at the University of Maine, but long before that, “Dooley” was a whiffer.

Mark Coutts would swing for the fences only to create a breeze. One day, that all changed.

“When I was 10 years old, I couldn’t hit a baseball to save my life,” said Coutts, who got tagged with his nickname because of a trotter that his grandfather liked. “Gene Keene Sr. spent an hour to teach me how to hit a baseball. It’s those little things that you remember. “

Coutts will be recognized for his accomplishments when is inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday, but he’ll be the first to say those achievements happened because of people around him and the environment in which he was nurtured.

“I could run and I was a good athlete, but I had great teammates and great coaches,” Coutts said. “People helped me keep my head on straight. That, I think, really helped me develop into who I was as a player.”

Coutts found success at every level. He was a member of the Auburn Senior Little League All-Stars that played in the 1978 National Championships. He was an all-state football player at Edward Little and was a Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist in 1981. At Maine, he was All-Yankee Conference football player in 1984 and 1985. He was the captain and earned All New England and honorable mention All-American accolades his senior year. He also played baseball for the Black Bears and played in the College World Series in 1983.

Coutts had the athletic ability, but it was the people around him that enabled him to harness that athletic potential. Growing up with three siblings, his family was always active and involved in sports.

“You’re always around each other, and you’re always around athletic fields,” said Mike Coutts, a member of the A-L Sports Hall who preceded his brother at Maine. “It became part of your life, part of your nature and part of what you like doing.”

It just so happened that the family’s neighbor was Bob Flynn, the long-time football and baseball coach at Bates College.

“He used to take us over to Bates College, me and my two brothers,” said Mike. “We’d go over to the baseball field when we were young bucks, and he’d do baseball stuff with us. That’s probably where we first got our love for the game, from our next door neighbor.”

That passion blossomed in ASLL. For kids, that was the place to be and the thing to do back then. Mark still relishes the atmosphere and community spirit.

“Back then, Auburn Suburban Little League was known for something,” he said. “There were expectations. You knew, as you played, that if you made an all-star team, the expectation was that you were going to win. It was a good place to be.”

In high school, he was surprised when he learned that he’d be the starting tailback as a sophomore. He had good speed, but he had never played the position.

“I didn’t know why I was there,” he said. “John White and Doc Hersom decided to make me a tailback, and then the next year, they moved me to fullback, which probably better suited me.”

Coutts says now that that stint at tailback gave him an abundance of confidence. Knowing the coaches were willing to give him a chance, it bolstered his spirits and was a precursor to greater things.

Coutts also got steered in the right direction if he happened to go off course a bit.

“I remember in high school, John White sat down next to me and put his arm around me,” said Coutts. “He said, ‘Mark, I just want you to know that there are people talking about you.’ It wasn’t accusatory. Being in high school, you’re doing different things, but I knew what he meant. He did it in such a way that I knew that he cared.

“I’ve been really lucky to have people point me in the right direction and be tough with me when they needed to be tough. Anytime, you can have people around you that care, that’s what it’s all about.”

Coutts learned from his coaches, his siblings, his friends and his teammates. Living in Mendham, N.J., he brings those lessons to his business now. He is the Executive Director of Sales for Konica Minolta, a Japanese manufacturer for copiers and fax machines.

“I always reflect on my sports career in my business career, as a leader and as a motivator,” he said. “It doesn’t change. Team sports or business, there’s a lot of correlation between the two. So I was very lucky to have been brought up the way I was brought up and to be associated with a great community in Lewiston and Auburn.”

Mark continues the cycle by coaching. He and his wife, Laura, have four children – Gavin (11), Ashlyn (9), Ethan (5) and Griffin (18 months). He’s actively coaching 6th-grade football and also coaches baseball and softball. He figures he may wind up coaching 20 years in the current football league by the time all three sons finish.

“The first thing I try to teach my team is responsibility,” he said. “You have to have responsibility to your family, to yourself and your teammates. I’m not going to hold your hand. You’re either going to do what is asked or you’re not going to play, or there’s going to be consequences.”

Stressing the importance of teamwork, Coutts hands out a “Teammate of the Year Award” each season.

“They have to be good citizens, good teammates and coachable – all the things that I think my coaches taught me to be,” said Mark.

The trophies and the accolades beef up his resume, but it is the environment that raised him and the people who coached and directed him that have created the lasting impact. It is something both he and his brother reflect on often.

“You might remember that story and that game, but what you really remember are the coaches you had and the teammates that you had,” said Mike. “You always wonder what kind of influence they had on who you are today.”

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