For many young athletes scurrying across the state from one activity to another in the saturated summer of 2009, baseball is merely one line of an overloaded itinerary.

Fifty-five Julys ago Friday, however, it was the unchallenged national pastime, and it was life to Stan Doughty. And the rest of life wouldn’t wait or cloud that tunnel vision, either.

Two months after graduating from Colby College, Doughty suited up for the Dixfield Townies in the daily ritual of a town team tussle against the Auburn Asas.

“I hit a home run. We won the game 1-0. Stan Horne pitched the shutout for us,” Doughty said.
Are you with him so far?

Town team baseball typically ended the same way slow-pitch softball winds down its summer evenings today, with cold beverages by the dozen and tall tales too numerous to count.

Doughty was compelled to take a rain check.

“My son was born the same day,” he said. “That was one of my fondest memories in baseball.”

Auburn native Mike Coutts would give his kingdom for such commitment to the sport he loves, even as he watches it waver in such hotbeds as his Frozen Ropes baseball training center in Portland or at neighboring Deering High School, where he is varsity coach.

“I see it all the time. ‘I have a dentist’s appointment.’ ‘I have a doctor’s appointment.’ And I say, ‘That stuff can wait for another day. We’ve got practice.’ I think the big thing is that kids have parents who don’t make them make a commitment to anything,” Coutts said. “Parents allow their kids now to say, ‘OK, whatever.’ If I signed up for something, there was no way I was getting out of it.”

Doughty and Coutts, from back-to-back generations in a bygone, Norman Rockwell era, signed on the invisible dotted line for a lifetime in baseball without hesitation.

Their reward? At least in this little nook of the diamond galaxy, immortality.

The two men with strong local ties embellish a class of 11 that will enter the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 26, at Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland.

They’re joined by former Colby College All-American Neil Stinneford of Weld, veteran coach and active player Steve LaPointe of Rumford and the late Frederick “Ted” Clark, once a star at Stephens High School in Rumford and the University of Maine at Farmington.

Also in the permanent ring of honor are former major league pitcher Pete Ladd (see sidebar), John Cochin, Malcolm “Mac” Herrick, John Mullen, Dale Plummer and Pat Proulx.

Doughty celebrated much of his baseball success at Lisbon High School, where he coached for 20 years.
Prior to that, he was a teammate of Stinneford at Colby, graduating in 1954 after two years as team captain. Doughty pitched and starred at both corners of the infield.

Third base was Doughty’s preference, but rarely was it etched in ink on the lineup card.

“There was an article in the Waterville Sentinel that called me the Billy Goodman of Colby,” Doughty said. “Billy Goodman was a guy who was a utility player for the Red Sox, played several positions.”

Doughty made the rounds with community teams, wearing the stirrups for outfits in Auburn, Augusta and Lisbon as well as Dixfield.

As was the custom in that heyday, team organizers would find a way to give players a means of support in order to help them focus on their semipro baseball exploits all summer.

“They gave me a ‘job’ at the mill, but I don’t remember being there much,” Doughty said. “After the games we would always gather at somebody’s house and talk about what we did wrong. There was quite a camaraderie. You make so many friends through baseball. There’s nothing like it.”

Coutts echoed those thoughts about baseball’s extended family. Small wonder, because his circle of influence is even larger.
After honing his skills at Auburn Suburban Little League and Edward Little High School, Coutts captained the University of Maine baseball team. The Black Bears made the first of three College World Series appearances during Coutts’ career in 1981.

Coutts stayed in Orono as the top assistant to legendary John Winkin. Later, he skippered the Cotuit Kettleers to a Cape Cod League championship.

“You don’t get to the end and say, ‘I did this, I did that, I made All-American.’ For me it’s being able to stop and look and say I’m friends with guys like Billy Swift and Dale Plummer and Brian Seguin,” Coutts said. “We had a reception for Coach Winkin a couple of weeks ago. It made me stop and think that I spent 16 or 17 years of my life there, and look how many guys I call friends because of it.”

Coutts continues to pour his knowledge of the game into a new generation with different distractions and standards.

Even the landscape in his home state has changed, with baseball falling beneath hockey, football and women’s basketball on the list of athletic attractions at the flagship university. Coutts’ single-minded approach continues to thrive, though, with numerous students earning Division I scholarships and becoming Major League draft picks.

He credits Winkin and his childhood coaches — Dennis Sweetser, Jim Bouchles and Dick Osgood among them — for instilling that passion.

“Those people were role models for me, and I always wanted to be a role model for kids because of that. I go to coaching clinics and tell guys if you don’t want to represent everything that word means, don’t be a coach,” Coutts said.

“Having grown up in Maine and played for the state university and gone to the College World Series, I just want to give kids the same opportunities I had. Why can’t other kids do the same thing? Too many people are satisfied with mediocrity. They say that’s good enough. I say why not set goals that are high and maybe not reach them, but at least try?”

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Class of 2009
Ted Clark, Dexter – Standout at Stephens H.S. in Rumford
John Cochin, Springvalle – Played and coached at Sanford
Mike Coutts, Scarborough – EL star was captain of UMaine team at 1981 College World Series
Stan Doughty, Lisbon – Standout at Colby, coach and AD at Lisbon
Malcolm Herrick, Gorham – Umpire for four decades
Peter Ladd, New Gloucester – Played 6 years in the majors with Astros, Brewers, Mariners
Steve PaPointe, Rumford – Coached high school baseball in Rumford since 1981.
John Mullen, Portland – Standout at Westbrook
Dale Plummer, Richmond – UMaine pitcher spent 8 years in minors with Red Sox, Mets
Pat Proulx, Portland – Semipro player in Presque Isle in 1950s
Neil Stinneford, Weld – All-American at Colby in 1950s.
• Sun Journal reporter Bob McPhee will receive the President’s Award.

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