LEWISTON — If there is one thing Alex Small can’t stand, it’s a quiet dugout.

Which is why when its Pastime Club’s turn to hit, Small can usually be heard from all corners of the ballpark encouraging his teammates, or encouraging his teammates to encourage their teammates.

Small keeps the chatter going when he takes the field. He is the prototypical take-charge type, the field general, mixing instruction with inspiration from behind a catcher’s mask.

“I’m annoying. I’m so annoying when I’m out there. I’m a yeller, man,” Small said. “I will always be a yeller.”

Pastime coach Dave Jordan disagrees with the annoying part, but is more than happy to have Small’s voice as Pastime plays in the state American Legion tournament, starting Wednesday at Husson University.

“He is the heart and soul and the backbone of our resurgence,”  Jordan said.

It is Pastime’s fifth consecutive state tournament appearance and Small’s third.

The Zone 3 champions enter the tournament with one of the youngest teams. Small, who attends Southern Maine Community College, is one of two post-grads on the roster (SMCC roommate Ryan Riordan is the other) and its leader.

Small didn’t join Pastime until about 1/3 of the way through the season, choosing instead to focus on his two summer jobs. Pastime was 3-3 before he joined (one of those losses later became a win by forfeit when an opposing player was ruled ineligible). It enters the tournament at 16-5, thanks in large part to the man Jordan calls “a little ball of energy.”

Small said he decided to strap on the shin guards again after reading in the newspaper that the opposition had stolen 17 bases against Pastime in a doubleheader.

“I just felt bad. I almost felt like it was my responsibility. I left and really didn’t give anyone a heads-up that I wasn’t coming back,” Small said. “I realized that there was something missing.”

Something was missing not only for Pastime, but for Small.

“The way this team has changed in the last few weeks is absolutely miraculous,” he said. “When I got here, the team spirit was there, but there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm.”

Small’s own enthusiasm for the game was gone after his freshman year at SMCC. He spent most of the fall baseball season on the bench. Combined with school (majoring in hospitality and tourism management) and work, the mental and physical strain made for a difficult fall semester.

“I was working three jobs and playing baseball, and I had a 3.93 school. I realized I was overworking myself,” he said.

Small lightened the workload by cutting baseball out of his spring schedule.

“I knew deep down inside I should be playing,” Small said. “But I was thinking that my work was more important and school was more important. Obviously, it is, but that stuff could overwhelm baseball, which is a passion of mine.”

Returning to Pastime re-ignited his passion for the game, which was contagious enough to spark Pastime.

“Having Alex around and everyone seeing his work ethic and how he goes about stuff, his energy and enthusiasm, has helped us,” Jordan said. “That’s carried over even when he’s not behind the plate.”

When he is behind the plate, Small’s presence belies his diminutive stature. With his quick feet and ability to block almost any pitch in the dirt, Pastime coaches are comfortable calling for breaking pitches in any situation, and pitchers don’t have to worry about throwing it into the dirt with runners on base.

“That’s big. Just look at the game against Tri-Town (in the zone championship),” Jordan said. “They were such great fastball hitters that we knew we had to throw a lot of off-speed, especially late in the game. There were a number of balls that could have gone back to the backstop with guys in scoring position, and Alex ate them all up.”

“If a pitcher doesn’t have faith in a catcher stopping it, it slows down the game,” Small said. “The morale, the confidence of the whole team goes down.”

Jordan’s confidence in Small’s hitting has gone up, too, elevating him to the middle of the order. Although the 5-foot-4, 140-pound Small isn’t a power threat, his small strike zone, ability to handle the bat and put the ball in play helps Pastime play the aggressive style that makes its offense go.

At Lewiston and Pastime, Small followed one of the best catcher’s in the state, Mekae Hyde, who is now at Bates College. He credits his predecessor, other former teammates and current and former coaches with helping foster his love of the game.

Asked if that love remains strong enough for him to give college baseball another shot, Small said he would like to put the SMCC uniform on again his sophomore year.

Jordan hopes Small stays in uniform long after his playing career ends.

“He’s the kind of guy,” Jordan said, “that you hope that even when he graduates, wherever he goes and gets into the workforce, that he’ll do something to stay around the game.”


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