Contributors aren’t given much love at hall of fame induction ceremonies.

They’re the reason we have “lifetime achievement” awards. Or sometimes they are given their own, dusty wing in whatever building houses the hallowed history of that game.

It is a blessing, I suppose, because it keeps their lack of star power from becoming too conspicuous.

Think of Sunday’s National Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., as Exhibit A. Certainly every year there are writers, broadcasters and old-timers invited to their date with immortality. But do you think any of them truly feel comfortable sharing the stage with Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio? Probably not.

Maine scheduled its own annual hall of fame luncheon to celebrate our contributions to the national pastime on the same afternoon. I’m happy to report that’s where the similarities end. Here, perhaps more acutely than in some larger corners of the world, we understand that the people who make it happen behind the scenes are the real heroes.

And thankfully, because of that awareness, we are given one more opportunity to celebrate the life, contributions and consistent greatness of Auburn’s Dennis Sweetser.


Dennis, who left us six years ago at the too-early age of 69, was enshrined Sunday in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual ceremony at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. He was in a class that featured Bob Anthoine, Gerry Berthiaume, Rod Choroszy, Jim Dumais, John Dumont, Don “Tink” Kilbreth, Mike MacDonald, Ed Paterson, Sylvanus “Junior” Tracy and the late Clarence Keegan.

Almost all of them achieved their notoriety for what they accomplished between the chalk lines. Dennis might have felt a tad uncomfortable being penciled into that lineup, since so much of his life was devoted to making other people famous.

In 42 years with the youth baseball program at Auburn Suburban, Dennis wore the hats of coach, manager, president, board member, organizer, groundskeeper, historian, and just about any other job title you can acquire if you hang around long enough.

Being around was a huge part of Dennis’ legacy, of course. For all the challenges that have faced childhood-level organized baseball in the era of television, video games and other computerized entertainment, few are more trying than finding qualified, dispassionate, adult help.

Most coaches, fundraisers and other volunteers are lured to the fields because they have a vested interest as a player’s dad or uncle. When those children age out of the program, so do the adults. Sometimes it is a void that’s difficult to fill. In other cases, of course, it’s addition by subtraction.

Dennis never graduated, and there was no greater blessing in Auburn Suburban’s proud history than that. In many ways he was the perfect face for such an organization: A teacher by trade and a man of strong faith and impeccable character who had no sons by birth. You could count on Dennis to do whatever was best for the kids, the community and the league.


“It started out in 1967 with me saying I’d help a friend of mine for a year or two,” Dennis told me in 2006, when I tried mostly in vain to get him to talk about himself as part of a story celebrating Auburn Suburban’s 50th anniversary. “He walked away shortly after that, and I’m still here.”

Yes, Dennis, you certainly are. Permanently. For as long as boys and girls have their own children and grandchildren, watch their thinning hair turn gray and reminisce about their own glory days with a bat and ball, your name will be read and your contributions remembered.

You didn’t get to deliver that acceptance speech Sunday. I suspect that it would have been out of your comfort zone, anyway. But I’m sure the men whose lives you influenced, from Billy Reynolds to Mike and Mark Coutts, told the story with words that effectively captured your heart and soul.

Two generations of athletes, parents and sportswriters probably said these words to you, just not often or enthusiastically enough. So allow me to do it again as we celebrate your life and career.

Thank you, Dennis. Thank you for making baseball a better game. Thank you for making Auburn a better place to bring up children and teach them the lessons of sports and life.

Thank you for teaching men and women of all ages to make contributions in our communities that can’t be measured in a box score but mean just as much.

Thank you for being a hall of famer in every sense that title conveys.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72 and like his Facebook page at

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