Darren Hartley watches the Edward Little football team grind out a win against Cony during the mid-2000s. Hartley has been hired to coach the Lewiston baseball team. His son Grant is a senior on the EL baseball team. (Sun Journal file photo)

Darren Hartley’s interview for the Lewiston varsity baseball coach’s job covered the usual questions any coaching applicant would have to answer, including how he would pitch to a feared rival.

Except in this case, the feared rival was Hartley’s son, Grant, a power-hitting senior for Edward Little.

“That question was asked in the interview, and has been asked many times since,” Darren Hartley said.

Hartley will be asked the question plenty of times this spring as the Blue Devils’ new coach. He is replacing Will Emerson, who stepped down earlier in the winter due to work.

Although Hartley may be best known as a football coach, having served as varsity coach for both Lewiston and Edward Little, he’s spent much of his lifetime on the diamond.

His baseball roots go back to his childhood in Turner, where he learned the game from many town team legends and members of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame and played for Fred Beal at Leavitt High School. He’s played and coached in the Pine Tree League, is a former Lewiston Little League president and has been a high school and college umpire since 1990.

His only previous varsity baseball coaching experience came in 2009. Filling in for Scott Annear, who took a one-year professional sabbatical, he led the Red Eddies to the regional semifinals.

He’s also coached junior varsity baseball at Lewiston for two different stints totaling five years under Don King and Todd Cifelli.

Hartley said he has been considering a return to coaching for some time. Organizing and coaching a fall baseball team that included Grant and several Lewiston and EL players stoked the fire a bit more.

He initially planned to wait until after Grant’s senior year to return. But he knows and has coached many of Lewiston’s upperclassmen (he and his family moved from Lewiston to Auburn before Grant’s freshman year). When he learned Emerson was stepping down, he was concerned their season might be left in limbo.

“They’re a great group of young men, and I was nervous that they might not get quality candidates, so I put my name in,” he said.

Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said Hartley’s experience and enthusiasm made him the ideal candidate for the opening.

“He’s coached different sports at different levels, so he knows how to rebuild a program like we’re ready to do at Lewiston,” Fuller said. “He’s been in and out of the Lewiston baseball program and he’s done it all in the game of baseball. He builds great relationships with kids. I think that’s important. The kids are in for a great experience with him.”

Lewiston finished 9-8 last season, losing a thrilling quarterfinal, 7-6, at Edward Little. Four seniors graduated from that team.

Hartley said he’s excited about the Blue Devils’ team speed and plans to utilize his team’s strengths.

“My philosophy is simple: You’ve got to play with the talent you’re given,” he said. “We’ll be as aggressive as we possibly can on the base paths. I don’t really care for small-ball. I’m more old-fashioned. But we’ve got some really quick and athletic talent.”

He said he will emphasize the fundamentals, throwing strikes and playing good defense. To refine those elements of their game, the Blue Devils can expect plenty of repetitions in practice. If this snowy March leads to more practices in the gym, Hartley plans to make the most of that time.

Pitchers and catchers report next Monday, full squads the following Monday.

“I’m a little anxious, but I’m ready to go get after it and compete,” Hartley said.

The competition will include at least two meetings with Grant’s team. He said being able to watch his son, who is bound for the University of Maine as a preferred football walk-on, play AAU after high school season will take some of the sting off of missing most of his games.

“I feel awful about it, but maybe he’ll have the greatest year of his career without his old man leaning over the fence,” he said.

Grant Hartley said it was clear after fall baseball how badly his father wanted to get back into coaching.

“I’m happy for him,” Grant said. “I know that he is a coach and I know that is what he loves to do. I don’t really think it’s a big deal. I don’t really look at it like he’s coaching my rival.”

Grant said he’s already talked with one of his AAU teammates, Lewiston’s Hunter Landry, about his father. He admitted he expects some ribbing from teammates and fans when the two teams meet and baseball talk around the dinner table will be a little less open.

“We’ll keep it pretty open, but obviously I’m not going to tell him all of our signs,” he joked. “Even if I did, I don’t think he’d remember them.”

So how will the father pitch to the son, who was a first-team KVAC all-star last year?

“It’s a case-by-case scenario,” Darren said.

“But it’s like everything else I believe in baseball — 99 times out of 100, we’re going to go at them,” he added.

Baseball, softball splitting home games

Fuller said the on-going construction at the high school means the baseball and softball teams will be hosting home games off-campus this spring.

Baseball will play three games and softball will play five games at Bates College. Baseball is tentatively scheduled to play its other three home games at Lewiston Little League, while softball will play its five remaining games at its former home, the Randall Road complex.


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