Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer pulls his players together during a pitching change. Slicer is being inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Portland. (Brewster Burns photo)

Four decades after being introduced to baseball, Shane Slicer’s passion for the sport remains strong.

These days, the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School coach gives back to the game by teaching the current generation about the many joys that America’s pastime has to offer.

Slicer’s longtime commitment to baseball has been well-known throughout the Western foothills, and his exploits will be recognized when he is inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall Of Fame on Sunday at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland.

It has been a long, enjoyable journey for Slicer to earn his way to the podium.

“I knew at a very young age that baseball was something that was going to be a big part of my life,” Slicer said. “I played ball every day in the summer. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Slicer recalls having his parents pitch to him every day, throwing the ball up and hitting it over the house, and throwing to a pitch-back.

“I remember going to the pickup games down the street from my house and I was the youngest kid there and the smallest, if you can believe that,” Slicer said. “The first few days, the older kids didn’t let me play, so I just watched. This happened for a week or so until they finally needed another player.

“I finally got my chance and was a regular for the rest of my youth.”

Slicer further enhanced his talents in the Babe Ruth League, helping the team win the 13- to 15-year-old state championship. He was named the 15-year-old state tournament Most Valuable Player in 1986.

Slicer then went on to Oxford Hills High School, and he credits coach Mike Loveless with teaching him the important things that the sport offers.

“This is when I truly began thinking and learning about the game,” Slicer said. “Coach was big on situational baseball and knowing what to do at all times. We were always very well-prepared that way. The biggest thing that coach Loveless taught me was discipline and work ethic.”

That included always wearing uniforms the right way, exiting the bus the right way and taking the field the right way.

“He taught us no matter who we played to always be tougher and out-hustle our opponent,” Slicer said. “He taught me what it means to put on an Oxford Hills baseball uniform.”

Slicer was a four-year starter and excelled offensively and defensively.

In 1988, his junior season, he had a .451 average with 25 RBIs and three home runs. As a senior the next year, he batted .500 with 25 hits, 16 RBIs and 20 walks.

When Slicer graduated, he held the school record for hits.

The Vikings won the KVAC championship in 1989 and were a Western Maine regional finalist.

Slicer earned first-team all-conference honors in 1988 and 1989. He was the second-team All-State shortstop in 1988, and the first-team All-State shortstop in 1989. He also was the team MVP in 1988 and 1989, and was an American Legion All-Star from 1987-89.

A solid grasp of the fundamentals served Slicer when he stepped up to the next level.

Slicer had met coach John Winkin a few times when attending his baseball camps at the University of Maine in Orono. This provided Slicer with a chance to talk a little bit about baseball and he was thinking of going to college.

Coach Winkin attended a playoff game Slicer’s sophomore year and a few games the following year, but really amped up his recruiting of Slicer when Slicer was a senior.

That was a big deal to Slicer, who grew up watching Winkin’s teams excel in the 1980s and even reach the College World Series.

“I was thrilled to think that I might be able to play at UMO,” Slicer said. “Obviously, I was pretty excited that Wink was showing so much attention. He was the face of Maine baseball.”

With Slicer on the roster, the Black Bears won the North Atlantic Conference championship in 1990 and 1991. The latter year, UMaine was the Northeast regional runner-up, advancing to within one game of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Slicer wanted to get to know Winkin, who wasn’t known to be too chatty, so he made it a point to talk to him every day about anything and everything.

“I would just pepper him with questions about baseball situations, his practice plans, his career, alumni, etc.,” Slicer said. “It took a while for him to warm up to me, but we ended up having a good relationship and I was gaining knowledge and a mentor each and every day.”

Winkin basically told his players where he wanted them to play in the summer. Slicer was assigned to play for the Auburn Asas of the Twilight League, where his coaches were Billy Reynolds and Bruce Lucas, both UMaine alumni.

Slicer soon found out that the Twilight League and Pine Tree League played on different nights, so he inquired about playing with the West Paris Westies, but they had their team set with veterans.

The Lewiston team asked Slicer to play, and he spent the summer playing baseball six days a week.

Slicer played in the Pine Tree League from 1992-2001, winning league championships four times with the Lewiston A’s (1992, ’94, ’97 and ’98).

He was the league MVP in 1995, and hit .400 or better seven times and .500 or better twice.

Slicer was a disciplined player who rarely struck out.

“Shane Slicer is Maine baseball — very passionate, fun to talk baseball with,” said Maine Baseball Hall of Famer Gary Williamson, who competed with Slicer in the 1980s and ’90s. “Shane was always a clutch performer on the field, handled himself professionally.”

Toward the twilight of his playing days, Slicer was pondering the future when Loveless, his high school coach, called and said that Oxford Hills had a math teacher opening, and that he’d like Slicer to coach with him and eventually take over the program.

“I was so excited. I got the math job,” said Slicer, who has taught Algebra I and Advanced Math Skills for 18 years. “I coached as Mike’s assistant for a few years, and took over as head coach in 2003.

“Coach Loveless gave me one of the best gifts anybody has ever given me, the Oxford Hills baseball program,” Slicer said.

He has turned Oxford Hills into a powerhouse that annually enjoys success statewide.

During his tenure, the Vikings have compiled a 205-86 record and have won two regional and Class A state championships (2005, 2010).

He is a five-time KVAC coach of the year, and has made six appearances in regional championship games as a player or coach.

Current players Janek Luksza and Wyatt Williamson both relish being able to play for Slicer, who is committed to all players, both past and present, and is always willing to go above and beyond.

“He cares about all of us and takes us in like we’re his sons. He’s always into the games,” said Luksza, recalling a time he stole third and Slicer was lying on the ground telling him to get down because it was going to be a close play. “That just shows the amount of love he has for the game. I’m very grateful to be coached by him.”

“He is an amazing coach and just flat-out knows how to win,” said Wyatt Williamson, the son of Gary Williamson. “He is gonna do whatever it takes to win and that is what I love about him.

“As a team we have been working very hard because we want nothing more than to win a state championship, and I guarantee he wants to win one just as badly.”

In 2018, Oxford Hills fell shy of a state berth, losing in the regional final against Bangor.

Slicer was taken aback when asked about expressing his philosophies on coaching, initially saying it was a tough question and one he wasn’t sure how to answer.

“The things that I want my teams to do are probably similar to most coaches,” he said. “Work hard at all times, out-hustle your opponent, be a great teammate, be mentally and physically tough, wear the uniform the right way, think, be a good citizen, never take your opponent lightly or fear them and make others around you better.”

Another aspect often overlooked is having a place for student-athletes to continue playing baseball. Once again, Slicer has covered the bases by offering an American Legion entry, Bessey Motors, which has proven to be extremely successful throughout this century.

“Playing summer baseball in Oxford Hills is so, so important for our program,” Slicer said. “The more at-bats and game experiences a player gets at a high level, the better the chance they have of improving and reaching their true potential.

“Our most passionate players play school ball, summer ball, fall ball, and work out all winter. They play year-round. By playing during the summer they have been put into so many pressure situations that they know how to handle them.”

Slicer added that the spring flies by and the summer allows his teams to start a brand-new season, and to continue to grow as players and as a team. Bessey Motors is one of the few Legion teams in the state that draws players from just one high school.

“I am blessed to have a group of kids who are dedicated to Oxford Hills baseball and chose to commit to playing for the Bessey Motors Legion team instead of going elsewhere to play AAU all summer,” Slicer said. “They are loyal to our community. Playing Legion in the summer definitely improves team chemistry and allows some younger players to become acclimated quicker to the team, the demands of Class A varsity baseball, and how we approach baseball at OH.”

So often, in order to achieve success in any endeavor, it is essential to be surrounded by quality individuals. Slicer lauded a few assistant coaches throughout the years, starting with Paul Bickford, Brian Cox, Ben Goodall, Lance Bean and Joe Ou?ero.

“Coach Ou?ero really deserves a lot of credit for being my right-hand man for many years,” Slicer said. “He knows the game well, demands a lot from the players, knows what it takes to win, and is extremely loyal.”

Under Slicer, Bessey Motors has won nine zone championships and made 12 state tournament appearances. It was a state finalist in 2015.

“Joe and I have coached many, many games together, and I truly appreciate all of the time he has given to OH baseball,” Slicer said. “Joe, Lance and I are fortunate to be able to coach together. We have great chemistry, love the kids, and bring different things to the table.

“All of the coaches that have worked with our youth really deserve a lot of credit for putting in their time, providing a positive baseball experience, and preparing them for the next level.”

Slicer pointed out that his wife, Dianne, has been supportive and has taken an active role in helping with fundraising, running the snack shack and communicating with parents. She designed an Oxford Hills baseball page online for the community.

Shane and Dianne have three children: Blake, Cameron and Allison.

“Dianne really understands what baseball means to me, and it certainly means a lot to her as well,” said Shane Slicer, who has coached Blake and Cameron. “She has sacrificed a lot to allow me to coach baseball from March to August, and she does so without hesitation. I couldn’t be the varsity coach at OH without her.”

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