Rick Lashua relaxes in front of his home in Auburn. Lashua will be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Auburn’s Rick Lashua is ready to go down memory lane over the next few days.

On Sunday, he’ll be one of nine new inductees into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame at a banquet and ceremony being held in Portland (1 p.m., Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland).

Family, friends and teammates will be there to congratulate Lashua, who grew up in Danville. But the reminiscing won’t end there. Lashua and some of his former University of Maine teammates will spend the next day remembering their remarkable four-year run over tee shots and dinner.

“On Monday, there’s 24 of us from those early ’80s years getting together,” he said. “A lot of guys I’ve seen around here, but there are some guys like (former Maine Guides player) Kevin Buckley and (2013 inductee) Kevin Bernier that I haven’t since probably the early ’80s .”

Thumbing through scrapbooks and memorabilia recently for display at the induction not only made Lashua realize he played with and against a lot of future Major Leaguers while in Orono, but what the Black Bears accomplished in reaching the College World Series all four years may never be duplicated.

“I guess as you get older, you start appreciating more how special it really was,” Lashua said.


An old photo of Rick Lashua when he played as a youth. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A star baseball and football player at Edward Little and a 2010 inductee into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame, Lashua appreciates even more that the friendships from those teams have endured nearly 40 years with baseball in the backdrop.

“On Monday … we’ll be together four or five hours golfing and then we’ll be together two or three hours afterward,” he said, “and I’ll bet you you’ll be able to count on one hand the number of stories that will be about the games we played in. It will be the bus trips, the plane rides, the hotels we stayed in, pool-side stuff, going down to Miami and Texas on the spring trips, stuff that happened off the field, stuff that happened in the dugout, just the funny stuff that happened.”

Once they got on the diamond, be it a game or practice, the Black Bears were all business under legendary coach John Winkin.

And perhaps no era of Maine baseball saw the Black Bears take care of business better than the teams for which Lashua played center field and batted leadoff from 1981 to 1984. They won at least 29 games each season, won four ECAC championships and went to the College World Series every year.

The Black Bears regularly went head-to-head with the powerhouse NCAA programs of the era, teams such as Texas, Miami, Stanford and Southern California, usually on those aforementioned spring trips to Florida and Texas. At the beginning of Lashua’s senior year, they beat teams such as Texas A&M and Oklahoma to win a tournament in McAllen, Texas.

“When we went on spring trips, it was not to pad our stats or to pad our record,” Lashua said. “(Winkin) wanted us to play against the best teams and got us into the best tournaments. Most of the time we finished in the middle of the pack in these tournaments. My senior year, we flew out of a snow storm, landed (in Texas), checked into our hotel then went up and played the No. 1 team in the country in (University of) Texas. They were 32-1 or something, and it’s our first game.”


“We faced a lot of great pitchers and position players,” he said. “But Wink recruited great pitching. He got the best pitchers in the state of Maine and New England. We faced Swifty (Bill Swift), Stu Lacognata, Joe Johnson every day in practice, facing these other guys was easier.”

The talent extended to Maine’s position players, where, for example Lashua would have to battle for playing time with Brad Colton, one of the team’s leading hitters.

An injury to Colton helped Lashua crack the starting lineup his freshman year in center field, where he remained ensconced for all four years. A steady glove with great instincts, Lashua earned Winkin and the pitching staff’s trust quickly and also proved himself worthy of hitting in the leadoff spot. His career batting average at Maine was .339.

“My Legion coach, Al Carson, saw me walk a lot my senior year (at Edward Little) and said, ‘Well, if they’re just going to walk you, you might as well lead off and steal second and third,’ and Wink saw me leading off and said, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to use you as a leadoff hitter,” Lashua said. “When we had talked before, he had envisioned me to be a three-, four- or five-hitter.”

With Lashua setting the table, the Black Bears won 30 games for the first time in program history (32-14), won the NCAA Northeast Regional and advanced to the College World Series, where Lashua’s first at-bat came against Miami southpaw Neal Heaton, who went on to pitch for several teams in the Major Leagues. Maine was eliminated after losing to Miami and South Carolina.

“To see the captains like Kevin Buckley and (former EL star) Mike Coutts, how thrilled they were, was pretty cool. It was such an accomplishment because they had been (at Maine) three years and hadn’t made it,” Lashua said. “The next three years, not that we took it for granted, but we expected to go every year.”


Lashua batted .353 his sophomore season and helped Maine to a 35-13 record and another Northeast Regional title, with Lashua making the all-tournament team for the first time. The Black Bears went on to beat Stanford and Cal State-Fullerton before being eliminated by Miami.

“I’ve never played with so many confident, not cocky, but confident people,” Lashua said. “Guys like Stu Lacognata, Billy Swift, Jeff Paul, Eddie Hackett — these guys, when games started, we could be down by eight runs and guys would be, like, ‘OK, we’re good.’ Nobody ever thought we were going to lose a game. Everybody was so positive. It was such a positive atmosphere.”

In 1983, Lashua’s junior year, Maine finished 29-16, beat Harvard to win the Northeast as Lashua was named all-tournament for the second year in a row, then lost to Michigan and Arizona State in Omaha.

Before his senior year, Lashua, who hit right-handed his first three years, became a switch-hitter. He regrets not having made the change sooner because he had his best year, batting .369 with eight home runs, 36 RBI and 65 runs scored.

He was named the ECAC Division I New England Player of the Year and helped the Black Bears break 31 UMaine and 16 New England records. They finished 33-20 and won the regional again, but bowed out of the CWS after losses to Oklahoma State and Miami.

Rick Lashua when he played for the Yankee farm system. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The New York Yankees signed Lashua out of Maine and assigned him to their short-season Class A affiliate in Oneonta (New York), where he played briefly for future Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter. The Yankees released him after one year, and Lashua returned to Auburn to begin a career in automobile sales.


Lashua went on to coach baseball and football at Edward Little and cheered on his children, Drew and Emily, through outstanding athletic careers of their own there.

Now 57, he’s excited Sunday’s induction will give him another chance to thank the large circle of family, friends, coaches and teammates who helped him along the way and celebrate the enduring friendships that come from playing sports.

“You can have all of the talent in the world, but really, you’ve got to have the support to make it,” he said. “I was very fortunate to have great support.”

“You reflect back on the years, and then watching my kids play sports in high school, too, you realize there are so many positive things that come out of sports that have nothing to do with wins and losses, how to swing a baseball bat, how to kick a soccer ball or catch a football,” he said.

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