Tip Fairchild, right, and catcher Matt Cyr celebrate after a Monmouth victory. Contributed photo

Tip Fairchild doesn’t play much baseball anymore. He doesn’t even know for sure what would happen if he dialed it up and tried to throw one of those 90-plus mile-per-hour fastballs he used to sling with ease.

“There are certain days, where I’m like ‘Oof.’ I couldn’t even imagine throwing a ball hard right now, because I feel like something’s going to let go,” he said. “If I wanted to ramp it up in the backyard right now with a catcher, I’m not sure how it would go.”

That arm in an earlier day elevated Fairchild from Monmouth Academy to stardom at the University of Southern Maine, and then to the professional ranks as a pitcher in the Houston Astros organization. Tommy John surgery in 2007 halted his progress, however, and Fairchild retired from baseball after the 2009 season.

Having spent his life in baseball, however, Fairchild wasn’t ready to leave the world of sports altogether. Since 2010, he’s been living in Rhode Island and working as the director of sales at SquadLocker, a company that provides uniforms and equipment for teams across a variety of sports.

“We’re on a pretty explosive growth path right now,” said Fairchild, 36, who lives in Warwick with his wife, Traci, and daughters Raina and Ellie. “I still live and breathe that sports world, it’s just a little bit different stance now. It’s not throwing a ball or coaching, it’s more the use of software to help them purchase their apparel needs and everything throughout the course of their season, year (or) career.”

It’s a field Fairchild, who studied business at USM, always saw himself entering.

Monmouth Academy pitcher Tip Fairchild went on to pitch for the University of Southern Maine and the Houston Astros. Contributed photo

“My job every day is still looking at potential merchandising for the next season of baseball or the next season of football,” he said. “When I was playing ball, (I was) always trying to have the newest stuff or the newest look that was out there, and that’s essentially what we do. There’s a big passion there that I’ve always had, and I would probably be somewhere in this space no matter what.”

That passion for sports helped get Fairchild on the fast track to baseball stardom. He went to USM and became, in coach Ed Flaherty’s words, the Huskies’ best pitcher, going 9-1 with a 1.41 ERA in 2004 and 5-2 with a 1.80 mark in 2005.

He didn’t throw too hard, by professional standards. But he had the pitches to go with it to create a daunting repertoire.

“He had this curveball that was dynamic. It was 12-6, up and down,” Flaherty said. “In the hitters’ mind, he was overpowering. … Almost every day he’d go out, you’d think ‘He’s going to have a chance for a no-hitter.’ ”

Fairchild’s mind matched — perhaps even surpassed — his arm.

“There have only been two or three guys in my program that had his drive,” Flaherty said. “He was a bulldog. He wanted the ball. … He wouldn’t come out of the game.”

Monmouth Academy graduate Tip Fairchild is shown in his Houston Astros baseball card. Contributed photo

The Astros took Fairchild in the 12th round in 2005. He couldn’t have picked a better destination.

“I got to be around Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan every day,” he said. “My two guys that I watched growing up when I was young, Nolan Ryan was finishing out his career … and as he was fading out, Roger Clemens was coming in. And I ended up getting to play with him, eventually.”

His career got off to a great start. In 2006, a 22-year-old Fairchild went 14-7 with a 2.45 ERA over two Class A stops. At that point, pitching in the minors for Fairchild felt as comfortable as taking the mound in a high school or college game.

“(I thought) ‘Hey, I’m going to get guys out,’ ” he said. “It felt like Legion ball.”

Two starts into 2007, however, he threw a fastball and saw the radar gun read 83 miles per hour. He had torn his ulnar collateral ligament, which meant Tommy John surgery and a year-long recovery. When he came back, his velocity eventually returned, but his feel for his pitches didn’t.

As the dust from his slide still hangs in the air, Monmouth’s Tip Fairchild celebrates after sliding safely into home to score during a 2002 game. Joe Phelen/Kennebec Journal file photo

“I always felt, through college and those first few years of pro ball, that I could throw the ball kind of where I wanted to with conviction,” he said. “After I got hurt, I felt like I could do the same thing, but no conviction. At all.

“After I got hurt, it definitely felt a little bit more like a job, where you’ve got to get back to this level of just getting guys out non-stop. And when you don’t quite have it back all the way, it makes it so much tougher.”

Fairchild said baseball felt more like “a grind” after the injury, and after he had a 7.06 ERA over eight appearances in 2009, he decided against accepting Houston’s invitation to spring training for 2010.

“I knew that it would take me five days and a pile of ibuprofen and a pile of ice and everything I could do to be able to pitch on that fifth day,” he said. “I can’t get through that for a season. Thinking about it week to week was enough.”

Fortunately for Fairchild, the other avenues of his professional life were opening up. He met SquadLocker founder and CEO Gary Goldberg and was offered a job in 2010, and has been with the company since. He’s away from the field, but Fairchild said he can still apply that drive that carried him through baseball.

“I still need competition. I crave it,” he said. “My outlet now for competition … could be sales or business, trying to be the best in business.”

Fairchild has also found an outlet for athletic competition on the golf course, where he hovers between a 3 and 4 handicap and plays roughly 60 to 70 rounds a year. He’s not easy to beat there either; Fairchild won the club championship at Quidnessett Country Club in 2018.

The sports connection has made what could have been a bumpy transition away from the field a lot easier.

“That’s a tough experience, when you go from your work day is making yourself better and your body better and getting ready to play again, to ‘Hey, I’m going to work today,’ ” he said. “You’ve got to still love what you’re doing, no matter what. And I do.”

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