Portland Press Herald sports writer Kevin Thomas is shown outside his Standish home on Friday. Thomas is leaving the newspaper after 27 years, having covered the Portland Sea Dogs and Boston Red Sox for the past two decades. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Two hours into a 10-hour drive bringing my oldest son back to college, we stood outside the car, broken down in the emergency lane, waiting for a tow truck. I buried my face in my hands, wondering how long this ordeal would be, when I heard two words.

“Hey Dad.” Brendan had opened the trunk and extracted two baseball gloves and a ball. His smile was knowing and inviting.

Let the tow truck take its time. My son and I were having a catch on the side of the road.

Family.

Baseball.

It was for family reasons that I moved to Maine in late October of 1994. We wanted to be closer to my wife’s relatives in New England, and we also figured Maine would be a wonderful spot to raise our kids – a perception that many of you would agree with.

Being from Florida, I grew up with baseball. The New York Mets conducted spring training workouts at a park just blocks from my house (my first picture in the newspaper was not as a sports writer, but as an 11-year-old fan receiving an autograph from Tom Seaver of the defending champion Amazin’s). The Cardinals also trained and played exhibition games in town, and summer welcomed the minor league St. Petersburg Cardinals (nicknamed the City Cards).

Always brought a glove to the games, but those foul balls eluded me. Little League tryouts began in late January. I remember “freezing” during one practice. I think it was below 60 degrees.

Years later, I was back at spring training games, my early days as a sports writer, covering the Phillies in Clearwater.

In Clearwater, I met a girl. She had moved from Massachusetts. In the summer of 1986, I drove up (23 hours, few stops, lots of coffee) to visit her brothers. Took in a game at Fenway. Bruce Hurst pitching. Pennant race. The atmosphere, electric. That was in July. In late October, I discovered the (then) reality of being a cursed Red Sox fan.

I married the girl in Clearwater and, by 1994, we were looking north. Got a job with the Portland Press Herald, covering the University of Maine. Jumped right into hockey season, with an eye on women’s basketball and a freshman named Cindy Blodgett. But what intrigued me was the baseball history in Orono; that there actually was a history. One sports writer was explaining what a big deal baseball was at the university, and I waited for the punchline. Then I recognized the names – Stump Merrill, Billy Swift and Mike Bordick – and the Black Bears’ pride in numerous trips to the College World Series.

Covering Maine games in April … I learned a new understanding of freezing.

Professionally, I covered games. Personally, I attended Sea Dogs games as a fan, bringing along children, and realizing the charm of Hadlock Field and how fans appreciated this team. I remember leaving one night, holding an exhausted Brendan, and walking by the reserved lot. I recognized the team owner, Dan Burke. He didn’t know me, but I caught his eye and said, “thank you.” I know that sounds corny and I am usually not so spontaneous, but I’m glad I said it, watching a huge smile appear on his face as he gave a slight bow.

Of my four boys, only two played much organized baseball, although all played backyard Wiffle ball. And all four had their own gloves. When the weather allowed, we would have a catch, even if it meant an overthrown ball would roll into a snowbank.

Professionally, the reporting beat changed from UMaine to the Sea Dogs (and Red Sox) in 2002. News happened soon with the Dogs becoming a Sox affiliate in 2003. Then came 2004 (no more curse), then a Sea Dogs title in 2006, and more Red Sox championships (2007, 2013, 2018).

Covering champions is a blast. But my favorite stories usually featured fathers and their families. Some of those subjects included Kevin Boles, Dean Rogers, Travis Shaw, Brian Butterfield, Andrew Benintendi, Chad Epperson and Luke Montz.

Family.

Baseball.

I did not move to Maine because of baseball, but I’ve been blessed by the richness of the sport here. That said, I have been blessed more by those close to me.

We moved to Maine because of family, and now, that is why we are leaving, heading south. Several of our grown children have settled in the mid-Atlantic region. Our grandchildren are there, too. The oldest is named Charlie.

This past week, I covered my last games for the Press Herald in the Fenway Park and Hadlock Field press boxes. It was fun to be there and to look back.

New memories are on the horizon. When I unpack in our new home next month, there will be two gloves and a ball. Charlie and I are going to have a catch.


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