BUCKFIELD — None of the Buckfield baseball players have played an inning of varsity baseball the past two seasons.

Some of the opponents on this year’s schedule, such as two-time defending Class D champion St. Dominic, have players who have logged several innings in state playoff games alone during that time.

The Bucks have not had a varsity team since 2021, due to a lack of players. Coach Kyle Rines, a 2009 Buckfield graduate, said that the high school only having 150 students coupled with the rising popularity of track and field has decimated the turnout for baseball.

However, thanks to six freshman joining the team, the Bucks are back this spring.

“Baseball isn’t as popular, maybe as it once was,” Rines said. “A lot of these schools (in Class D) are having the same issues, that kids aren’t interested in playing baseball.”

Rines previously coached the Buckfield baseball team from 2015-2017 and then served as an assistant. He also coaches the Bucks’ boys soccer team and the girls basketball team at Leavitt Area High School.


He said 90 percent of the team on this year’s baseball team are soccer players who played for Rines in the fall.

“There’s only two seniors who are playing, a few juniors and then all the rest are freshmen,” Rines said. “We’re hoping that this year and next year we lose only one or two and we gain a few from middle school, and that continues.

“I coached middle school baseball last year with the current freshmen, and because I knew they liked it, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it,’” Rines said about coaching the high school team. “Everyone’s on board to bring baseball back for the varsity season.”

Two of this year’s players were on Buckfield’s last team: Senior Brayden Jack, who was a freshman in 2021, and junior Gabe White, who was pulled up to the varsity team as an eighth-grader.

Jack and White have played for the Oxford Hills JV team the past few years due to the lack of team at Buckfield.

Jack said being back on the Buckfield roster gives him a “sense of pride,” because he’s able to represent his own school on the field. Rines also coached Jack’s older brother, Keegan Jack, when he was a student at Buckfield.


“Coach Kyle’s basically like an uncle, I guess,” Jack said. “I’ve had him throughout all my high school and a little bit in middle school, as well, and I’ve created a really good bond, especially since he coached my older brother as well. So I have another like, three years of experience with Coach Kyle.”

Despite not having a varsity program, the players have grown up together in the town of Buckfield since they were little.

“It feels great,” White said about getting back into a Buckfield uniform. “Feels good to be back and play with the boys I’ve grown up with my whole life. We’re just going into it doing the best we can, and I’m pretty sure we’re all anxious and excited to get back out there on the field.”

White said baseball is not a huge sport anymore for many Mainers, something he wishes would change.

“I think people should play baseball. I mean, it’s entertaining, there’s a lot of stuff to do and you play tons of games,” White said. “I’m sure you do, too, with other sports, but I mean, something about baseball in the spring, it just feels right.”

Assistant coach Tyler Vallee is also a Buckfield graduate and former baseball player who played for Rines.


“When I wanted to do this, I knew that I’d need some help,” Rines said. “(Tyler) was someone as a senior who was an all-star here, great kid, and as an adult, I was like, ‘Hey, you want to help out and make a little extra cash?’

“Tyler’s a great baseball mind and he’s bringing a lot to the program, so hopefully with two younger coaches we can bring some enthusiasm that carries. I’d like to see next year’s team, instead of 12 (players), maybe 14 or 16.”

Rines said this will be a rebuilding year for the Bucks. It was important for him to bring the program back to life, because of the significance it holds for him. Rines’ dad, Doug Rines, got him into the sport and was his middle school baseball coach.

“Then, I taught here for a little while in middle school and got into coaching with Joe McLaughlin, and we went to a state game and were highly competitive … when Tyler was here,” Rines said. “It meant a lot to be a part of it then, and it did hurt as a member of the community when we lost our baseball team, so I have a lot of pride.”

Rines also said many of the parents of Buckfield students are graduates, and they have often expressed dismay over the lack of a baseball program, which makes bring it back mean even more to him.

“Expectations are tough, and we’re kind of rebuilding,” Rines said. “We are going to be very competitive. But we don’t necessarily have the experience to be consistently competitive. I think we have a lot of skill, we’re going to be able to hit really well, we’re going to be very fast, but pitching is going to be in development because that takes time.”

White, a pitcher and first baseman, agrees that hitting will be a big strength for the Bucks.

Jack said he pretty much plays every position in the field, but that he thinks he will play catcher this season. At Oxford Hills, he played in the outfield, first in right and then center field. As one of two seniors, he is aiming to impart as much experience and wisdom on the underclassmen as he can, but he said he has no doubts that they are qualified to be competitive.

“I’m just hoping we can get to the championships and hopefully win; I think that’d be awesome to throw the team back together after three years and then have a win in my senior year,” Jack said.

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