Marine Hymn- From the Halls of Montezuma
From the halls of Stittville School
To the shores of bubblegum bay
We will fight our classroom battles
With spitballs and with clay
We will fight for rights and recess
And to keep our desks a mess
We are proud to claim the title
Of the teachers number one pest!
That's me number one!
That was our elementary school fight song and it seemed like we sang it on every bus ride to and from school. We were kids with no problems enjoying every second life gave us and loved our upstate New York school.
I felt like my life had just started, like I’d been dropped from a spaceship into this small town called Stittville.
My Dad was in the Air Force and we had been traveling all over the place. My first 7 years were a blur. I was born in K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette Michigan the summer of 1965. We stayed one year before we got stationed overseas. Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan was our new home. We stayed for 3 years during the height of the Vietnam war. My Dad was a boom mechanic and helped with refueling jets and was part of several missions over Vietnam.
After a brief stay with Meme and Grandfather we headed to meet my Father at Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh, New York. We spent about 6 months there and 6 months in Kingston, New York. The first 7 years of my life we had moved 4 times and that's not counting our stints in Orrington.
I did know a few important things as a young boy. I knew we had a very supportive and loving extended family in Orrington Maine. Meme and Grandfather were pillars for us until they passed. Grandfather in 2007 and Meme the summer of 2015. My Moms sisters Aunt Brenda and Aunt Debbie were always there when we went back to Maine as well. I also knew at a young age that my father was the disciplinarian and that he had already instilled fear into my young heart. He was an old schooler that carried over the spankings with the belt or stick he got when he was a kid to his adult hand. I was never a big fan of that type of discipline and at a young age didn't think it was right to teach that way. He had already taken me to jail and said that I would end up there if I was bad. I also got the hand over the stove for playing with matches. I guess if he hadn't smoked there wouldn't have been matches around. He also might still be with us, cancer took him the winter of 2018, he was 75.
I also had the fear of God in me. We were a very religious family and I had learned how to pray and I learned about God and his son Jesus. I also learned about some interesting religious rituals, incense burning, the lighting of candles, hymns, the lord's prayer and the ten commandments. Our religion was a combination of my Fathers Roman Catholic upbringing and my Moms Baptist, we became Episcopalian.
When I woke up from the whirlwind that was my first 7 years, it was in the aforementioned small upstate New York town of Stittville. Dad had been transferred to Griffiss Air Force in Rome, New York. Stittville was 10 miles away. My parents had bought a small 2 bedroom house that quickly became our home. We had a big backyard that connected our 2 neighbors. The Mullins lived next door and had 3 young kids. The Quallys lived behind us and had 2 kids. Thomas Qually was my age and we were both going into third grade.
I really don't remember much down time when we landed in Stittville. I was always on the go, looking, learning, experiencing, growing and absolutely loving our new home. I learned how to fish. One night my Dad and I went out in the backyard. He turned on the hose and sprayed the lawn for about five minutes. He got the grass wet to bring the worms up. It didn't take long to fill our coffee can with worms. The next morning we walked across the street, hopped a fence and walked through a cow pasture. We were on a great adventure, my first day of fishing. We were hiking to the Nine Mile stream that ran through the town of Stittville. Dad said it was full of trout. We caught a few trout that day and explored our stream. I would spend many of my summer days walking down main street with my fishing pole and bait box. The solitude I found fishing by myself was what I truly loved. Me, my worms, my rod and an untamed stream full of wild trout, all mine.
If I wasn't fishing I was playing baseball. My Dad was my first coach and Marcy Little League was my first team. I always felt like I had some athletic ability but I got some reinforcement one hot summer day. We were playing River Road Diner, one of the better teams. The park was filled with picnickers and parents. I was pitching and throwing pretty well. I heard somebody say something about the little kid on the mound. I wasn’t a big kid and was the youngest and smallest on the team but I was popping the catchers mitt. People started clapping when I’d strike a batter out. Then I made a play. I threw a fastball and the batter hit a little pop up down the first base line. I busted for it and dove across the foul line making the catch. The crowd of 20 or so erupted, it felt like the whole world was cheering. I could hear people yelling, great play! Nice job kid! I like that feeling and it became a big part of why I loved sports. I like the feeling of being admired and looked at positively.
Playing sandlot games in my backyard is where I learned the most about baseball and sportsmanship. The neighborhood kids taught each other how to play, how to hustle and not let your teammates down. If you dogged it you heard about it.
When the baseball season ended the football came out. The Pittsburgh Steelers was the team we followed because my Dad grew up in a town just north of Pittsburgh. They were good too, really good, Terry Bradshaw at Quarterback, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleir and Mean Joe Greene. Great players and legends of the NFL. My brother and I used to play great catches of the NFL, I was Lynn Swann. Most times we did it in our bedroom. We’d flip the ball up in the air above the mattress and try to make a great catch while the other was taking his feet out so head flip when trying to make the catch. I never played organized football in Stittville but I would a few years later.
The fall and football also meant back to school. Stittville Elementary School, the greatest school ever. I felt like I was smart, had fun on the playground and we had an awesome school fight song. Stittville was the happiest and most adventurous place for me. I built friendships and my own self confidence but that would all come crashing down the spring of 1976.
I was 2 months away from finishing fifth grade at Stittville when my Mom showed up at school and said we were moving to Maine. I’m sure they must have told me but it was an incredible shock how abruptly we left. I didn't even get to say goodbye to my friends. Maybe my parents were protecting me, I was in shock. Goodbye Utopia.
Dad had been transferred to Dow Air Force Base in Bangor Maine. That’s where he first started his career in the Air Force and where he met my Mom. Mom had just graduated from Orono High School and was hanging out at Green Lake in Ellsworth. Dad had a day off and tripped over her playing catch with a frisbee. The rest is history.
A couple days later I started school at Blanch K Blake in Orrington. It was a small school that only had a few classes. It reminded me of a school in the TV show Little House on the Prairie. I wasn’t happy to be there and it felt like nobody wanted me there. The first day at recess I was sitting on the stairs outside the school and a boy stepped on my hand and looked at me like I deserved it. I was scared and alone. It wasn’t until we played a softball game at recess that I turned some things around.
I got picked late because nobody knew me. When it was my turn to hit I crushed one, I hit it over everyones head and broke a window in the house next to the field. Everyone paused for a moment then ran into the school for fear that the homeowner would come out. They never did and I got some different looks after that and made some friends too. My confidence came back a little too.
That summer we lived with my grandparents and I played Little League in Orrington. It was fun playing in front of my grandparents and I got to meet some new kids. I made the All Star team and really started to feel good about my game. I pitched, played shortstop and catcher. My Dad was a catcher and he thought I should be. After a fun summer of baseball and finding some new fishing holes in Orrington, we were ready to move into our new place. Capehart housing in Bangor, just off the base. I would be going to The Dow Lane School for sixth grade. I missed Stittville and my friends but with all this new stuff going on I didn't have time to dwell on it.
Before school, I would be introduced to my first organized football experience. My Dad took me to Pop Warner tryouts in Bangor. I remember sitting in the car with my Dad, nervous as I’d ever been, scared because of the size of the kids I was looking at. I said they’re so big and I’m so small. My Dad said to tackle them low, by the ankles and tell the coach that dynamite comes in small packages. I did, and I played and I liked it a lot. I felt like football was my sport.
The time in Bangor flew by and before we knew it we were off again. Dad got transferred before the year was up to Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. Not too far away from Meme and Grandfather so we got to see them on holidays and vacations.
My Dad was nearing retirement, only 3 years to go before he got his 20 years in. There was some talk of future plans and where we might end up. Maine was always the answer. I couldn't see that far into the future because I was caught up in trying to make new friends and adjusting to a new home. I was in an awkward stage of my life and that made things a little more difficult. Plus the fact that we didn't get to Pease AFB until late December made the transition a little tougher. During most moves I was able to jump into a baseball game to make some friends on the base. I remember pulling up to our housing and seeing about 20 kids out on a frozen pond playing hockey about 100 yards away from our unit. I excitedly asked if I could join them. My Mom said yes and I laced up my skates and grabbed my stick. I had not played much hockey growing up but I loved skating and hitting the puck around. I ran across the 100 yard field and jumped onto the other end of the ice, away from the game. It didn't take long to get the other kids' attention. Over they came, they were screaming at me, get off the ice! You're ruining the ice! What do you mean? I said. Those figure skates are tearing up the ice! I didn't even know there were different skates. Back home I went.
I did end up getting some used hockey skates and really liked playing. It took a while to get back in with the guys but understood why they were so upset. Taking care of ice isn’t easy and when you get it right its awesome.
The Middle School I went to was off base and it was a bear, Portsmouth Jr High, hell. . I felt like the base kids were treated differently and not in a good way .Portsmouth is where I got a real dose of reality, politics, bullying and real insecurities as a young teenager. There were always fights and a lot of kids.
They didn't have a football team so I played for the base youth center. There was a baseball team though and I was excited to try out for it when spring rolled around. When tryouts finally came I was ready to shine and hoping that this might help me fit in a little better. No such luck, I was cut from the team. Fortunately I had the base team to fall back on. My Dad was my coach in baseball and football and he didn't make it easy on me. Always pushing me and trying to make me tougher and better. There were many days I wished he would have been more nurturing and comforting but that's what my Mom was for.
Seventh grade over on to eight, same school, same crap. I broke my arm skateboarding that year so I didn't have to worry about trying out for baseball. I had been begging for a skateboard and finally got one for Christmas. There was a skate park that opened up just off the base and the first time I went I fell and broke my arm. Not much went right for me my first 2 years in Portsmouth but I was getting out of middle school and heading to Portsmouth Senior High. Things had to get better, didn’t they.
Entering ninth grade was a nightmare, three thousand kids, I was lost. Football tryouts were the only thing I was looking forward to. I got cut. When I got home from tryouts and told my Dad he was upset. I could tell he was tired of the political games and he was going to get me on that team. He said to go back and tell the coach that I’d do anything to be on the team, even pick up jock straps. Well the coach put me on the team but everyday he would line me up with the biggest, meanest kid on the team, Randy Parks. I saw this kid throw a guy down the stairs in Middle school. I also saw him get taken out of the school in handcuffs. He was mean. I always went low like my Dad said, it only hurt when Randy's facemask scraped across my back. I ended up becoming the starting cornerback, I earned it for sure. When spring came I made the freshman team and was asked to play in the local summer league program for a team called Dinerhorn. I guess things were starting to turn but my Dad was close to retirement and our plan was more defined and real. We bought some land in Winterport Maine and over the summer Me my brother and my Dad were going to build a log cabin and make it our home.
It wasn't a sad day when I handed the Dinerhorn coach my uniform and told him I wasn't going to be able to play for him. I’d never been more excited in my life. I was leaving hell and heading to heaven. That summer was the greatest time of my life. We stayed in a tent and woke up everyday to build our home. My Dad was happy because this is what he worked his whole life for. To shower, we would use the rainwater that would collect on the tent. It was cold but fun. On Sundays we’d get a hot shower at Meme and Grandfather's house. They lived across the Penobscot river just minutes away as the crow flew but it was a 40 minute drive. Had to go up the river to Bangor then back down the river to Orrington. We almost finished our house but Dad had to go back to Pease for 4 more months. Mom and Mark would stay with him and I stayed with my Grandparents and started my sophomore year at Hampden Academy.
Football started in August so I was able to meet some kids before we got in the classroom. I was a running back and defensive back. I had so much fun playing on this team, no Randy Parks, not a lot of players so I never left the field and we were good. Made it to the state championship against Orono. They beat us, they beat everyone. Being part of that team really helped me transition into the school and staying with my Grandparents kept me out of trouble. Meme would drive me into Bangor and I'd catch The Bus to Hampen. After football I’d catch The Bus and head back into Bangor where Meme was waiting.
We moved into our log cabin home just before Christmas, what a great present for everyone. Winter flew by with school and working on our house and before I knew it baseball season was upon us. People already knew I played baseball but there is always animosity that builds when you're new and you might be playing the same position as someone else. I was used to that. I wasn’t too worried about it because I knew I could play multiple positions and that's what happened. I pitched, played shortstop and some outfield, just a baseball player I guess. The season went well and some friendships continued to grow.
As spring rolled into summer I was looking forward to playing on a startup summer league team right in my hometown of Winterport, the Winterport Bulldogs. My best friends Dad and my Dad put together the team and helped build a field next to the Winterport Dragway. Along with playing for the Bulldogs, I had a great summer job haying for Buddy Clark, a local farmer. I only worked when fields needed to be mowed and bailed. It was hard work but it helped me build some much needed strength for football season. It gave me some gas money too. The summer flew by and baseball and haying went well.
At the end of the summer I received a very surprising letter from the head baseball coach of the University of Maine, John Winkin. He was a legendary coach that had just taken his team to the college world series for the second straight time. He was expressing interest in me and hoped that I would consider the University of Maine for my collegiate baseball. I was blown away and anxious to get my senior year At Hampden Academy underway.
Football season was a blast for another year and the last year I would ever play football again. I enjoyed every minute of it. I was quarterback and defensive back, kicker and punter as well. We weren't the best team and didn't make the playoffs like we did my sophomore year but made lasting friendships, memories and skills that would help me become a better athlete on the baseball field. Baseball season was coming fast and I was excited for many reasons. The possibility of playing for John Winkin at UMO and the belief that the HA Broncos were going to win the championship. We were good and we knew it.
We got off to a great start in the spring of 1983 winning our first 3 games. We decided to have a team party to celebrate our great start. It was a typical house party, someone's parents were gone for the weekend and next thing you know the house is full of kids. Everything was going great until my best friend and I got into a pushing and shoving contest over a girl. We went out on the front lawn to talk about it and the pushing continued. We knew we were about to high five and laugh about it but I made one more push. Unfortunately and tragically my push forced my best friend in between two parked cars and into the road where he was hit by a car. I watched him flip over the car and land in the middle of the street, I thought he was dead. When I ran up to him he was moaning and friends immediately called an ambulance. He had two broken legs. His baseball season and career was over and I thought mine was too.
When I got to school on Monday I was called into the principal's offices. He was asking everyone on the team if they had been drinking. I said yes and was kicked off the team for violating team and school rules. Our catcher was the only other player to admit and was kicked off as well. One of the hardest things I’d ever done was handing my coach my uniform. My life had taken a serious downturn and all I wanted to do was be with and help my best friend. I was overrun with guilt for what I had done. The baseball team never won another game. Three of its best players were off the team.
After a few weeks of being down and questioning my future, I received another letter from John Winkin. He showed empathy in his words saying he hoped my friend and I were doing okay in this tough time. He also gave me some words of encouragement and hope. He said that he’d be watching me play for the Bangor American Legion team over the summer and that if things went well the offer to come to UMO and play was still there. That letter slowly helped me get out of the down times and start to look up. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy summer but it helped to know he cared and was wishing me well. By the way, Maine had just come back from its third straight College World Series appearance.
My summer playing for Bangor American Legion went well. When I wasn't playing I was helping my friend get around on crutches. He was supportive of me and was always telling me that it wasn't my fault and that it was just an accident. His encouragement and belief in me helped me through that tough summer. My Legion coach helped as well. He was a former UMaine standout Jon Perry. He helped to get me headed in the right direction, Orono.
My first year at The University of Maine was nerve racking and overwhelming. So many students, so many great baseball players. Making the team and being a part of one of the best baseball programs in the country was surreal and somewhat unexpected considering what I’d been through less than a year earlier. I was Incredible being around a team full of like minded people that had one common goal, win and get back to the CWS. We did make it back my freshman year and I was the starting shortstop, making it four straight for John Winkin and his great senior class. That year was an amazing learning experience and confidence builder.
My sophomore year I thought we were an even better team and I was getting stronger and more polished. We ended up getting beat in the regional playoffs ending our consecutive World series appearance run. That didn't sit well with anyone on the team and we vowed to make it back the next year.
My junior year started with a three run home run at Mark Light stadium against the Miami Hurricanes. I was feeling good and so were the Blackbears. We dominated that year and headed back to Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha Nebraska, home of the College World Series. We never won the World Series but we were always a crowd favorite and played very competitive baseball. The draft was looming and there was a lot of talk that many of the Blackbears would be on the draft board. Scott Morse, our ace pitcher, went in the fifth round to Texas. Rick Bernardo our first baseman went in the 12th round and Billy Reynolds our catcher went in the 19th round. My name wasn't chosen and I was a little surprised but not defeated. I had been asked to play in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League and was excited about the opportunity to play against the best collegiate players in the country.
I ended up playing 14 seasons in the Major Leagues, six with the Oakland Athletics, five and a half with the Baltimore Orioles, half a year with the New York Mets and one with the Toronto Blue Jays. I was named to the
American League All-Star team in 2000, and played in two World Series, with the A’s in 1990 and the Mets in 2000. My career numbers were .260 batting average, 91 homeruns and 626 RBI. I also set Major
League records for a shortstop in 2002 for highest fielding percentage (.998), fewest errors (1), consecutive errorless games (110), chances per game (4.9) and consecutive errorless chances (543). My .982 fielding percentage ranks 6th all-time. I was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2011.
After retiring in 2003, I was able to finish my college degree and ended up marching with the class of 2006 at the University of Maine. My new goal was to teach and coach. I ended up coaching at Boys' Latin in Baltimore for two years. With a great group of seniors, we won the class "B" championship in 2008. 2009 brought an opportunity to get back into the professional game with the Toronto Blue Jays. I was invited by the General Manager of the Blue Jays, JP Ricciardi. He gave me an opportunity to be the roving infield instructor for the Minor League affiliates. I loved helping young players learn some physical and mental skills to chase their dreams of making to the Major Leagues. With some changes in the Blue Jays organization, I found another chance to coach in the Minor Leagues with the Baltimore Orioles.
In 2010 and 2011 I was the Minor League offensive coordinator and the temporary Orioles bullpen coach for a few series as well. I thought my coaching career was settling in when another challenging opportunity presented itself. I was asked about being on the Orioles telecast team, MASN. I accepted the challenge and was a color analyst for the next nine years. Working with TV and radio legends, Gary Thorne, Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer, Fred Manfra, Joe Angel, Tom Davis and Rick Dempsey was a great learning experience and so much fun.
After being let go by MASN in 2021, my energies have been directed towards being more active with the non-profit I've been with for almost 20 years, The League of Dreams. We give all individuals, regardless of physical or mental capacity, the opportunity to experience the joy, challenges and personal growth of playing the great games of baseball and softball. I was named Chairman of the Board and want to continue to grow our organization and give all kids the chance to play our great game.
I’ve also been given a great role at The Baseball Warehouse as an ambassador to their program. I give lessons and speak to the kids and parents about the right way to play the game. Understanding the process that is required to help our young athletes thrive as young players and members of their communities. The Baseball Warehouse continues to grow and have a positive influence on more and more players and families.