High school baseball

Coach Ross to step away from dugout after 37 seasons

Veteran mentor will lead Lions for final time this spring
By Mark Haskell | Apr 12, 2018
Photo by: Mark Haskell Belfast varsity baseball coach George Ross, facing, makes a point to his players during a preseason practice.

Belfast — This season truly will be the end of an era for the baseball program at Belfast Area High School.

George Ross, who is about to embark on his 37th season guiding the Lions, announced prior to the start of the campaign that this spring will be his last on the diamond.

He plans to step down from the Lion post he originally took in 1981 at the conclusion of the season.

“It’s been a long time,” said the 62-year-old Ross, who also will retire from teaching in June. “Things come to an end. I’m going to get done teaching and I just kind of wanted to make a clean cut of it all. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but my wife and I were talking about it and I haven’t had a spring off since I was about seven years old. I’ve either been playing baseball or coaching baseball.”

Ross’ teams never won “the big one,” namely, a regional or state championship, but the level of consistency of his squads at a competitive level over the years speaks volumes.

The Lions have qualified for the regional tournament 17 times — including 14 years in a row — and won two Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championships in Ross’ tenure. He also is a five-time winner of the KVAC Class B coach of the year award.

Ross has racked up 282 career wins, and hopes to add to that total in 2018.

Baseball has played a significant role in Ross’ life since a young age growing up in Reading, Mass., where he played Little League and eventually moved up the ranks to Reading Memorial High School — where he was a 1974 graduate — and American Legion baseball before going to Springfield College, where he played four years of baseball before he graduated in 1978.

In high school he was a three-time all-star and a Herald All-Scholastic pitcher. In college, he was a two-time All-New England first-team Division 2 honoree and the ECAC tournament most valuable player in 1977, along with receiving recognition for having the lowest earned-run average in the nation in Division 2.

After college — where he graduated with a degree in secondary education — he coached youth baseball and football along with being the assistant ice hockey coach at Burlington High School before, somewhat by chance, he made his way to Waldo County.

Ross’ great-great uncle was C.P. Carter, who built C.P. Carter Shipyard in the 1800s. His return to Waldo County was more by chance, but he had plenty of history in the city prior as “my family from my mother’s side originally lived here in Belfast.”

“I have ties here,” he said. “My grandfather was born here, lived here [and] then moved to Mass. A number of houses in town were built by my relatives. Coming back here sounds like it was a plan, but it wasn’t.”

Ross had secured a job working at a juvenile prison in Massachusetts and also looked into a job with the Maine State Police, before fate more or less tracked him down in Belfast.

“I was looking at jobs and there was a job right here in town [at Belfast Area High School] and I called them and they were very interested,” said Ross. “Especially in my baseball resume, more so than my teaching qualifications. But they were looking to build the baseball program.”

His job came with the responsibilities of a history and an English teacher, but eventually transitioned into a full-time history teacher with his baseball coaching gig, in addition to assistant football coach at the time.

Over the years, he coached subvarsity girls basketball and also hoops at the YMCA ranks, where he coached his daughters, Jillian and Katelyn, both of whom were terrific athletes.

Ross also has two stepsons, Emery and Grey Dinsmore. Emery is a former KVAC Class B first-team all-conference pitcher now playing at Colby College in Waterville, while Grey is a senior on this year’s Lion squad.

The veteran coach said while good seasons and bad seasons come and go, “I’ve had some great teams and some great kids.”

“I’m very competitive so there’s years where you didn’t have as much fun,” he said. “And not just wins and losses, but team attitudes and things like that over the years. But I love it and I’ve always been part of it.”

He added not only has it been a pleasure to coach in Belfast, but also to live in the community.

“I love the town," he said. "It’s a beautiful place to live. My wife and I we walk every day through town or every day we can. I just don’t know why you’d want to live anywhere else.”

The third-base box typically is where spectators can find the head coach of a baseball team, but Ross has done his coaching the past several years from the dugout, passing the third-base box gig to assistant coach Chris Lavalle several years prior.

“I did it for about 30 years,” said Ross of coaching from the third-base box. “But when you have someone of Chris’ caliber and we communicate so well, I realized that I can be in the dugout. And I think that’s important. Some years I’ve been alone [coaching] and no one is in the dugout, and I’ve realized you can get a lot of coaching done in the dugout.”

Ross said he hopes that Lavalle, who also is the school’s girls soccer coach, will apply for the head baseball coaching job.

“Having Chris be able to coach third base and handle the offensive aspects of that has allowed me to be in the dugout and it’s been great,’ Ross said.

Ross said being a good coach is not easy, but having a staff to rely on is helpful as he does with Lavalle, Kevin Coombs and his wife, Molly, who is a meticulous bookkeeper.

“She’s a very active manager,” he said. “She’s been such a help. Between her and Chris and Kev and some assistants I’ve had, I think that’s why I’ve been able to stick with it for so long.”

Ross said the finality of it all is beginning to take shape as he is begins his round of “last firsts,” such as the last first day of practice or the last first parent meetings.

“It’s weird and good all at the same time,” he said.

Ross admitted regret that he never got his team “to a big game,” but he does not lose sleep over the more trivial things in the game of life.

A point which hit home when he was asked what he will miss the most about being the head coach at BAHS.

“I’ll miss seeing kids do great things,” he said. “That sounds hokey, but a winning base hit or a kid that doesn’t get many base hits comes through in the clutch or steals a base, kids jumping around at the end of the game. I think I’ll miss seeing that the most ... And being part of that.”

As far as what he plans to do next spring? His first spring off since he was seven years old?

“Anything I want,” he said.

Varsity coach George Ross, left, and jayvee coach Paul Thibodeau. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
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Mark Haskell
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.

Mark loves iced coffee, cargo shorts, spending time with friends and family and suffers no longer after his beloved Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.

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