To our readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century type story, ... Click here to continue

U17/U19 divisions

Maine Independent Baseball League proves smash hit

Despite safety measures needed to combat COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, youngsters enjoy diamond dandies
By Mark Haskell | Aug 24, 2020

In what will in likelihood be its first and only season, the Maine Independent Baseball League wrapped its six-week stint with rave reviews.

Led by organizer Scott Cournoyer, the league served as a placeholder of sorts for the 2020 season after other youth baseball leagues — notably Babe Ruth and American Legion — decided not to sponsor leagues this season due to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The MIBL had U17 and U19 divisions.

Area Little Leagues, which serve players ages 9-12, also were shelved for 2020.

For the MIBL, social distancing was enforced whenever possible with teams not using dugouts to allow team members to spread out more. Masks were used when players were not actively participating in the game and sharing of equipment (such as bats, balls, gloves and batting helmets) was prohibited.

Dugouts were wiped clean after each game and the standard “good game” line gave way to a tip of the cap to opposing teams from opposing baselines following the games.

From the Midcoast, there were two Waldoboro-based squads (Maineiacs and Raiders) as well as a Camden-Rockport-based team (Rock Coast Rip Tide) and two from Waldo County (Midcoast and Tidewater Oil) which played home games in Searsport.

Cournoyer maintained “it was a lot of work.” But, he received “lots of since heartfelt thank you’s from fans, players and mostly parents.”

“I think the league was so well-organized,” said Tidewater Oil coach Kurt Payson. “Scott put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making this happen for all of us. As the father of a son that lost out on his senior year of baseball at school this summer season, this truly was a gift. It helped to give us all a sense of normalcy and filled a void.”

Cournoyer said he was particularly proud of the play on the diamonds of the league’s two Belfast-based teams — Midcoast in the 17U division and Tidewater Oil in the 19U division — but also for the fact that the league, which has teams from Calais to Falmouth, had no positive COVID-19 tests.

“Thirty teams participated form June 28 to Aug. 9,” said Cournoyer. “Just under 200 games in total from Calais to Falmouth with over 350 players and at least 50 coaches. Not a single, positive COVID case the entire time.”

“As far as safety precautions and social-distancing measures go, I feel like things went pretty smoothly,” said Payson. “The boys did a great job bringing their own gear and keeping their distance by spreading out and not all staying inside the dugout. The teams respectfully removed their caps with a nod to the other team at the end of each game from the first- and third-baselines, as apposed to the congenial hand shakes that happened in the past.”

“I thought the season was a success,” said Maineiacs coach Keith Simmons. “It felt really good to be back on the diamond. The kids had a great time. Something I think we all needed — [normalcy].

That is, not to say, things were not challenging, particularly for Cournoyer, who said “Social distancing and league protocols were challenging all season.”

“Reminding the kids to stay six feet apart in the dugout was like herding cats,” he said. “But we never had any positive cases from anyone all summer. Coaches had their complaints and concerns throughout the season, but luckily it was never really the same coach or team that had issues. There certainly always seemed to be something that needed my attention daily.”

He added despite daily challenges, he was pleased with the way things went from start to finish.

“The number one thing I personally will take away from this summer are the relationships I built with some coaches that I would have never had thought I would connect with,” said Cournoyer. "To name just two, Ryan Lincoln [the] head coach for Motor City and Jayson Pare [the] head coach for Augusta Capital Bombers. Ryan and I talked on the phone weekly about the league and baseball plays, I would bounce ideas off him and vice versa. Jayson Pare was absolutely irreplaceable when it came to hosting the championship weekend in Augusta at CARA complex. He was there with me all weekend, running the scoreboard while I kept the official book, then we both raked and dragged and lined the field between games, cleaned up after teams left, and he did it with a laugh and smile. I look forward to getting to know both of them more in the upcoming years.”

Among local teams, Tidewater Oil of Belfast (Midcoast) made the deepest playoff run in the 19U division, shaking off its sixth seed in the playoffs to advance to the championship game. Tidewater Oil held a 7-0 lead only to have the top-ranked River Dogs score eight straight to win the league title 8-7 on Sunday, Aug. 9 at the CARA Complex.

Tidewater Oil finished the regular season 6-9 and 8-10 overall.

In the 17U division, Rock Coast Rip Tide of Rockport finished 9-5-1 in the regular season and 10-6-1 overall, Midcoast 7-9 in the regular season and 8-10 overall, Maineiacs of Waldoboro 6-7-1 in the regular season and 6-8-1 overall and the Raiders 3-12-1 in the regular season and 3-13-1 overall.

In the 17U final, Motor City, the top seed in the north, defeated the Turner Bandits, the second seed in the south, 6-5, also at the CARA Complex.

Despite Tidewater Oil — which also overcame a five-run deficit in its quarterfinal road win over Skowhegan — falling in the championship game after holding a sizable late-inning lead, Payson said he and his team left the game with no regrets.

“It may not have been the outcome we were hoping for, but I doubt you would hear a single complaint from anyone about the loss,” he said. “Just being able to have this experience made summer feel complete.”

Courier Publications sports staff reached out to all five area MIBL coaches and included in this story the voices of coaches who responded.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at waldo.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at waldo.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.