Saturday, May 25, 2013
BY GARY HAWKINS
Bill Fairchild and Mark Sutton share some common ground -- both played baseball at the University of Maine.
Sutton flourished as a player, reaching two College World Series before getting drafted by the Texas Rangers, while Fairfield succeeded as a coach, turning Oak Hill High School into one of the better programs in the state.
Both men will be honored Sunday as inductees into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Portland at the Holiday Inn By the Bay. Other inductees include Hollis' Peter Adams, who formed a double play combination at Maine with Sutton, Wayne Hartford of New Limerick, John Kezal of Rumford, Dave Sprague of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., Brud Stover of West Bath, Wilfred Laverdiere of Livermore Falls, Ralph Stowell of Portland and Stan Timberlake of Turner.
Fairchild played for two years under coach Jack Butterfield at Maine while Sutton spent four years playing for John Winkin. Both men credited these coaches with furthering their baseball careers.
Sutton played for the 1978 New England championship basketball team at Cony High School. A good baseball player as well, he drew little interest from Maine and arrived as a walk-on during the heyday of UMaine baseball. By his junior year, he was starting at second base with Adams playing shortstop. The Black Bears were eliminated in two games in the World Series in 1981 but returned the following year to knock off Cal State Fullerton and Stanford, which Sutton terms the highlight of his baseball career. Winkin, he said, taught him a lot about the game.
"He was so well prepared," Sutton said. "He taught us how to watch batting practice and every single pitch. That's the part I really enjoyed, the strategy and the thinking ahead. After a game I was mentally exhausted."
Sutton was drafted in the 20th round by the Rangers and played two years of minor league ball, advancing to Double A by the end of his second year. When the organization suggested he return to Single A, he called it quits.
"I said I can't go back to Iowa," he said.
Today he lives in the Portland area and works as a mortgage banker. He was an assistant and later head baseball coach at Deering High School but had to resign a year ago when he changed jobs.
"Unless you're in education it's very difficult to (coach)," he said. "I miss those home games at Hadlock."
Fairchild said he had more attitude than talent when he played at Maine, but his most important move was switching majors to education. He took coaching classes from Butterfield and said they paid off.
"If you could coach you gained an upper hand on guys going for the same job," he said.
Fairchild began his coaching career at Leavitt High School as a football and basketball coach. When Oak Hill opened in 1976, he started a baseball coaching career that spanned 28 years, and included 417 victories and three state championships. He adopted many of the old school principles he learned from Butterfield.
"We would score runs every way you could score them," he said. "Every kid coming up understood they were going to have to work hard to play. That was exciting to me. Work ethic was how they were going to be successful."
Fairchild also built a baseball field in his backyard for his son Tip and his friends that is still used today by Monmouth Little League. Tip went on to star at Monmouth Academy, the University of Southern Maine and was drafted as a pitcher by the Houston Astros.
"I did that because kids don't play enough," Fairchild said. "There's a large group of kids who played on it a lot."
Like Sutton, Fairchild appreciated the finer parts of baseball.
"There are so many skills you have to teach to be a ballplayer," he said. "There's a mental aspect you can get away without doing in other sports."
Both men were surprised by being tapped by the Maine Baseball Hall.
"I'm honored but I'm also thrilled in its something I hadn't anticipated, even forgotten about it so to speak," said Fairchild, who served five years as athletic director before retiring last year. "It's been 2004 since I've coached."
Added Sutton: "I was humbled because I thought I had a good career but not necessarily a great career. But after a couple of months went by, and I started thinking back on all of the success with the University of Maine, being drafted by the Texas Rangers, I actually feel proud of my accomplishments and feel incredibly lucky that I was able to experience the things that I did through my baseball career."
Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638