Orono native with 40 years of American Legion baseball experience ‘not surprised’ by decline

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The 1975 Old Town-Orono American Legion baseball team, only in its second year in existence, won the state tournament and came close to winning the Northeast Regional tournament.

The Twins had to beat host Morrissette Post twice in the championship round in Quincy, Massachusetts to win the title.

They won the opener 6-4 but lost a heartbreaker in the final, 4-2 in 11 innings.

David Paul was a 15-year-old first baseman on that team.

The team consisted of players from over six different high schools and was coached by future New York Yankees manager Stump Merrill. Gabby Price – who became a football coach at Bangor High School and Husson University – was one of his assistants and former University of Maine College World Series Most Valuable Player Joe Ferris, was the other.

Paul is a member of the state American Legion baseball committee these days and is approaching 40 years of involvement with American Legion baseball. Paul’s enthusiasm for the program has never waned, even as the state has grown from an area in southern Maine with 17 senior American Legion teams to the entire state now having a total of 16 senior Legion teams, none further south than Brunswick.

David Paul is a member of the state American Legion Baseball Committee and is approaching 40 years of involvement with American Legion baseball. Credit: Courtesy of David Paul

It’s a trend across the country.

Oklahoma has only two American Legion teams. Georgia has seven, Texas has eight, Tennessee and Arizona have nine each.

“I’m not surprised. There are so many different options for kids these days. Kids are being pulled in a bunch of different directions,” Paul said.

Summer lacrosse, soccer, football, hockey, and basketball are among the options in addition to other traveling baseball teams. Some children decide not to play sports during the summer and to work.

“I also don’t know if there are as many kids involved in baseball as before,” Paul said. “Many things have changed.”

Not only can Paul name all of his teammates on that 1975 team, but he can also tell you where each player went to high school.

They would win the state title again in 1978, but would suffer a pair of one-set losses to Rutland, Vermont, and Rome, New York in the Northeast region.

Paul then played college baseball at Eckerd College in Florida, and his summers were spent in the prestigious Shenandoah Valley League in Virginia and then the Cape Cod League.

The Orono native eventually returned to Orono and began coaching Old Town-Orono with David Gonyar in 1987. Gonyar left after three years to coach the Brewer team.

Paul, who was head baseball coach at Old Town High School for 11 years, guided the Twins to back-to-back state tournament titles in 1992, 1993 and 1994, and his Twins were runners-up in 1995 and 1999.

He became Zone I commissioner in 2001 after former commissioner Dennis Damon became a member of the Maine Senate representing Hancock County.

“He asked me to take him for a year while he settled down. I’m going to have to ask him if he settled down,” said Paul, who stayed on as commissioner until the job was done. removed while the state only went to two areas. [North and South] and formed a baseball committee to manage the program.

Paul, 62, doesn’t blame other travel baseball programs for the decline of senior Legion teams.

“Some of them have nice facilities and can do showcase tournaments where you can bring in 40 teams for a weekend tournament. You’ll have college coaches there,” Paul said.

This gives players valuable exposure.

” We have to be realistic. I’m all for kids playing baseball as much as they can. What we can do is provide opportunities for those who want to participate,” Paul said. “It doesn’t matter what league you play in, [college coaches] let’s see you play.

He enjoys watching the games, especially the eight-team double-elimination tournament, which will be held again at Husson University in Bangor from July 24.

“There is something to be said for the baseball tournament. It’s quite different from everything else,” Paul said.

Bangor Legion coach Dave Morris said they were “lucky” to have Paul involved.

“He is the driving force behind Legion baseball. He’s a great ambassador for baseball,” said Morris, who has coached for 23 years. “He helped keep the Legion ball alive and he knew how to keep it special.”

Morris also said he was a valuable resource for the coaches and was a “great defender” for them.

“He loves baseball and I fed off his love of the game,” said former Lincoln Lumber coach John Montgomery of Millinocket, who played for Paul with the Twins. “He made the game so much fun on a highly competitive level.”

Montgomery continued to play for him when he was an assistant at Husson University under the late Hall of Fame coach John Winkin.

“His memory is incredible. He can remember every big play, every big pitch in any big game he’s been in. He can tell you what happened, throw by throw. We still talk about those times. These are great memories. »

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