Like father, like son
The affable 59-year-old was recently inducted into the Maine ASA Softball Hall of Fame as a pitching extraordinaire with numerous nohitters and national- tournament exposure.
The inaugural group also included former Brunswick Recreation Department director Dick Smith, Norm Davis and Bob Jones.
“My father was the sole person who got me involved in softball when I was playing baseball in high school at age 15. He played in the 50’s with TWUA/CIO and had Paul Lessard, who was fresh out of high school, on his team. In the 60’s they got him out of retirement at age 50 and he got me on the team.
“About seven years later I put together a team of young guys and even some high school kids ... Dicky Bachelder who played at Bowdoin, Cam Brown, a basketball star at UMaine-Farmington and others. We got my dad to pitch again in his late 50’s in a Lewiston tournament and we won four in a row against seasoned veteran teams until they kicked us out for being a “pick up team.” Then again, when my dad was in his 60’ s we had him pitch again in a fundraiser to help cerebral palsy research.”
“My father played fast-pitch softball in the 50’s and early 60’s, and in 1968, my sophomore year at high school, I was playing varsity baseball.
“They called him out of retirement and he was 50 at the time. They were starting another league in Augusta because the other one had stopped. Ronnie Hopkins caught for my father and they needed some extra players.
“So, I’d go to a baseball game or practice, come home, and play for them. Ronnie drove for St. Johnsbury’s and sometimes he couldn’t be there, so I caught for my father. That was really neat. One of the things I really liked about this whole (Hall of Fame) opportunity was that it gave me a chance to honor him.
“In my acceptance speech I mentioned my father and how he got me involved in softball and how I probably wouldn’t have played. Or maybe not as early had it not been for him.
“My growing up also had a lot to do with him because when I was playing sports he never meddled with my coaches and he made me earn what I got. One day I got home from basketball and I told him, ‘you know, I’m not real happy with my playing time.’
“He looked at me and said ‘work harder!’ That was it.”
Colin also played American Legion baseball growing up, but following college he soon realized that there weren’t many opportunities to continue with that sport.
“ Unless you wanted to drive 60 miles to Portland. And, you have to remember, softball was really big back then.
“My father got me on a team where there was mostly French guys in Augusta, like Bob “Champ” Champagne.
It seemed like everyone from that area once you got out of Legion baseball you got into fast-pitch softball.”
Now, pitching was another story.
Because his father toiled the mound, Colin would fool around with different grips and deliveries. The position fascinated him and he so wanted to get better.
At UMaine, he played on a fraternity intramural softball team.
“I had gotten to the point where I could throw a bit, but not with one particular style.”
In the spring of 1974, his fraternity, TEK, won the campus championship by beating Billy Fairchild’s house, Phi Eta.
“And, I still have that softball at home. I threw windmill, I threw between my legs. But, I used to get a bruise across my leg because I didn’t have good technique.
“I dabbled, but I never pitched in any other games until 1977. That year’s team was made up of mostly Gardiner and Cony graduates ... some pretty good athletes. We had a pretty good team and I had been practicing a lot.”
That team, Shaw’s, entered in a local tournament and Colin convinced his coaches that he could pitch. “I can do this,” he told them.
Playing the Waterville Sentinel team, led by Larry Rioux, he didn’t get out of the inning. He hadn’t registered an out, bases were loaded, and Shaw’s trailed 7-0.
“Right at that moment, if you associated my name with pitching, it was a joke. I told myself that I would never, ever embarrass myself like that again.”
That year, when he wasn’t playing softball, he spent the rest of he summer in the backyard honing his skills.
“First of all, I’m not a quitter and if I’m going to be doing something I want to be good.”
Near the end of the year the team was competing for the city championship and Frank Pomerleau’s was the team to beat. Colin’s Shaw’s squad was a “rag-tag” bunch, albeit talented.
However, the team’s starting pitcher had gone back to college and Colin went back to his coaches. “You’ve got to pitch me now! I can do this! I would not volunteer if I didn’t think I could do this.”
Colin ended up winning five game as Shaw’s won the city title.
That following winter, Pomerleau’s approached Colin. Seems they were losing some key players and needed to restock. Colin said yes, but only if teammates and friends like Scottie Goggin, Mickey Pushard, David Whitney and others, could follow. They did and a semidynasty was born.
The next season, 1978, he pitched nearly every game and played the outfield on his “off days” as Pomerleau’s went 22-0. The highlight was a trip to Spokane, Wash., for the Modified Softball Nationals.
“We ended up playing the two-time defending champs out of Florida. They were all ex-professional players like Manny Crespo and were coached by Pancho Herrera, a former first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies.”
He went out West with a battery of pitches: rising ball, sinker, changeup, curve.
But, after three innings, his team trailed 8-0 and Colin had given up three home runs, although all were solo shots. “Their record that year was 111-2.”
After a team meeting to help right the ship, the guys started bunting, stealing, playing what is now termed “small ball,” and Colin didn’t give up a run the rest of the way.
“I finally got my legs under me.”
Pomerleau’s went up 11- 8, fans were screaming and rooting for this “rag-tag team from Maine.”
In the last inning, the Florida squad had the bases loaded with Crespo at bat. Colin was thinking “low and outside, nothing good to hit.” But Crespo reached out his bat and drilled an 0-2 outside pitch ... and the 6-foot-4 Whitney caught the ball over the wall to end the game!
“That year gave me credibility as a pitcher and motivated me to get better.”
Colin wound up playing around 25 years with a few stops in between and officially retired 10 years ago, although three years ago he started playing in Gorham for the Majestics with some of the old veterans.
Colin didn’t mind lacing ’em up again, but he didn’t want to be the only pitcher. No way! Too hard on the body, too tough on the mind.
In his first game back, he struck out the first batter he faced. “Hey, I can still do this!,” he chortled to himself. “But, I was worried because I didn’t want to get hit by a line drive, didn’t want to pull a hamstring muscle trying to field a ball.”
They won a state championship that season and the average player’s age was about 45 years.
“ It was fun and my daughters Kristy and Kelly and my new wife Sharon had never seen me play. They really wanted to watch me pitch. Of course, coming in and being 56-years old was something my father had done in his 50’s. I thought, ‘you know what? My father did that and I would like the chance to do that, too.’ I can still pitch although, I’m not really supposed to because of the induction (Hall of Fame, which states that eligible players must be retired for three years).
“But I’m really not interested anymore, and the other thing is that I could get hurt. I can’t get hurt playing golf.”
George Almasi is the Times Record sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com
Colin by the numbers
* Career no-hitters: 11 from 1979-1991, the latter a 16-0 win with Maine Merchants versus Rhode Island in the New England Championships. * League Championships: 11, from 1977-1990. State champions: eight (1978, ’79, 1981, ’88, ’89, ’92, ’95 and 2009). * State runners-up: five (1977, 1982, 1983, 1991, 2000) * Colin and his teammates also participated in New England Tournaments with two championships (1991 and 1992, the latter a New England Qualifier) and two runners-up. * In all, Colin started out in 1968 with Maxim’s of the Augusta Softball League and played for several teams including, Colonial Restaurant, Wasson’s A & W, Shaw’s, Rockland Fire Department, Bond Brook Variety, Wayne General (where he had a 5-1 pitching record in his first dose on the mound), Frank Pomerleau’s, Ladd Company ( going 44- 6 in 1982), LaPointe Lumber, Maine Drilling and Blasting, Maine Majestics, Henrickson’s, Lucky’s Pizza, Maine Merchants, Billy’s Bully’s and Sully’s, with a team record of 348-76. * Additionally, Colin played on Kennebec Valley YMCA Slow Pitch championship Red Barons teams from 1972-75 and the UMA Rebels in 1976. * Colin and teammates went to the Nationals 13 teams, with trips to Spokane, Wash., Binghamton, N.Y., Meadville, Pa., Austin, Minn., Atlanta and Huntsville, Ga. * 18 Invitational tournament championships/runners up: 1973 – Capital City Tournament, Champs. 1974 – Rockland Rec. Department Tournament, Champs. 1977 – Winthrop Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1978 – Oakland Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1979 – Elm City Tournament, Champs. 1979 – Nashua Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1980 – Newburyport Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1980 – Nashua Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1981 – Lajoies Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1982 – Central Maine Umpires Tournament, Champs. 1982 – Bruce Carle Memorial Tournament (Nashua), Champs. 1982 – Mid Maine Classic Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1983 – Bruce Carle Memorial Tournament (Nashua), Champs. 1985 – Damariscottta Clamfest Tournament, runners up. 1986 – June Bug Tournament (Gorham), Champs. 1987 – June Bug Tournament (Gorham), Champs. 1988 – Nashua Invitational Tournament, Champs. 1988 – June Bug Tournament, Runners up. 1988 – Limington Invitational, Champs. 1989 - Damariscotta Clamfest Tournament, Champs. * Colin picked up numerous MVP Awards and other honors along the way, including the Augusta Softball League Pitching Award (1978), Oakland Invitational Tournament MVP (1978), State Softball Tournament MVP (1978, 79, 81), Nashua Invitational Tournament MVP Pitcher (1979, 80, 88), Nashua Invitational Tournament MVP Hitter (1979), Augusta Softball League Hall of Fame, pitcher/outfield (1979), Named to the All-American Team at the 1980 National Tournament (1980), Bruce Carle Memorial Tournament (Nashua) MVP Pitcher (1982, 83), Mid Maine Classic Invitational Tournament MVP (1982), Augusta Open Pitch Tournament – Sportsmanship Award (1991), Kennebec Valley YMCA Hall of Fame – for outstanding local contributions (2003).
Oh and his real job? In 2004 Colin was recognized by the 121st Maine State Legislature (senate and house) for being named Athletic Director of the Year for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.