Winkin bats cleanup in Maine’s baseball coaching fraternity

Posted June 15, 2009, at 11:34 p.m.

Add my name to a growing list of people who will salute the life of Dr. John Winkin in Orono June 27.

Winkin, the baseball legend, who was felled by a stroke two years ago and is still recovering, will be honored for his many years of service to three colleges and numerous other sports venues as perhaps the truest representative of class and dignity the coaching profession in Maine has ever seen.

When I was an undergrad at UMaine, I took the trek down I-95 several times to watch the good doctor coach at Colby College in Waterville.

I knew, even then, what I wanted to do with my professional life, and Dr. Winkin was one of the gentlemen I watched as I grew up.

I had the good fortune a number of years ago to work with the likeable coach while producing sports press releases for Husson University.

The two of us met one day a week for lunch, and we had a grand old time talking sports and promoting Husson.

I learned a lot watching John coach, and I especially learned a lot being with the noted baseball historian at those nifty lunches.

One of the coaching lessons I learned was the need for preparation in all aspects of the coaching game.

“Always be the best prepared of any team,” he said. “There may be a talent differential between the two teams out on the field, but no one should be in better shape or be better prepared than your team.”

It was sage advice for a coach sitting with a legend. I count myself blessed for that opportunity.

Dr. Winkin is quite a storyteller, and once you get to know him, he will share baseball tales that one could only imagine he or she could hear.

I used to love listening to the famous coach discuss the inconsistencies of baseball’s strike zone among umpires. This guy always made me laugh when he retold tales of officiating the strike zone.

What I liked best, however, were the days on WABI radio (AM 910) when broadcaster George Hale and sidekick Al Hackett were on my little radio, doing UMaine baseball in the spring.

It was officially spring when Hale’s voice was on my radio and Winkin’s Black Bears were playing somewhere in the south.

Winkin, Hale, Hackett, and those talented Black Bears provided, arguably, the heyday of UMaine baseball for guys like me and many others. How I long for the time when Maine baseball ruled the roost.

There aren’t enough recognition banquets out there to properly honor a guy of John Winkin’s stature, but you can add my name to the growing list of attendees for this affair. It is certainly much-deserved.

30-Second Time Out

I’d like to weigh in on the upcoming pitching dilemma, of sorts, that faces Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona when former Atlanta Braves star John Smoltz is scheduled to take his turn in the rotation this week.

Based on the fact that Daisuke Matsuzaka has been average at best this year, I think it’s time for the Sox to take a long, hard look at not trading Brad Penny and promoting Smoltz to a spot in the rotation. Obviously, the money owner John Henry is spending on the World Baseball Classic star Dice-K will influence Francona’s final say.

And that, dear readers, is sad.

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