Gabby Price was meant to coach. He was meant to lead. His decision to step down as the football coach at Husson University leaves a huge void.
He not only brought out the best in his players, he could squeeze a little more out of them — a little something they didn’t know they had.
Gabby, with his special brand of tough love, was a tremendous motivator.
He will always be special to me.
It was 1969 and my mother and five siblings had just moved to Bangor from Needham, Mass. My father, a career man in the United States Air Force, was serving in Vietnam.
It was a lonely existence, initially. It always is. The three months in Needham were unpleasant.
No friends. New school. Hoping to fit in but not initially accepted. It was the same in Bangor.
Baseball tryouts at Fifth Street Middle School were being held. I finally had an opportunity to make friends.
But I had to make the team.
Gabby was the coach.
Ground balls skipped off the gym floor and glanced off every one of my body parts. A few found my glove.
He should have cut me.
It would have been the popular move. I was the new kid in town. Why bother putting me on the roster?
Somebody would have squawked about it. But he kept me. I still don’t know why.
I was fortunate enough to see playing time in right field and we went undefeated.
More importantly, I developed valuable friendships, life-long friendships.
I also learned a lot about what it took to be a winner, how to compete, how to treat every at-bat and every pitch as an important entity.
And I discovered that when Gabby told you to do something, he meant it. Or you found yourself sitting next to him on the bench.
As I was trotting out to right field one day, one of my stirrups came out of my cleats.
Gabby hollered “hustle” and I did the best I could while still trying to tuck my stirrup into my cleat.
A teammate suddenly sprinted past me out to right field. My day was over.
It never happened again.
Price took time to inquire about my life’s journey. He does that with all of his players and it doesn’t matter if they’re starters or fourth-stringers. He becomes like a second father. You know you can go to him with any problem at any time.
Gabby could give you an earful but, a few minutes later, he would slap you on the back and praise you. He treated everyone the same. He never played favorites. He never held a grudge.
As intense as he is, you always knew he was in your corner and he was doing his best to make you a better player and a better person.
He was a drill sergeant with a big heart who taught you the importance of self-discipline and personal accountability.
You developed inner strength to help you overcome the adversities you face in life.
Price was the perfect hire for Husson when it was decided to resurrect the football program.
He was a proactive athletic director and football coach.
The addition of Price and the program, with 115 players in each of the past few years, has transformed the school from an NAIA commuter school once jokingly referred to as Husson High into a well-respected and progressive NCAA Division III institution.
The campus has energy.
Hopefully, Gabby will enjoy his retirement. He is blessed with a wonderful family and will get a well-deserved chance to spoil his grandson.