Whether it was in Georgia, Alabama or Omaha for the College World Series, I would ask as soon as I got to the field if anyone had seen Wink.
The inevitable answer, no matter how early I arrived, was that John was there and looking for me.
John Winkin can never spend too much time at a ballpark or with the game he loves.
He also never let a fellow Mainer go by without saying hello.
Our meetings outside Maine came at college regional play-offs and at Rosenblatt Stadium. We were two baseball Mainers in search of like company.
I was not the only one looking for John.
Across the country people immensely enjoy his company. He brings to Maine, by his presence and vitality at diamonds everywhere, untold good will and a respect for the institutions he represented.
We would meet up and talk about what was happening in Maine, how the baseball prospects from the state were faring and what he thought about whatever games we were about to see.
The chats were about as pure a baseball time as one could have and they were, and are, great fun.
We are fortunate in life if the life we live is one of passion for our daily chores. John Winkin has that passion for the game of baseball and the people who work its many levels.
That passion attracts folks like a magnet. “Isn’t that John Winkin?” friends of mine would ask as I traveled covering college baseball.
That meant they wanted an introduction, to be followed immediately by baseball talk and insights they would get nowhere else.
Tonight, John Winkin will be honored at the University of Maine at a reception and dinner where a lot of friends, young and old, will gather to say hi.
John’s impact on Maine baseball is everywhere to be found, beginning at the University of Maine and Husson. That influence extends to thousands who developed a love of the game through John’s programs, clinics and public relations efforts.
It is no easy matter to grow the game of baseball in Maine. The seasons keep diamond time limited.
It takes the intensity of a John Winkin to focus players and fans on the game and make it successful at the college level.
That success gravitates to high schools and summer leagues, Pony Leagues and Little Leagues across the state.
The dinner tonight is to say thank you for all he has done for the game in Maine and the nation.
More importantly, it is taking time to say hello again to a good friend.