This spring is leading off almost the same way last year’s did for Don Shields, but the Rockport native is having to adjust to a little less time behind the microphone.
The longtime sports and program director at Rockland radio stations WRKD (1450 AM) and WMCM (103.3 FM) is starting his second season as the head coach of the varsity baseball team at Georges Valley High School in Thomaston.
Shields, who also works as a substitute education tech at local schools, is no longer working for WRKD-WMCM after being let go by parent company Blueberry Broadcasting last September as part of a revamping of Blueberry’s local stations.
“I started there September 8 in 1985,” said Shields, 49. “Basically, they called me September 14 to tell me they were taking the three country stations [Belfast’s WBFB (104.7 FM), Bar Harbor’s WLKE (99.1 FM) and WMCM] and were running them as one, plus my position was being eliminated.
“I got two weeks’ severance pay and they offered me a chance to stay on and call high school ballgames, but I decided to look for something else.”
Bruce Biette, vice-president and chief operating officer for Blueberry Broadcasting, said the move resulted from a reorganization and consolidation of three stations.
“It’s always a difficult decision when you let someone go, but from a logistical standpoint, when we knew we were rolling it all together, we felt it was a decision we had to make,” said Biette, who also hosted a morning radio show.
Paul Dupuis was hired to replace Shields and teamed with Kat Walls to do the morning show on the three stations.
“Those two stations were as much a part of my family as my family is,” Shields said. “I think the ownership was short-sighted on those moves.”
Biette, who said the change has generated positive feedback, said teaming Shields with Walls wasn’t the best option.
“Anything is always an option, but it wasn’t a route we wanted to go,” Biette said.
Meanwhile, Shields has kept his hand — and mouth — in the sportscasting business as both the radio voice of the University of Maine women’s basketball team, which ironically has its games broadcast on Shields’ former Blueberry stations, and a high school basketball play-by-play announcer for local Time Warner cable access television outfit Maine TV85.
The Thomaston resident says he doesn’t plan to give up his UMaine women’s radio job anytime soon.
“Not at all. That is one of the more enjoyable gigs I have going,” said Shields, who just finished his third season calling Black Bear games and has two years remaining on his contract. “I’m hoping I can stay with them for a long time.”
Shields also called about 30 high school games the past season. He noted that he ended up doing more games for TV than he would have done on radio.
“They cut their high school basketball schedule at least in half, if not more, because we did close to 70 regular season games in our heyday and I think they did 22 total regular season games this past season,” Shields said. “Overall, we did over 150 high school games a year when we were at our peak. Roughly, I’d say they [coastal Blueberry stations] did 60 or so this past season.”