Bangor’s remarkable showing in the Senior League World Series takes one back to the days when the University of Maine was making five trips to the College World Series in a six-year span from 1981 to 1986.
There was an infectious buzz around town.
Everyone got caught up in it, even non-sports fans.
Everywhere you went, somebody was talking about it.
The dramatic home runs hit by Josiah Hartley against defending champ Houston and Anthony Capuano against Manhattan Beach, Calif. were popular topics of banter.
Maine has always been an underdog and everyone loves the underdog.
And the state has always had a love affair with baseball.
If you go to a beach, people are listening to the Red Sox.
Former University of Maine coach John Winkin and his Black Bears teams were the darlings of Omaha.
They were the snowbirds who overcame the odds to duke it out with the big boys in Rosenblatt Stadium: teams such as Louisiana State, the Stanford, the Texas and Miami.
Winkin was one of the most interviewed people at the College World Series.
Thanks to his media savvy and his experience behind the microphone — he used to host a radio pregame show before New York Yankee games — he was always a great interview and used the forum to extol the virtues of the state of Maine.
ESPN’s coverage of the College World Series put the state on the map during that span.
It was a source of pride.
That’s exactly the impact the Bangor Senior Leaguers have had.
They won four games — three more than a host team had ever won in the series since it came to Bangor in 2002 — and erased 3-0 deficits in the victories that sent them to the semifinals and to the championship game.
They received solid pitching, excellent defense and timely hitting, all the ingredients needed to make a successful run.
They also played well in the championship game loss to Aruba. It was a 3-1 game until Aruba erupted for five runs in the seventh.
There was an interesting link between the University of Maine and the Bangor Senior League stories.
The man who was the color analyst on the ESPNU telecast of the Bangor-Aruba final was former Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.
It was Ricciardi who, in his first year as the northeast area scout for the Oakland Athletics in 1986, signed Winterport native and former Hampden Academy, Bangor American Legion and University of Maine shortstop Mike Bordick to a pro contract.
Bordick had just completed his junior year at Maine and was having an impressive season in the Cape Cod League.
Bordick went on to produce a 1,720-game major league career and set the record for most consecutive errorless games at shortstop with 110 in 2002.
One nice offshoot of Bangor’s success was the huge attendance boost which will go a long way in helping tournament director Mike Brooker and his staff finance future Senior League World Series.
Brooker and head groundskeeper Ron St. Pierre are among several people who work tirelessly to make sure the series comes off without a hitch.
It has become a great source of community pride and this year’s series will provide a lasting memory.
You hear visiting players, coaches and parents rave about the field thanks to St. Pierre and his crew. St. Pierre is also the Bangor coach and his team’s terrific run gave him some well-deserved joy and time in the limelight.