Murray Putnam has watched the game of baseball evolve significantly during his more than four decades as a high school baseball coach.
But as the Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook head man began his 43rd straight spring in the dugout with 8-2 practices for pitchers and catchers in the school’s gymnasium this week, it was back to the preseason basics that have endured the tests of such challenges of time, weight training and aluminum bats.
“I use this week for conditioning purposes and to try to get youngsters to start thinking about the sport again,” he said.
The conditioning program for pitchers includes building arm strength but isn’t focused on specific pitch counts for each player.
“I want to steer clear of using the term ‘pitch count,’ because it denotes a number of thoughts that I prefer not to denote,” said the 64-year-old Putnam, a member of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame who has more than 450 coaching victories to his credit while guiding the Warriors to five state titles and 10 Eastern Maine championships.
“The physical makeup of kids are different. Some are a little bit older and a little bit stronger and could be in a more advanced position to pump the ball in there harder or work on their breaking balls than others at a given time.
“I don’t profess to be the expert, but no two kids are the same.”
Putnam will greet his entire team — likely numbering about 18 from the Southern Aroostook student body of approximately 110 — next week for the start of full-scale practices leading up to his team’s scheduled season opener at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 23, against Hodgdon on the field named in his honor.
Putnam anticipates having a mix of veterans and newcomers come out for the team as the Warriors begin their quest to return to postseason play in Eastern Maine Class D.
Last spring Southern Aroostook went 13-1 during the regular season and then advanced to the regional semifinals as the No. 3 seed in its division before being ousted by eventual Eastern Maine champion Central Aroostook of Mars Hill.
Asked how his team might fare this spring, Putnam responded the same way he likely has in each of his previous 42 seasons on the sidelines.
“I haven’t made predictions before,” he said, “and I don’t plan to start now.”