DOVER-FOXCROFT — Mark Chevalier didn’t expect to be a varsity baseball coach this year.
But after Billy Kane left his post as Foxcroft Academy’s head coach after last season due to job considerations, the 32-year-old English teacher was a natural successor.
He had coached the Ponies junior varsity team a year earlier, and had come from a family steeped in baseball tradition. Chevalier’s dad had coached youth baseball, and Chevalier himself was one of three baseball-playing brothers who starred at Souegan High School in Amherst, N.H.
But the Ponies’ new head man is thankful to have had the chance to learn some tricks of the coaching trade from last year’s experience on the subvarsity level.
“If I had been thrown into being the varsity coach last year I probably wouldn’t have been ready,” said Chevalier, a Bowdoin College graduate. “It was good to be able to take a back seat and have the chance to learn under coach Kane.”
Chevalier also has inherited a young club this spring, with just four seniors overall — and two senior starters — among the 26 players on the school’s combined varsity and junior varsity rosters.
Making that transition even smoother is the fact that this year’s varsity is heavily reliant on its sophomore class, mainly players coached by Chevalier last spring.
“I know those kids pretty well,” he said. “And it helps that I’m in school with them every day.”
One point of emphasis this spring for Chevalier and his assistant coach — younger brother Jamie, a former All-Little East Conference infielder at Keene (N.H.) State University — has less to do with pitching, hitting and defense than it does with a more intangible phase of the game.
“We’ve worked really hard since day one on building the team concept,” he said. “We want every guy on the team pulling for everyone else. Last year we were successful but I didn’t think we had that kind of team, but this year it’s starting to come together. Guys are making plays and other guys are cheering them on, and they’re on the top step of the dugout waiting to congratulate someone who just scored.”
And so far, so good for Chevalier and the Ponies, now 4-0 — and winners of 19 of their last 20 games overall — and ranked atop the Eastern Maine Class C standings heading into Friday’s home game against Central of Corinth.