CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Twenty-five years ago, the University of Maine baseball team made the last of the program’s seven trips to the NCAA College World Series.
This spring, the Black Bears are back in the 64-team NCAA tournament, participating in the Chapel Hill Regional at Boshamer Stadium on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
Ever since he was young, Nick Bernardo has listened as his father, Rick Bernardo, recounted his glory days with the UMaine baseball team. The elder Bernardo was a senior standout on coach John Winkin’s ’86 squad.
“He talks about the College World Series experience all the time,” said Nick Bernardo, who is a freshman outfielder on this year’s UMaine team. “He went to three and that was the biggest memory of his career. Playing in June, in the postseason, there’s nothing like it.”
Rick Bernardo starred at UMaine from 1983-86 and was a first-team All-American as a senior when he batted .428 and set the school single-season record with 19 home runs.
He led the Bears in batting in 1985 (.389) and ’86 (.428) and still ranks fifth on UMaine’s career home run list with 32.
Nick Bernardo, from Glenmont, N.Y., is redshirting this season but plans to soak in the NCAA atmosphere while cheering on his teammates.
“To experience this is great, especially my first year, even as a redshirt,” Bernardo said. “I didn’t have to be here, but I chose to, because this experience is once-in-a-lifetime.”
“It’s so great for these young players to get this postseason experience for the future,” the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder said of the eight other freshmen on the postseason roster.
The Bernardo tradition will continue at UMaine next year when younger brother Garrett, an infielder, arrives as a freshman.
Bernardo also has family ties to Greater Bangor as his mother, Mary Jo (Murphy), attended Brewer High School and UMaine.
Hydration key for Black Bears
With the UMaine baseball team encountering hot temperatures in North Carolina, staying hydrated is a critical component in assuring optimum performance on the field.
Temperatures are supposed to be in the 90s all week. The Bears’ Thursday practice session was conducted in bright, sunny conditions with the mercury at 91 degrees.
Junior pitcher Keith Bilodeau walked through the hotel lobby after practice with his hands literally full of Powerade bottles.
The man responsible for monitoring the Bears’ fluid intake, and their health in general, is athletic trainer Ryan Taylor, who made the trip to the regional with the team. Hydration has been a point of emphasis with the players for several days.
“We started on Sunday with a regimen of Powerade and water,” Taylor said. “Those guys that we’ve identified with warm-weather issues and cramping history, we supplement their diet with some electrolyte pills.”
Taylor said the key to maintaining proper hydration is to begin taking on adequate fluids early — as many as four or five days before competition. And there is a good way to judge whether the student-athletes are getting enough to drink.
“We tell our guys, if you’re not hydrating enough to where you’re expelling (urinating) every couple of hours, you’re probably not at a hydration level that we’re happy with,” Taylor explained.
He said players need to drink enough over time that they don’t get to the point where they feel thirsty.
Taylor also said the UMaine staff emphasizes the players limit their physical exertion, avoid drinks with caffeine and stay in cool places to help maximize their ability to deal with hot temperatures on the field. He also encourages them to eat foods that contain more liquid, fruits in particular.
UMaine game video available
UMaine fans with access to the Internet will have the opportunity to watch a live webcast of Friday’s 6 p.m. game against North Carolina.
However, the only games to be webcast are North Carolina’s games on Friday and Sunday.