ORONO — There were aches and pains aplenty Sunday morning when participants showed up for the third and final day of the University of Maine Baseball Fantasy Camp at Mahaney Diamond.
When a local sportswriter mentioned his particular ailments, Skip Gordon was sympathetic and well aware of the dynamic.
“You’re not the Lone Ranger on that one,” Gordon said with a smile. “I feel the same way, but you have to get up and get moving. If you don’t do it, it’s going to get worse.”
If anyone among the 40 or so men who turned out for the fantasy camp had reason to gripe about aches and pains, it was Gordon. Instead, the 73-year-old from St. Albans was the inspiration for the entire group.
“I’d like to be just like Skip,” said Troy Lare, a Hampden native and longtime baseball umpire who was slowed by a hamstring pull suffered Saturday. “He’s like the Energizer bunny.”
The soft-spoken Gordon was the envy of all the players, who marveled at his agility, tenacity and resilience. He also was quick with a pat on the back or a congratulatory comment for his teammates.
The camp, run by UMaine head coach Steve Trimper, his assistant coaches and a handful of players, was a hit for all who participated. The event is a fundraiser for the baseball program.
Campers paid $200 each for the weekend, which included a jersey, hat, batting gloves and socks, along with five meals — including lobster for Saturday’s lunch as part of pregame tailgating at the UMaine football game.
Each team was guaranteed four games and consisted of 13 or 14 players.
It never even occurred to Gordon that he might be the senior statesman on the field.
“Am I, really?” Gordon asked. “I don’t think so.”
Gordon was able to share the experience, for the second straight year, with his son Kevin, who was among the most consistent hitters during the camp.
Gordon is a former high school player at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield who also competed in American Legion ball there and competed for town teams.
“We went all over the state playing baseball,” Skip Gordon said. “Even in the ’60s it was pretty strong, but then it went downhill. That’s probably why I got done playing ball. The leagues were breaking up.”
He made his return to baseball a few years ago — after 25 years off — when he attended a fantasy camp in Cooperstown, N.Y., the site of the Baseball Hall of Fame, with Kevin and his boss and longtime friend, Herb Sargent of Sargent Corp.
“It was unbelievable,” Skip Gordon said. “There were Hall of Famers there.”
Skip Gordon hadn’t planned to do the UMaine fantasy camp again this year, but was talked into it by Sargent.
“You know Herb. He’s pretty persuasive,” Gordon said. “If I had known I was going to be here today, I probably would have worked out a little more.”
Gordon didn’t allow his age to prevent him from impressing all his counterparts with good speed, excellent range and hands at second base and a steady stick at the plate. He conceded that he did some training prior to attending the fantasy camp, but spent most of the week preparing for the installation of a concrete floor in his son’s garage.
Gordon has remained active, participating more than once in the American Heart Association’s Trek Across Maine, a long-distance cycling fundraiser. Four or five years ago, he biked from Kittery to Fort Kent.
The Gordons were among two father-son pairings. The other was Herb Sargent and his son Jimmy.
“Skip was amazing,” said UMaine sophomore D.J. Voisine. “(Saturday), (Barrett) Dionne was throwing and he whipped it in there and Skip hit it.”
The fantasy camp gave the participants a chance to get out on the field and relive the joy of America’s pastime. The sweet sound of baseball on wooden bat — and plenty of laughter — filled the air as “old-timers” ranging in age from their 20s up to 73 laced up the spikes.
There were a handful of players whose names should be familiar to eastern Maine sports fans. They included former Orono High standouts Darrick Wood and Dale Cross, Old Town baseball coach Dave Utterback, former Bangor High and Husson star Dionne and former John Bapst coach Shane Graham.
The media also had a small presence, with WVII-TV (Channel 7) sports director Brian Sullivan and newsman Tony Consiglio making a good showing, both with the bat and in the field.
Brewer was well-represented by former baseball and basketball teammates Phil Pushard and Jim Churchill, Roger White and former Black Bears pitcher Joe Ferris. Former UMaine hockey stars Justin Tomberlin and Kent Salfi made appearances.
The special guest for the camp was Jon Warden, a former Detroit Tigers player, high school coach and college pitching coach at Cincinnati and Long Beach State.
Warden, who celebrated his 65th birthday Saturday, flew in from Las Vegas to share his unique sense of humor and stories of his travels in the baseball world. He also presided over the “Kangaroo Court” and found an unlimited supply of reasons to fine players for their “transgressions” on and off the field.
Warden turned out Sunday morning wearing a black judicial-style robe and white wig in the style of British parliament.