May 26, 2018
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Mt. Blue’s Rodrigue happy to be back coaching, facing new challenges

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

Paul Rodrigue’s coaching resume is impressive.

It spans 40 years and involves several sports at a number of different levels.

In 1990, he guided the Augusta North Little League to the state championship and a third-place finish in the Eastern Regional.

He has coached the Cony High School softball and ice hockey teams and has an extensive college resume including stops as the head softball coach at Waterville’s Thomas College and the University of Maine at Augusta and assistant softball jobs at the University of Maine (fall, 2009) and the University of Southern Maine.

He was a former Sunrise Conference Coach of the Year when he was at Thomas.

These days, Rodrigue is coaching the Mt. Blue High School softball team in Farmington and is facing new challenges.

He led the Cougars to the Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals in 2009 and that familiarity with the program was a factor in his return.

But he inherited a team that went 0-16 a year ago.

The Cougars have already notched a win, going 1-2 through their first three games.

Rodrigue led Old Town to an 11-5 regular season record last year and a berth in the EM Class B semifinals but he had to leave the team before the playoffs to tend his ailing wife, Maureen, who eventually died of cancer.

Old Town administrators asked him to come back this season but he said the job brought back memories of his wife’s ordeal.

“I just didn’t have the comfort level going back to Old Town. The Old Town kids were one of the best bunches of kids I’ve ever coached. But the timing wasn’t right to go back this spring,” said Rodrigue, who also thought highly of the families of the players.

He got a call from Mt. Blue administrator Robert Olsen in the fall asking him if he’d be willing to return to Mt. Blue and he accepted it.

He has only 11 available players on his roster and one of them is academically ineligible and will be reevaluated. One of his best players, center fielder Abbey Ellis, suffered a season-ending knee injury during an extracurricular activity.

The Cougars don’t have a home field due to extensive renovations at the school.

They practice and play their home games at the University of Maine at Farmington.

When that wasn’t available, they practiced in their gym or a field near the school.

“The field was, literally, a cow pasture,” Rodrigue said. “But we made due with what we had. It made it more challenging. We didn’t do fly balls. It’s been hard but the kids have hung in there. They’re learning every day, I hope.”

UMF’s softball season has concluded so the Cougars will be able to use that field the rest of the season.

Rodrigue said his team is “very young and inexperienced.”

In an 11-0 loss to Brewer on Wednesday, he started three freshmen, three sophomores, a junior and two seniors.

The freshmen were shortstop Taylor France, first baseman Addie Brinkman and second baseman Mo Harrington; the sophomores were third baseman Nicole Osbourne, center fielder Mandi Currier and left fielder Christa Powers; the junior was catcher Kristen Brown and the seniors were pitcher Lexi Howard and right fielder Sara Turner. Freshmen Katlyn Wells and Brianna Testa will also see playing time.

Rodrigue said, unfortunately, he doesn’t have many players who play softball in the summer.

But he said they have been a good group to coach.

“They’re willing to learn and work at it and that’s all a coach can ask for,” said Rodrigue.

He said the 12-8 win over Mount Ararat of Topsham, which was sandwiched by losses to Bangor (8-1) and Brewer, was “big for us psychologically.

“The girls know we can win,” said Rodrigue.

He describes his coaching style as a “two-way street.”

He’ll praise them but he’ll also offer constructive criticism.

He has let them know that if he criticizes them, not to take it personally.

“I love playing for him,” said pitcher Howard. “He’s a good coach and a really good guy.

“There’s definitely a different atmosphere this year. We’re coming together more as a team than we have in the past,” said Howard. “Everything he says has a point to it. It really helps us start the process. Now it’s just a matter of processing it in game situations. Once we do, we could be a good little team.”

Rodrigue, who still lives in his native Augusta, said he has been enjoying himself.

“It’s a lot of fun. The kids are working hard,” said Rodrigue, who is an estimator for the Lapointe Lumber Company after owning Rodrigue Builders Inc. from 1972-2004.

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