Former UMaine coach John Winkin to be inducted into College Baseball Hall of Fame

Posted April 11, 2013, at 12:44 p.m.
Last modified April 11, 2013, at 8:39 p.m.
John Winkin of Waterville (right), posing with 2011  Dr. John W. Winkin Award winner Sam Balzano of Portland, has been selected for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Winkin was the longtime coach at the University of Maine and Colby College and also coached at Husson College.
Michael C. York | BDN
John Winkin of Waterville (right), posing with 2011 Dr. John W. Winkin Award winner Sam Balzano of Portland, has been selected for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Winkin was the longtime coach at the University of Maine and Colby College and also coached at Husson College. Buy Photo

LUBBOCK, Texas — John Winkin, who was a coaching fixture on Maine baseball diamonds at three colleges from 1954-2006, has been selected for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Winkin, who is best known for leading the University of Maine to six College World Series appearances, also coached at Colby College in Waterville and Husson University in Bangor.

Winkin will be joined by former longtime Major Leaguers Sal Bando, a standout third baseman at Arizona State from 1964-1965; Ralph Garr, who batted .418 in a stellar career at Grambling from 1964-1967; Tino Martinez of the University of Tampa, for whom the Division II Player of the Year award is named; and Roy Smalley of USC, a shortstop for the Trojans from 1973-1974.

Also included in the 2013 HOF class are the late Tom Borland of Oklahoma State University, who fashioned a perfect 11-0 record on the way to being named first-team All-American in 1955; and the late Don Schaly, who was named Division III Coach of the Century by Collegiate Baseball Magazine for his legendary career at Marietta College from 1964-2003.

“This class brings a different flavor to the induction process because it features our first Division III coach, perhaps the greatest Division II player ever and three players from the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s, which is a time period that has been a bit underrepresented in past inductions,” Mike Gustafson, executive director of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, said.

Winkin coached at UMaine for 22 years and compiled a record of 642-430-3. He took six teams to the College World Series and his squad finished third in the nation twice. He led Maine to 11 NCAA regional tournaments.

Winkin was named National Coach of the Year in 1965, New England Division I Coach of the Year in 1975 and Northeast Region Division I Coach of the Year in 1976, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1991.

He has been elected to the Maine Baseball, ABCA, Maine Sports and University of Maine Halls of Fame. Winkin also received the Lefty Gomez Award for contribution to baseball and the ECAC Distinguished Achievement Award.

Winkin came out of retirement to coach baseball at Husson University in Bangor, and on March 12, 2006, he recorded his 1,000th career coaching victory.

Former Maine catcher Eddie Hackett and third baseman Mike Coutts said Winkin is deserving of the recognition.

“I thought he would have inducted before now,” Hackett said. “Nobody loved baseball more than he did. That was his life.

“Nobody was more prepared than he was; he would know his pitching rotation four years in advance,” quipped Hackett, who graduated in 1984 after four College World Series appearances.

“Nobody wanted to win more than he did. He always put the best team he had on the field. I can respect that as a player because you want to win as well,” Hackett said.

Hackett also said Winkin proved to the college baseball community that “[state of] Maine kids could play at the highest level. That meant a lot to the state.”

Coutts, who was Winkin’s assistant for 10 years and is now assisting his wife, Lynn, with the UMaine softball team, said Winkin “did as much for college baseball as anybody.

“The way the game is played now in terms of regionals and super regionals is because of what he was able to do at Maine, for better or worse.

“He made people realize there were good players in the northeast,” Coutts said. “Southern schools started to come north to recruit players and other schools in the northeast figured if Maine could [be successful], why couldn’t their school do it? He made baseball better at Maine and in the northeast and the impact was felt across the country.”

Winkin won more than 1,000 games in 50-plus years of coaching at Colby College, the University of Maine and Husson College. Best known for his tenure at Maine, he led the Black Bears to 11 NCAA tournament appearances, six College World Series appearances and twice finished third in Omaha.

Coutts called Winkin a “fierce competitor who loved competition.

“He wanted to prove people wrong. He wanted to show we could be [nationally prominent] at Maine,” said Coutts. “We played tough [nationally-ranked] teams. He knew if you wanted to be the best, you had to play the best.”

Winkin’s relationship with the late Ron Fraser, who coached at the University of Miami (Fla.), enabled Maine to not only play nationally-ranked teams but to entice them to come to Maine. Those teams included Miami, Oklahoma State, UCLA, North Carolina and Clemson.

Winkin always stressed fundamentals and Coutts recalled how they would practice inside the field house during the winter months and would go over various defensive situations on a field with Little League dimensions.

“So we knew how to play the game when we went outside. That’s one thing that is missing in the game today. Kids don’t know how to play the game,” said Coutts.

The 2013 class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the College Baseball Night of Champions celebration, June 28-29 in Lubbock, Texas.

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