BANGOR, Maine — Al Hackett is a fixture at the Senior League World Series at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Hackett is the official scorer for the SLWS and has been since the tournament moved from Kissimmee, Fla., to Bangor in 2002.
And the 82-year-old Hackett continues to enjoy his role while getting the opportunity to see some of the world’s best 15- and 16-year-old baseball players.
“I always look forward to it. I make sure my week is free,” said Hackett, who spends half the year in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Hackett said it is a special event that makes dreams come true.
“As a kid, you dream about things like this,” said Hackett, who grew up in Derby and wound up playing for the University of Maine baseball team. “I never had the opportunity to play in something like this.”
But he is glad these players have that opportunity and he also noted that it’s rare to find a tournament of this magnitude being held in a community as small as Bangor, which adds to its appeal.
He said it is nice for the community and the state having people from all across the globe visiting Bangor for the event.
He recalled talking to his nephew, former University of Maine catcher Eddie Hackett, and his nephew’s best friend and former Orono High and University of Maine teammate Jeff Paul about their experiences playing in tournaments all across the country while they were at UMaine.
Al Hackett also traveled with the UMaine teams as the former radio color analyst for play-by-play-man George Hale. Hackett also served as the UMaine scorer.
“Eddie and Jeff would forget who won the games but they’d always remember the people and the experience they had,” said Hackett, who added that several of the teams are from areas many Mainers will never get to visit and many of the players, coaches and fans are visiting Maine for the first time.
Hackett said he has seen a “lot of talent” come through Bangor by way of the Senior League World Series.
The best position player he saw was Domonic Brown, who played for Dade City, Fla., in the 2004 SLWS and went 9-for-17 as a hitter and 2-1 as a pitcher. Brown is an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies and was a National League All-Star this season. He is currently hitting .272 with 26 homers and 76 RBI for the Phillies.
The best pitcher he recalled was Jair Jurrjens, who was a National League All-Star for the Atlanta Braves in 2011 (13-6, 2.96) and is trying to climb his way back to the major leagues after a series of injuries. He is pitching for Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate in Toledo.
Jurrjens played for the Curacao team that won the 2002 SLWS and that team is considered the best Hackett has seen. Another member of that Curacao team was Curt Smith, who went on to star for the University of Maine and play for the Dutch National Team in the World Baseball Classic. Smith began the season playing for Double-A New Britain, which is affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. He was hitting .231 with four homers and 19 RBIs before being released by the Twins last month.
Hackett said one of the best aspects of the tournament is the volunteerism.
“People are always chipping in and helping out. And the number of volunteers [is impressive],” he said.
Texans enjoy cool weather
For the players from Northside Little League in Laredo, Texas, playing in Maine has one distinct advantage over playing in Texas: the weather.
Gerardo Ramos, Felipe Rodriguez and Pablo Ortiz said it’s nice to play in cooler weather.
“It’s really hot in Texas,” said Ramos, the right fielder who also pitches.
Some of the players would be playing football in the sweltering heat right now if they weren’t here.
The players said the trip has been memorable.
“It has been more than I expected,” said catcher Rodriguez.
“We’re excited to be here. We have only one field like this one in Laredo,” said pitcher Ortiz.
“It’s nice to be playing against the best of the best,” said Ramos.’