BANGOR, Maine — Ben Greenberg’s varsity baseball career did not get off to an auspicious start. But at its conclusion, the Scarborough High School star is Maine’s newest Mr. Baseball.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound pitcher-third baseman was named Friday as the 23rd recipient of the Dr. John W. Winkin Award, presented annually by the Maine Baseball Coaches Association to the state’s top senior high school baseball player.
The award was presented during a brief ceremony near home plate at the Winkin Complex on the Husson University campus between games of the MBCA East-West Senior All-Star doubleheader.
The award honors the 93-year-old Winkin, a College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee whose coaching career featured stops at Colby College of Waterville, University of Maine and Husson University.
Winkin did not attend the ceremony, but Greenberg was keenly aware of his lifelong contributions to the game.
“Coach Winkin did great things over his career,” said Greenberg. “He played at Duke and coached at Maine for a long time and got a lot of wins up there, so it’s an honor to be given this award. I really appreciate it.”
Greenberg is a two-time Maine Gatorade Player of the Year as well as a two-time Southwestern Maine Activities Association Player of the Year, and like the Mr. Baseball recognition, the four-year varsity performer credits those honors in large part to the commitment he made to the sport earlier in his career.
“I had a really shaky sophomore year, I didn’t play well at all,” he said. “I worked really hard the winter after that because I needed to, and having that off-year kind of helped me a lot. It helped me develop.”
Greenberg’s improvement was noticeable almost immediately upon the start of preseason practices at Scarborough in 2013, his junior season.
“That’s when I saw the big change,” said Ryan Jones, who has worked with Greenberg for the last three years, first as an assistant coach under Mike Coutts in 2012 and for the last two years as the Red Storm’s head coach. “He hit (.194) his sophomore year and he hit .415 his junior year. I obviously didn’t see him throughout that winter at all, but to see him at the end of his sophomore year and the beginning of his junior year, I almost didn’t recognize the kid just because of the commitment he made. It was pretty impressive, just a great example for everyone else that hard work can pay off.”
The right-hander compiled a 6-0 pitching record with a 0.54 earned run average as a junior, and opponents batted just .163 against him as he led Scarborough to the Western Maine Class A playoffs.
This spring the righthander went 5-2 on the mound with a 1.18 ERA for the playoff-bound Red Storm while striking out 52 batters, walking 11 and yielding 28 hits in 41⅔ innings. Opposing batters hit .182 against him during the 2013 regular season.
“When he gets on the mound it doesn’t matter who he’s facing or if the team has beaten him before,” said Jones. “He expects to win. He expects to throw well — it doesn’t happen all the time but he expects to — and I think that’s one of the intangibles with baseball. You can’t really teach the grittiness and win-at-all-costs mentality, and I think his mentality is a little bit above where a lot of people are at his age.”
Greenberg also batted .381 with a .619 slugging percentage and a .587 on-base percentage this spring while stealing 10 bases in 11 attempts.
He will continue his baseball career this fall on athletic scholarship at Division I Fordham University in New York City.
“They’re building a great program down there,” said Greenberg. “They’ve been .500 for the past few years but I think their program is moving in the right direction and I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Among the other Mr. Baseball finalists on hand was Bangor Christian pitcher-second baseman Cody Collins, the Penobscot Valley Conference C-D Player of the Year who last weekend led the Patriots to their third consecutive Class D state championship.
Collins made it back to the Queen City in time for the 6:30 p.m. ceremony despite starting his day in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where he underwent 90 minutes of surgery Friday morning to repair ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow.
Other finalists for the award were pitcher-outfielder Devin Warren of Messalonskee of Oakland, catcher Dylan Belanger of Valley of Bingham, pitcher-outfielder Kyle Fletcher of Monmouth Academy, pitcher-third baseman Anthony Haskell of Sacopee Valley of South Hiram, and pitcher-shortstop Will D’Agostino of Falmouth.