For baseball players, the end of spring means only one thing — summer baseball.
Members of the University of Maine baseball team have relocated to points from Massachusetts south to North Carolina in search of a productive wooden-bat experience during the next two months.
It has been a newsworthy past few weeks for coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears. Only one player with UMaine ties was selected in the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
Signee Jeff Gibbs, a righthanded pitcher from Canada, was chosen in the 48th round (No. 1,450 overall) by Toronto, but still appears headed to Orono. He apparently is asking for considerably more money than the Blue Jays are offering, Trimper said.
Recently departed UMaine standouts such as outfielders Billy Cather and Kevin McAvoy of Brewer, along with second baseman Danny Menendez, have been trying to get free-agent deals with pro clubs.
Cather, who was drafted in the 33rd round by the Washington Nationals in 2008, is awaiting one such potential arrangement.
“The Yankees called me the other day,” Trimper said. “They’re waiting to see if they sign a kid they drafted in the early rounds.
“If he doesn’t sign, they want Billy to sign and go to short-season [Class] A,” he explained.
UMaine catcher Myckie Lugbauer apparently was contacted in the late rounds by a team, but opted not to accept the offer. That likely will put UMaine’s co-captain back behind the plate for his senior season next spring.
He is spending the summer playing for the Florence (N.C.) Red Wolves of the Coastal Plain League.
Trimper pointed out big-league teams have the right to sign prospects until Aug. 14, at which point they must cease contact with high school- and college-age players.
UMaine has two players competing in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the most prestigious of the summer leagues. Lefthanded pitcher Kevin Scanlan is with the Chatham A’s, while righty Keith Bilodeau is a member of the Wareham Gatemen.
“Bilodeau pitched [Sunday] night and struck out two guys,” Trimper said.
Scanlan will be a junior in the fall, while Bilodeau was a freshman in 2009.
Senior shortstop Tony Patane has shaken off a sore shoulder and is playing for the Amsterdam Mohawks in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Also there is midyear transfer Barry Keiffer, a lefthanded pitcher from Texas.
In Maryland, a handful of Bears are playing in the Cal Ripken Senior League. That group includes sophomore righthander Matt Klaczkiewicz (Bethesda Big Train) and senior Joey Martin of Portland and sophomores Ian Leisenheimer and Justin Leisenheimer (all with the Rockville Express).
The Florence Red Wolves have a significant UMaine presence with Lugbauer, junior righty Matt Jebb and sophomore outfielder Taylor Lewis. Jebb has pitched well (1-2, 1.80 ERA) but is likely to miss his next start with “arm fatigue,” according to the team’s Web site.
Not all UMaine players are able to compete this summer.
Pitcher Jonathan Balentina is on the mend after undergoing surgery on his throwing (left) elbow/forearm. As a sophomore, he blossomed while going 3-0 with one save. He compiled a 3.88 earned run average and had 31 strikeouts in 48ª innings.
Balentina’s status for next season is unknown, but he may be forced to redshirt.
Senior righthander Joe Miller is rehabbing the sore right forearm that prevented him from pitching after March 13, while sophomore righty A.J. Bazdanes has shut down for the summer to address some arm/shoulder issues.
Sophomore Kyle Stilphen of Pittston continues to recover from an eye injury sustained in Florida back in March, but may rejoin the Rockville squad.
Junior Jarrett Lukas of Old Town is taking summer classes and is not playing. Senior outfielder George Tager is working and playing locally in Rhode Island.
Sophomore pitcher Pat Quinn is taking classes at UMaine and is performing community service in an attempt to rejoin the program. He was suspended from the team indefinitely in May by athletic director Blake James after an April 27 criminal mischief arrest.
Quinn may see action in the Bay League.
Future Black Bears fare well
Among future UMaine players, Scarborough senior Chris Bernard is scheduled to pitch today against undefeated defending state champion Deering of Portland in the Western Maine Class A state title game.
Bernard is 7-1 with a 0.88 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 47 innings. Opponents are batting .173 against the righthander, who is batting a league-best .548 with five homers and 24 RBIs.
He appears to be the leading candidate to be named Mr. Maine Baseball, an honor given to the state’s top senior player.
Caribou High School graduate Pat Thibodeau, who plans to walk on at UMaine in the fall, had a solid senior season for the Vikings. According to the Maxpreps.com Web site, the outfielder hit .581 this spring with four homers and 29 RBIs.
Thibodeau was an All-Penobscot Valley Conference Class B first-team pick and has been chosen for the Maine East-West Senior All-Star Game.