Jon Perry’s relationship with baseball dates back to “The Impossible Dream,’’ with Boston Red Sox radio broadcasts — highlighted by the Sox’s unexpected trip to the 1967 World Series — the summer soundtrack as he helped his dad build the family camp on Branch Lake.
Perry’s membership with the boys of summer has remained unexpired since then, first in neighborhood pickup games in his native Hampden.
“We used to play all the time in the backyard,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you how many windows we broke out there.”
Recently retired from a career in school administration, Perry will immerse himself in the game again next spring. He was approved Wednesday night by the RSU 22 board of directors as Hampden Academy’s varsity baseball coach.
“I really enjoy the coaching. I enjoy the challenge of that and to be able to come back to my own school where I played is exciting,” Perry said.
Perry replaces McLean Poulin, who guided the Broncos for the last 12 years before stepping down last fall for family reasons.
“McLean really did a great job of instilling the love of the game with the kids,” Perry said. “All I’ve heard is how these kids really love the game.”
Perry’s baseball skills developed quickly as he grew into a standout on the diamond at Hampden Academy, then at the University of Maine where he was a four-year player who, as a senior competed on the Black Bears’ 1981 College World Series squad.
Since then he has remained close to the game in numerous capacities. He was a coach and administrator in local youth leagues and coached at Old Town and Hermon high schools as well as Husson University and the University of Connecticut.
Perry served as an instructor with his Diamond Drills Baseball Skills program through the Hampden Recreation Department, worked as an umpire during the last decade and is an avid baseball memorabilia collector.
Among his most prized possessions? A framed 1918 — yes, 1918 — Boston Red Sox World Series championship banner that hangs in his study and a ticket to Lou Gehrig’s last game.
“The older, the better,” he said. “That stuff to me is so cool, it’s so timeless and you learn so much about the history of the game. To me that’s a lot of fun.”
Hampden was a consistent contender in Class A North under Poulin, with postseason appearances in each of the last four seasons including a No. 2 seed last spring.
Perry, who served as an assistant coach at Hampden under Poulin when his sons Brennan Perry and Connor Perry played for the Broncos, will seek to build on the program’s status. He’ll encourage his players to continue learning the intricacies of the game much as he eagerly absorbed them throughout his career.
“What I want to try to instill in the kids is for them to be students of the game and have them read the game,” he said. “As a basketball player or soccer player, you read what’s happening on the field. In baseball you need to do that, too.”
Related to that mental approach of the game is the work required to minimize the inevitable mistakes that may lead to an opponent’s success.
“It’s a simple game. Eliminate beating yourself first and you’ve got a chance to win,” he said. “For example, you’ve got to throw strikes and make them hit the ball because there’s no defense for a walk.”
Perry also is aware of the pressures inherent in seeking to motivate kids to play a slower-paced game like baseball in an increasingly fast-paced world.
“The days of having a 15- or 20-pitch batting practice to one kid and having the rest of them stand out in the field are gone. That’s how you lose kids,” he said. “Kids want to move around so you’ve got to change it up and do different things to make it fun for them.”
Perry is optimistic the players he’ll greet at the outset of preseason practices in March, including several returners from last summer’s state champion R.H. Foster Senior American Legion club, already see the game that way.
“These kids coming back really, really enjoy the game and love to play,” he said. “They like to play and they have fun, and that’s a real good thing.”