The Gardiner Area High School baseball was on the bus, driving to Bangor for the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship game, when coach Jim Palmer finally told freshman Forrest Chadwick he’d be the starting pitcher against the tough Bangor Rams.

“I didn’t tell him he was starting until the bus ride up there,” Palmer said. “He goes out and shuts them down for five innings.

“He was a solid player right from the start.”

Now a couple weeks removed from the end of an impressive career at the University of Southern Maine, Chadwick waits to see where baseball will take him next. If he’s one of the lucky few to hear his name called on Saturday, the final day of the Major League Baseball draft, he’ll be off to a small city where he’ll play short season single A baseball and the walls of the tiny ballpark will be adorned with photos of the players who were standing right where he is now, at the first step to the big leagues. Most guys will never get their photo on the wall.

Chadwick will take long bus rides and make little money and learn the game he loves can be a grind.

And he’ll love virtually every second of it.

Rounds 11 through 40 were completed on Saturday. Chadwick didn’t get a call from any of the Major League Baseball clubs.

A few weeks ago, as the Huskies prepared to play in the Division III World Series, Chadwick was realistic about his draft prospects.

“I’ve been talking to a few team lately, and hopefully I get the call,” Chadwick said. “I don’t know what team, or where, but I definitely want to continue playing … It would be in the later rounds, just because I’m (in) D III and I’m a senior. Anywhere in the 40 rounds, I’d be glad to be taken.”

One team Chadwick had heard from a lot was the New York Yankees. He looked down at his pinstriped USM pants.

“I grew up a Red Sox fan, but I’m getting pretty used to the pinstripes.”

Since 1997, 11 USM players have been drafted. The last was Chris Burleson, who went to the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round in 2009. Maine isn’t a deep well of baseball talent, but it’s not dry, either. With the exception of 2005, since 2004, a player with ties to a Maine college or high school has been selected each year.

Palmer first coached Chadwick in youth league all-stars, and even then saw a player with tons of potential.

“He had all the tools to become a good player,” Palmer, now the athletic director at Oak Hill High School, said.

In high school, Chadwick helped the Tigers win the Class B state title in 2008, and another Eastern regional crown in 2009.

“He’s one of the best pure hitters I’ve seen come through the high school level,” Palmer said. “The speed he had was unbelievable. He’s very composed. He thrives on being a clutch guy.”

That ability to show up in the clutch hasn’t left Chadwick, and had to help his draft stock as he completed his college career. Playing on basically one leg because of a quad injury in the New England regional tournament and World Series, Chadwick was USM’s best hitter. At the New England’s, Chadwick was 6 for 9 with six RBIs, and his three-run home run was the big blow against Endicott in the regional championship game.

At the World Series in Appleton, Wis., Chadwick was 9 for 16 at the plate, with four runs scored and eight RBIs in four games. Chadwick was named to d3baseball.com’s all-tournament team.

For the season, Chadwick hit .358, with seven home runs and 58 runs batted in. Chadwick played in 183 games in his USM career, one game short of the school record held by Shaun Richardson and Anthony Pisani, and finished with a .360 career average, with 27 home runs and 167 RBIs.

On Thursday, Palmer sent his former player a short text message to wish him good luck.

“I hope his name gets called,” Palmer said.

On Saturday, Chadwick played that waiting game, hoping a phone call would come and he’d be off to some baseball outpost to start it all.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM