Leo Bouchard considered quitting as Messalonskee High School softball coach after last season. Terry Parlin, who Bouchard describes as his mentor, had won five Eastern A titles at Messalonskee, and Bouchard didn’t feel like his 7-9 record last year was carrying on that tradition.

“Going through this mediocrity, I felt that I let down his legacy, the Messalonskee softball tradition,” Bouchard said.

The next 12 months were eventful for Bouchard. A few players talked him into coming back as coach. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August. This spring, the Eagles won the Eastern A title at Cony High School, after which Parlin came onto the field, shook Bouchard’s hand, and said, simply, “Great job.”

Bouchard, the Morning Sentinel Softball Coach of the Year, guided Messalonskee to a 16-4 record and a spot in the state finals. Skowhegan’s Lee Johnson, Madison’s Al Veneziano and Erskine’s Mike Soule were also considered for the award.

Bouchard said some players said after last season they had heard he was thinking about quitting, and they urged him to return.

“Choking back a few tears, I decided to stay with it,” Bouchard said, “and boy, I’m glad I did.”

A couple months later, Bouchard found out he had prostate cancer. Fortunately, it was caught early, and after surgery in November, Bouchard said he is now cancer-free.

“They say cancer changes you,” Bouchard said. “You look at things differently.”

Messalonskee third baseman Bri Warren said Bouchard is almost always very positive and supportive, but it was clear he was having more fun this spring than he did last season.

“He was a lot different,” Warren said. “He had such high spirits this year.”

Rival coaches picked Messalonskee to improve, and the emergence of Warren and addition of freshmen Kai Smith and Kylee Knight certainly helped. The Eagles won their first six games, then lost three out of four. Bouchard held a practice on a Saturday morning, made a few changes, and Messalonskee got hot.

There was a win over undefeated and No. 1 Brewer on the road, and a rematch win in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship game. There was the first playoff win over Cony, the first time Bouchard had beaten the Rams since the 2006 conference title game. In fact, Messalonskee kept winning all the way through the Eastern A final game against Brewer.

That was when Parlin came by and congratulated his former assistant. Of course, Parlin doesn’t really see himself as Bouchard’s mentor.

“I was lucky to really have some great players to come through,” said Parlin, now the softball coach and assistant athletic director at Thomas College. “I’m not saying he learned a lot from me. We helped each other a lot.”

Messalonskee lost in the state final game against Scarborough, and loses some very talented seniors. Still, it’s safe to say no one will have to talk Bouchard into coming back for next year.

“I look to see them doing well for some time now,” Parlin said. “He’s got some great young players.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

 


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