Tim Johnson has returned to coach the Hall-Dale baseball team more times than Billy Martin came back to the New York Yankees.

Unlike Martin, though, Johnson was never fired. He simply stepped aside to let someone else coach so he could give full attention to his job as athletic director. When no one applied for the vacated position this spring, Johnson returned to coach the Bulldogs for the fifth time. Starting with an eight-year stint in 1987, he’s coached the baseball team a total of 14 years.

Most of those years have been highly successful, including the 2001 team he coached that went unbeaten en route to the Class C state championship. This year’s team didn’t go that far, but it  certainly overachieved with a regular-season record of 12-4. The Bulldogs won a playoff game before losing 3-0 in the Western C semifinals to eventual state champion Dirigo.

“The Tibetan monks believe there’s magic in the world and you have to find your sacred place,” Johnson said. “Hall-Dale (baseball) must be my sacred place.”

For his efforts, Johnson has been chosen Kennebec Journal Baseball Coach of the Year. Cony’s Don Plourde and Maranacook’s Jared Lemieux were also considered.

Johnson immediately set to correct deficiencies that held the team back a year ago. The three areas he set out to correct were to reduce the number of errors and walks and increase the number of extra base hits.

“We all did a good job of identifying what we didn’t do well the year before,” Johnson said. “Not only did they buy into it, they just worked at it.”

The Bulldogs cut the 47 errors they committed a year ago by over half this spring mostly due to their work in practice..

“They took how we approached the game defensively to heart,” Johnson said.

Two of Hall-Dale’s losses were by a run. The team suffered just one blowout, a 11-1 loss to Dirigo when they played seven games in 10 days due to rainouts.

“They were the best team in our league,” Johnson said of Dirigo, noting the Bulldogs were locked into a scoreless duel with the Cougars in the bottom of the fifth inning of their playoff game.

The loss of Wyatt Rush to injury before the season started crippled the pitching staff, but Johnson was able to bring along freshmen Bobby Cumler who pitched a no-hitter among his victories. Despite having only two seniors, the Bulldogs did have some experience.

“We were lucky to walk into a group of kids who played a lot as freshmen and sophomores,” Johnson said.

Like many coaches, Johnson relishes  practices more than he does games.

“Is there anything more fun than baseball practice?” he said. “I could come back in another 10 years and like it.”

That being said, Johnson is still looking for a coach.

“I’d like to find a caretaker for the program, somebody that wants to come in and be the coach for years,” he said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]

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