This is one of those things that you usually say after someone has retired or passed away. I didn’t want to do that, so here goes: I hope the Skowhgean community appreciates how classy Lee Johnson is.

Johnson not only runs a solid program — and one that always seems to be playing its best softball in June — he does it with respect for the game and the people who are a part of it.

I’ll always remember last year, when Skowhegan lost in the playoffs, a game our papers didn’t cover because it was on the road and there were so many other games going on. Skowhegan lost a tough game, and it was the last high school game for Johnson’s daughter, Amanda.

Johnson had a lot of things to do as a father that night that were more important than what I needed him for. Nevertheless, he calmly gave me the game’s linescore and all the information I asked for, realizing that we still had to do our jobs.

He was the same was Saturday afternoon, after Skowhegan lost to Scarborough in the Class A state championship game. He praised Scarborough for its all-around brilliance, and praised his players for sticking together and not giving up.

If you want them to, the bad parts of being a sportswriter can break your heart: The know-it-all parents who consider themselves experts because the coach won’t play their son or daughter. The people who won’t even say hello to you if you see them in person, but suddenly act like your long-lost best friend when they want your help with getting something in the paper. The “adults” who Tweet things making fun of high school kids, and who are nothing more than pathetic bullies.

But it’s a wonderful, wonderful job in so many other ways. Especially in the playoffs, there is so much passion and emotion from the players and coaches that you can’t help but be swept up in it. The “good guys” outnumber the pouters and bullies by about 50 to 1. Lee Johnson is a great reminder of that.

* * *

The celebration for the Richmond softball team Saturday evening wasn’t exactly over-the-top.

“It was just a parade, and one of the parents bought them all ice cream,” Richmond coach Rick Coughlin said.

In a lot of ways, that’s appropriate, because Richmond’s star is as understated as they come.

Jamie Plummer threw a perfect game against Greenville in the Western D regional final, then shut out Penobscot Valley High School on Saturday, striking out 13 batters along the way.

I’ve been covering sports for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal since the summer of 1998. When I got here, Richmond had a superb multi-sport athlete named Sunshine Anders. She was the kind of kid who just wanted to have on your side and representing the community. Plummer is the same way.

“She’s very competitive, and she wants to win, and she’s a team player,” Coughlin said. “If someone does something, she’s the first one to congratulate them. You can talk to her, and she can give you her opinion, and it’s almost like a second coach.”

I don’t know Plummer outside of interviewing her for stories. But it sure seemed like there was nothing phony about the way she talked about the team. She could have said, “I pulled us through today,” and she would have been right many, many times. She didn’t say or imply anything like that.

“She can take a team, and carry it as far as it goes,” Coughlin said. “That’s the thing about her.”

This month, that’s exactly what she did.

* * *

I would like to make one plea here. During postseason meets, can the Maine Principals’ Association use Sunday as an emergency day? It is frustrating that, year after year, track and field meets are postponed or canceled altogether, and playoff games are moved into a cramped schedule because Maine sports have to operate on a six-day week.

Colleges in Maine play on Sundays. Stores and restaurants are open on Sundays. New Hampshire high schools have playoff games on Sundays, and have for years. Same with Vermont. Let’s get with the times, because this is long overdue.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

 

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