Ryan Rebar looked over his shoulder, to the spot he was standing when he handed the Dr. John Winkin Award to his uncle. The Senior All-Star Game was about to start, and Rebar and his East teammates prepared to take the field.

A recent graduate of Foxcroft Academy, Rebar was asked, has he ever met Winkin?

“Never,” Rebar said. “I wish someday I can.”

Winkin was unable to attend Friday night’s game at the University of Maine. Winkin suffered a stroke in 2007, and at 93, is not in the best of health.

Even when he’s unable to attend, to pose for photos with the winner of the award that bears his name, Winkin’s presence is felt. The name on the ballpark at the University of Maine is Larry Mahaney Diamond, but there’s no doubt it’s the House That Winkin Built.

A banner on the left field wall celebrates the Black Bears’ six appearances in the College World Series under Winkin. At Maine, Winkin won 642 games. In a place where the college baseball season can be measured in weeks, Winkin won 642 games and competed with the best teams in the country.

Next weekend, Winkin will be enshrined in the College Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s an overdue honor for the baseball coach who took the University of Maine to the College World Series six times. With more than 1,000 win at Colby, Maine and Husson, Winkin cemented his place as one of the best college baseball coaches to ever prowl a dugout, and his spot in the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas, is well deserved.

Winkin is getting the national attention we in Maine know he’s deserved for decades. Nobody has been as important as Winkin to the growth and development of baseball in Maine. The Dec., 2007 marked the end of Winkin’s coaching career, but not the end of his influence over baseball in Maine.

So many coaches played for Winkin. His influence spreads around the state and nation. Ed Flaherty, who has two national championships at the University of Southern Maine and had the Huskies in the finals of the Division III World Series again last month, played for Winkin at Maine. So did Colby head coach Dale Plummer, and Clemson head coach Jack Leggett.

You can’t tell Winkin’s story without including his time at Colby at Husson, which were bookends around his time at Maine.

In 2011, Colby College retired Winkin’s No. 5. Winkin coached at Colby for 20 years, winning 229 games. Judge Joe Jabar played for Winkin at Colby College, and also played American Legion baseball for Winkin in Waterville.

Husson baseball coach Jason Harvey was a two-year captain for Winkin. Harvey played for Husson in 2006, when Winkin won the 1,000th game of his career coaching the Eagles.

The wooden plaque presented to Rebar was just like Winkin, understated and sturdy. Winkin’s profile adorned the upper left corner of the award. The baseball cap on his head was blank. If you think of Winkin and think of the Black Bears, you’ll picture him in a cap with the classic, old English “M.” If you think of Colby or Husson, you’ll envision Winkin in those uniforms. There is no wrong answer.

At this time next week, Winkin will have another Hall of Fame membership to add to his resume. More college baseball fans will learn about the coach who built a national championship contender in Orono, Maine, far from the ballfields that go snow-free year round.

Next fall, Rebar will enroll at Husson, where he plans on playing both football and baseball. There’s no doubt when he joins Husson’s baseball team, he’ll hear stories about Winkin. Harvey will tell his team about his college coach, the man who defines baseball in Maine. In Orono, somebody else will share a few Winkin stories. At Colby and USM and Clemson, Plummer and Flaherty and Leggett will tell some stories about their old coach.

The meetings may never be face to face, but Rebar and other baseball players will listen, and one way or another, they will meet John Winkin.

Travis Lazarczyk – 861-9242

[email protected]

 

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