Rangeley catcher Callahan Crosby waits for a throw home as Rick Kraske of Buckfield scores during the Class D South quarterfinal in Buckfield last June. Sun Journal file photo by Lee Horton

 

Most spring seasons, the Rangeley baseball and softball teams are among the last to get out onto their own fields, thanks to the winter’s snow taking its sweet time to melt.

This season, the fields will lay empty all year, at least for varsity competition.

Rangeley won’t field teams in baseball or softball this year, for different reasons.

The baseball program didn’t have enough players to field a complete roster, according to baseball coach and assistant athletic director Jeff Larochelle.

The softball program also had precariously low numbers after sign-ups, in addition to not being able to secure a new coach after former coach Chip Smith resigned at the end of last year. Smith said he stepped down so he could put his efforts into a new business venture, but he said he will still coach the school’s girls soccer team in the fall.

“We actually had two candidates lined up for that job,” Larochelle said. “One of them at the beginning of the year moved out of state. And then the second candidate withdrew their name due to time commitment.

“And then we actually had two more people ask us, and they inquired about it. We relayed out the schedule and the amount of time for practices, they both said, ‘That’s more than I can take on.'”

Rangeley’s size makes coaching searches difficult.

“The thing with finding coaches, it’s always a challenge in a small town, because it’s always the same people that do it, and it’s always the same people that everybody else looks to to say, ‘Well, you coach this team, why don’t you take on another team?’ Larochelle, who also coaches the Lakers’ boys basketball team, said. “And varsity is its own animal because you’re practicing, preseason, six days a week.

“OK, then you get to your season, so there’s two days a week, generally, maybe three, and then you got three practices or four practices the rest of the week. It’s a little different, time commitment-wise.”

Larochelle said that once the first two “prime candidates” withdrew, it was going to be hard to find a coach.

“The baseball one kind of surprised us. We thought we were going to have enough kids there, but there was a couple kids that played previously that didn’t want to play this year,” Larochelle said. “We — you know, when you do your head count — thought that we would have enough kids there.

“We’ve got some kids coming up. Like, we had a couple that played middle school last year and they didn’t want to play this year. And so we went to the eighth-graders and said, ‘Do you want to play up?’ And they didn’t want to.”

This is the second time in recent years that Rangeley won’t field a varsity baseball team. The Lakers were without one in 2013-14, when Larochelle was the middle school coach.

“The two years we didn’t have a (varsity team) … we had a big eighth-grade group becoming freshmen, so that gave us the number of kids,” Larochelle said.

The Lakers made the playoffs every year in the four years since restarting the varsity program.

“Sometimes, I think, you know, you lose these things, it’s tough to get them going again. You lose your momentum,” Larochelle said.

The Rangeley softball team also made the playoffs last year. Larochelle said there were some “upset people” that a coach couldn’t be found and that there won’t be a team this season.

He also added that “incorrect information being passed around” has made it hard.

“We’re trying to put the pieces back together here,” Larochelle said.

In the meantime, the school is giving students options to stay active.

There will be open gyms and “different activities, like maybe co-ed volleyball and some things like that to keep them busy,” Larochelle said. A “circuit weight-training program” at Rangeley Health and Wellness Fitness Center is another opportunity for athletes.

The school’s administration is already working toward next year, and the open softball coach position has been posted again.

But it won’t be until just before the beginning of the 2020 spring season that the Lakers will know if they have enough players to field either a baseball or softball team again.

“We’re hoping that next year it will be back,” Larochelle said.

Buckfield’s Abby Fogg dives back to first base before Rangeley’s Amber Morrill can put the tag on her during softball game in Buckfield in 2017. (Sun Journal file photo by Russ Dillingham) Sun Journal file photo by Russ Dillingham

Rangeley’s Bo Beaulieu pitches against Buckfield during the Class D South quarterfinal in Buckfield in 2018. Sun Journal file photo by Lee Horton

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