BANGOR — Unless you win, the end of a baseball season, especially a playoff run, always feels like an egg slamming into a brick wall. Larry Brown has coached youth baseball for 18 years, and this part is never easy. With Saturday afternoon’s 11-2 loss to the Hammond Lumber Loons, the season is over for Brown’s Waterville Junior Legion team. As players tossed their dirty jerseys into a bucket, Brown addressed his team for the final time.

“Hey, don’t hang your heads. Nobody expected us to be here,” Brown said as the team gathered at the bottom of the Mansfield Stadium grandstand. A few minutes later, alone, Brown shrugged his shoulders.

“We played them four times. You’d think sooner or later we’d come out on top,” Brown said. “Losing’s not easy to handle.”

Brown, 52, has coached youth baseball for 18 years. Brown did the math, and knows he’s coached hundreds of players. Not as many as some, but a lot more than most. Brown has coached the lowest level of Cal Ripken, and he’s coached high school players. The thrill he gets when he sees the look a player gets when he does something he’s never done before is the same, no matter the player’s age. Despite a pair of recent health scares, that’s one of the things that keeps him going.

With the high school players he coached on the JUnior Legion team this summer, it was about more than coaching baseball fundamentals.

“This age group, you’re not only trying to make them better baseball players. You’re trying to make them better young men,” Brown said. “We had an issue earlier, we had some kids with attitudes. I had to tell them, ‘Listen, this needs to stop. If you can’t be coachbale, you’re not going to be employable.'”

Just over five years ago, Brown was riding his motorcycle on Western Avenue in Waterville, when he was sruck by a car turning on to Western from Pleasant Street. Brown said emergency workers on the scene estimated he flew 20 feet after impact.

“I still have six titanium ribs to prove it,” Brown said. “I remember seeing the car, and coming to in the hospital.”

Along with shattered ribs, Brown had a severe concussion, a gash on his left elbow, and road rash along his right forearm. He was in the hospital 18 days. The accident happened exactly two months before his wedding to his wife, Sarah. Brown made it to the wedding, and was able to dance with his bride.

Brown wasn’t wearing a helmet. He knows that was foolish. He gets the itch to ride, but hasn’t since the accident. As soon as he was able, Brown was back coaching baseball.

“I was worried about swinging a bat. You’ll notice I don’t throw a lot of BP because it puts a strain on me. Not to mention that I don’t throw a lot of strikes,” Brown said.

On July 9, 2017, Brown had a heart attack while coaching Waterville’s 11-year old Cal Ripken team in the regional championship game in Fairfield. When Waterville recorded the final out, Brown tried to jog across the field to join the celebration. He couldn’t do it. Assistant coaches helped him to the dugout. Thinking he was simply dehydrated, Brown drank as much water as he could.

“I didn’t want the boys to see me,” he said.

The next day, when he couldn’t catch his breath at work, Brown went to the hospital. Again, getting back to coaching was a motivator to get healthy.

Earlier this summer, Brown went to the opening ceremonies of the Cal Ripken 12-year old regional tournament at Waterville’s Purnell Wrigley Field. He was there to watch Sarah sing the national anthem. He was shocked when he was named to the Maine Cal Ripken Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Even if I thought something was up, the Hall of Fame is the last thing I would’ve thought of,” Brown said.

Many of his former players were on hand to watch Brown accept the honor, as well as assistant coaches and families of players.

“I’m glad they were there because I didn’t coach by myself,” Brown said.

Right now, with the sting of the season’s end fresh, Brown isn’t sure if he’ll coach next year. He’s been asked to coach a fall ball team, but he said he needs to talk about it with Sarah.

“I told my wife last year I was all done, and I coached four teams this year,” Brown said.

Maybe Brown is done. Maybe he’s not. Whatever decision he makes, he knows there are a couple generations of athletes he help make better ballplayers, and more importantly, better people. Whatever decision Brown makes, he has nothing left to prove.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM








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