Ottawa Champions coachJared Lemieux waves during a 2019 Can-Am League game. Lemieux, a former Maranacook baseball standout, coached the Champions from 2015 to 2019. Photo provided by Marc LaFleur/Ottawa Champions

 

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of our series, “Catching Up With,” in which we catch up with some people we’ve covered over the last few decades.

Jared Lemieux in high school was always the player who couldn’t get enough baseball. The one who wanted practice to run a little longer, looked forward to each season and didn’t want it to end.

It’s been 18 years since Lemieux graduated from Maranacook. And not much has changed.

Now 37, Lemieux is still the guy who just wants to be on the field. He’s played and coached everywhere from high school to men’s leagues to the professional levels, and so far, he hasn’t found anything that beats it.

“It’s the chance to go out there and see something new every day,” he said. “You’d be surprised. Every day, something new happens on the field. You go out there, you’re competing, it’s the atmosphere, you’ve got fans, it’s an experience, it’s a show. It’s always fun to put your skills on display.”

In 2020, when COVID-19 threw Lemieux a curveball, he handled it like the ones that were thrown to him in the batter’s box. After coaching with the Ottawa Champions of the Can-Am League from 2015 to 2019, Lemieux found himself needing something to fill his summer after the pandemic shut down the league this season.

No matter. By joining up with the Portland-based Southern Maine Men’s Baseball League, Lemieux found a way to keep himself on the baseball field. He also spent the summer umpiring games, which he enjoyed as well.

The chance to play again, though, was a highlight.

Ottawa Champions coachJared Lemieux looks on during a 2019 Can-Am League game. Lemieux, a former Maranacook baseball standout, coached the Champions from 2015 to 2019. Photo provided by Marc LaFleur/Ottawa Champions

“I’ll tell you what, I had a lot of fun with the guys this year. A lot of fun,” said Lemieux, who played at Bowdoin College before going on to play in the Can-Am League from 2006-08, and then again in 2010. “It was exhilarating. It tested my body, I was 36 when I was playing, and it was very challenging. There’s very good competition in these leagues here.”

That passion for the game was evident from the beginning, when Lemieux was a key player on Maranacook teams that won Class B championships in 2000 and 2002. The Black Bears had talent everywhere, but few matched Lemieux’s combination of talent and enthusiasm, which impressed even teammate Greg Creek, who won the Winkin Award before going on to play in the Atlanta Braves’ system.

“The thing that always sticks out in my brain with Jared is he is 100 percent, (the) prototypical gamer that does almost everything right,” Creek said. “He did everything that needed to be done to win games. Constantly. He very rarely made a mistake. … If that kid was 6-4, he’d probably be in the major leagues. He was very, very talented.”

Lemieux played seasons for the Worcester Tornadoes, Sussex Skyhawks and Ottawa Rapids from 2006-08, then joined the Sioux Falls Canaries of the American Association in 2009, where he played with former Red Sox reliever Pat Mahomes Sr., the father of the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback. In 2010 he returned for a final Can-Am season with the Quebec Capitales, finishing his independent baseball career with a .244 average.

“It was challenging. It’s professional baseball without the bells and whistles,” Lemieux said. “It’s quite a grind, and actually, you really meet some awesome people along the way, playing with former major leaguers. … It’s one of those life experiences that you can put in your pocket.”

Even while playing, Lemieux got into the coaching aspect of the sport. He was an assistant at Bowdoin after graduating in 2006 (independent baseball started in the summer, whereas Bowdoin would finish in late spring), and when his days playing pro ball were done, he took over as Maranacook’s head baseball coach, guiding his former team in 2011 and 2012.

“That was a blast,” he said. “Being in town again and helping to teach young guys and be able to do it through my own personal experience, knowing what they’re going through, at least geographically and with the culture of the school. … It was really kind of a surreal experience.”

Lemieux went on to coach at Southern Maine Community College from 2013-16, winning three Yankee Small College Conference championships, when he heard of an opening with the Ottawa Champions back in the Can-Am League. He applied and got the position, coaching under former Astros manager Hal Lanier from 2015-18 and then Sebastien Boucher in 2019. Lemieux was the hitting coach and a base coach with the Champions.

Jared Lemieux played an instrumental role in the Maranacook baseball team’s Class B state championship in 2000. Kennebec Journal file photo

“My favorite part about it was representing the city that I once played for, and I knew baseball could work there in Ottawa,” he said. “But then it’s just getting back in the dugout and the locker room, and competing with men at a professional level. It’s high-pressure intensity, decisions are important, you’ve got to make them right and it happens fast.”

Without the Can-Am League this summer, Lemieux had to find a plan B. Part of that plan was umpiring at a variety of levels throughout southern Maine, which Lemieux said allowed him to view the game from a different angle.

“I enjoy it. I like being out on the diamond. It’s just a different perspective of the game,” he said. “It’s human nature. You’re out there doing the best you can.”

The Southern Maine Men’s Baseball League, however, gave Lemieux a chance to get back on the field as a player from May to September. Teams played games under the lights, in parks like Deering Oaks and The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.

“It gives you that competitive vibe that a lot of people strive to find,” he said. “To be able to have something in my life that gives me that feeling, it’s worth everything.”

Lemieux isn’t sure what the plan is for 2021. He has “irons in the fire,” whether it’s playing in the southern Maine league, umpiring, coaching or taking on a business job in the sport.

It’ll be on or near a diamond, though. Lemieux sees no reason to change that now.

“Baseball’s always had a special place in my professional life,” he said. “I’m not going to let it go. I think I have something to give, with my experiences, to players as they go and grow through the game. … It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s something I enjoy.”

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