WATERVILLE — The kids on this field weren’t even of this world when Keith Foulke made the play that ended 86 years of a region’s pain.

Foulke, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox from 2004-06, is best known in these parts for stepping on first base to record the final out of the 2004 World Series. It’s a moment entrenched in the hearts and minds of many in New England, even for those who weren’t around to see it.

“I think the cool thing about being part of New England lore is the fact that it covers such a broad region,” Foulke said Thursday at Waterville’s Purnell Wrigley Field. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Maine, and people always remember that. It’s great to come back up here.”

Tales of past playing days were regaled all across the replica ballpark as more than a half-dozen former Major League Baseball players gathered to lead young players in a free skills clinic. The clinic marked a soft opening to the Cal Ripken Major World Series, which is set to take over Waterville for the next week and a half.

The skills clinic was free and open to all players though most of those in attendance were primarily from the 12 teams qualified to compete in the tournament. Former MLB players led various stations that helped young players build on fielding, throwing, hitting and other fundamental aspects of the game.

“When you have the younger players like today, they have to understand the game and be able to have fun,” Foulke said. “With the older kids, you try to fine-tune their game the older they get. There’s also messages about life; it’s fun being a ballplayer, but it’s not easy.”


Ex-players present included Foulke, Hall-of-Famer Fergie Jenkins, Charlie Beattie, Tom Bergmeier, Kevin Buckley, Ryan Reid and Mike Torrez. Red Sox Hall of Fame member Luis Tiant and former New York Yankees manager Stump Merrill joined the party later for a golf outing at Waterville Country Club.

Those players happily signed autographs and posed for photos with the youngsters after the conclusion of the clinics. Although they were brought in to be mentors for the players participating, they also, in some cases, rubbed off on one another with their experience and expertise.

Former Texas Rangers player Kevin Buckley instructs Gwendolyn Lecompte, 7, on the finer points of hitting Thursday at Purnell Little Wrigley Field in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It’s interesting to hear some of the old-timers and some of the guys who really played,” said Reid, a Deering High School alum who appeared in two games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. “Their résumés and their baseball knowledge is through the roof. Even for me in my position, not just for those guys on the field, you take what you can to pass on.

In addition to Reid, Beattie (South Portland High School), Buckley (University of Maine) and Merrill (Brunswick High School and UMaine) have roots to the sport in Maine. Although the Deering alum lives in Sarasota, Florida, now, he was thrilled for the chance to return to his home state for the weekend.

“To get invited to an event like this with all of the people here today is just awesome,” Reid said. “My entire family is from Portland, so I’ll make any excuse to come to Maine. I think this is the best excuse yet, outside of coming back to see family.”

The clinic was the first of two days of pre-tournament get-togethers at the Cal Ripken World Series before the games begin over the weekend. More skills activities will be held at Purnell Wrigley Field on Friday, followed by a home-run derby featuring the top hitters from the participating teams.

“That’s going to be the thing to see,” said Alfond Youth Center CEO Ken Walsh. “These kids are going to be blasting those balls out of here. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and it’s going to continue what we did today where it’s a great lead-in to the games.”

Then, at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, opening ceremonies will be held at the field. All six teams will be in action that day with Waterville hosting East Side, Indiana, in the first game at 10 a.m. Jenkins will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to that contest, and some of the other former Major Leaguers will also be sticking around.

“When you become a ballplayer, and you get paid and play at the high levels and all that stuff, part of your responsibility is to give back to the younger generation,” Foulke said. “It’s a sport that we all love, so we have to ensure the players coming up know how to play the right way.”

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