Keeping diamond dreams alive

HOULTON, Maine — They may not have any home games, but that has not stopped a group of dedicated baseball players from southern Aroostook County from enjoying their time on the diamond this summer.

Coached by Montie Graham, with assistance from Chad Thompson and PJ Harvey, a group of about 12 young men from the greater Houlton area has played a couple of games so far this summer, with more slated to take place.

Chad Thompson delivers a pitch during batting practice June 24 in Hodgdon. (Joseph Cyr)

“There are no games sanctioned by the American Legion league this summer, but there is still a group of teams playing baseball,” Graham said. “They already missed out on high school baseball, so we had to do something.”

Normally, many of the players would have been playing as part of the Junior American Legion League with games played in the Bangor region. But with the onset of COVID-19, which wiped out the high school baseball season, official league-organized games are few and far between this summer.

The Houlton squad plays games against teams in the Downeast region, featuring groups from Baileyville, Calais and Machias. They were offered a slot to be an official team in the Downeast league, but Graham said he declined due to the excessive amount of travel that would have been required to play teams from Belfast, Searsport, Camden and Waldoboro as part of the Midcoast League.

Montie Graham, right, places the ball on a tee during practice June 24 for his summer baseball team. (Joseph Cyr)

The team plays just once a week and will continue to do so through the first week of August. Regularly, players would have to be 17 or younger to play, but because it is not a league-affiliated season, those athletes who turn 18 at some point in the summer can still play, Graham said. 

Featuring the first organized sports activity students have been able to participate in since winter basketball season, the league is doing its part to keep the players safe. The coach added that all of the necessary precautions are being taken during games, with plenty of hand sanitizer and no hand shakes or high-fives by the players.

“We do our best to stay six feet apart,” he added. “We want all of our kids to feel safe.”

Drew Duttweiler takes a swing during batting practice June 24 in Hodgdon. Duttweiler is one of a dozen athletes in southern Aroostook County who is playing baseball this summer. (Joseph Cyr)

For the participating athletes, the pick up games offer an opportunity to at least spend a little bit of time on the baseball diamond.

“I was looking forward to the high school season, but I’m glad that I still get to play a little summer ball,” said Silas Graham, the son of Montie.

“We’re keeping it very low-key,” the coach added. “If a player can’t make it to practice because they have to work, that’s fine.”


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