Black Bear baseball is perhaps the most iconic program in Orono. UMaine has made 16 NCAA tourney appearances, been to 7 College World Series and has produced a fair share of pros. As a difficult 2019 season winds down, I wonder what can be done to help baseball regain some regional if not national significance?
I mentioned the 7 CWS trips. But there have been none since Ronald Reagan was in office. As for the 16 NCAA tourney appearances, only four have occurred since 1993. The Black Bears have only played in an NCAA regional once in more than a decade.
If you divide the seasons into five year windows, these recent five years have the lowest average win total since the mid 1970’s. Here’s the trend for average wins per season since 2000:
2015-2019: 20.8 *
Obviously this season is still underway but Maine is just 14-29 with four regular season games remaining. Seems likely the Black Bears won’t get to the 20 win plateau for just the third time since 1974.
Maine used to host big name schools and draw thousands of fans. Now a couple hundred might show up to take advantage of the free tickets as Maine no longer charges for this sport.
John Winkin would be screaming mad.
I concede that if any team in Orono has a database of legit excuses for lack of success, its baseball.
Unlike the primary excuse tossed around by men’s hockey supporters, its not a facilities issue. But it could be just about everything else.
Eastern Maine is not an easy place to play any spring sport, as we have seen this year. Many other schools in the northeast have cut the sport. The vast majority of Maine’s games are on the road which means lots of flights and thousands of miles on a bus.
And of course the NCAA changed the post season format to make it much harder to get to Omaha.
But these are not new issues. Every recent coach at Maine as faced these challenges. And yet they have at least been able to compete in the America East Conference.
In recent years that has not been the case as Maine is annually in the middle of the pack. This year the Black Bears are 10-10 in conference play, which is good for 5th place out of 7 teams.
I’m sure there are ways we can help bring this program back to a higher level of success. Of course it comes down to resources, aka money.
I suggest someone should take a look at the schedule as this year Maine had one of the toughest non conference schedules in the country. How does that make any sense? Going 0-7 against #6 Florida state and #7 Mississippi state and losing 16-0 at Alabama is not helpful. I have no issues with playing lots of games in the south, but maybe against comparable competition? It is reasonable to think that if the early schedule has been a little easier, this team could have made it to 20 wins.
I wonder if it might make some sense to play a series at Hadlock field in Portland? Maybe a game against D-3 national power University of Southern Maine, and a series with another D-1 team in New England?
I also wrote a blog back in February about how, like Northeastern and Boston College, I think the Black Bears deserve to play a game each spring at Jet Blue Park against the Red Sox.
What else can be done? Less than a decade ago Maine was winning more than 30 games per year. How do we get back to those good and not so old days?
There’s not much more enjoyable than baseball at beautiful Mahaney Diamond on warm spring day. The Black Bears play their final three homes games of the year this coming weekend. Pop in and let me know if you have any additional ideas.