SWANTON — In 1961, Dick Skeels and his close friend, Doug Coleman, celebrated an ‘S’ (small) state championship with Swanton High.
“We won that game, it was a big thrill, and we had a great time,” said Skeels, “but I’d still say I enjoyed watching my kids more than I enjoyed my own playing.”
Swanton defeated Richmond, whose ace pitcher hadn’t lost a game all season; Darwin Longway, who pitched for Swanton High, earned the 7-2 win.
“There was a scout from the Dodgers at that game to watch that Richmond pitcher,” recalled Skeels.
Skeels, a senior first baseman, contributed to the Swanton victory with a bases-clearing triple.
Coleman, according to Skeels, could flash the leather at short.
“Dougie was probably one of the best ballplayers, defensively, that I’ve ever seen,” said Skeels. “He never made a bad throw.”
Skeels recalled wearing a batting glove under his mitt, knowing how hard Coleman’s throw would be coming in from short.
Two decades later, Skeels and Coleman celebrated two more state titles, one in 1987 and another in 1988; this time, they were on the sideline.
“Watching my son and those boys play was more fun than anything I ever won,” said Skeels.
Mike Skeels, Dick’s son, and Chris Coleman, Doug’s son, played for MVU in two of the three DI baseball titles.
Skeels recalled Matt Raleigh’s homerun at Centennial in ‘87.
“Matt hit a ball over those center field bleachers; I’ve never seen a ball hit like that,” said Skeels.
A few years later, when Todd and Matt Raleigh (playing for Western Carolina) came to Maine to play a college game, Dick and Mike traveled to watch them play.
“Matt hit a home run over the length of the football field,” explained Skeels.
“When we watched the replay on TV in our hotel room, all the commentators talked about was how long that ball traveled,” said Skeels,” and one of the Maine guys had hit two home runs.”
In 88, the Skeels and Coleman families were back on the sideline, once again watching their sons compete for another DI title. MVU faced a senior-heavy Mount Anthony team.
“The Mount Anthony coach had written something in the paper before the game, and Larry and the boys didn’t like what he said,” Skeels recalled with a grin.
“When MVU beat them in that title game, that was the biggest thrill! And that article was on the minds of those kids. They got focused so much; they weren’t going to lose.”
Skeels recalled Raleigh’s determination in the ‘88 title game.
“Matt just took control of that game. Everyone did their part,” said Skeels, “but he just came through in the clutch.”
Talking about titles, sportsmanship, and the kids he’s watched play, Skeels smiled as he spoke.
“You go through life, and you remember things; I like to remember the good.”