THIS + THAT: Former Terrier now coach of rival team

Former Terrier Mike Howe

“For me, coaching is passing along my knowledge and love of the game, in hopes that others will enjoy the same experiences I have had. Coaching against Mike is always good. I enjoy watching him coach and pass along his passion for the sport to players in another community.”

Bellows Falls baseball coach Bob Lockerby was the author of the quote. Lockerby’s Terriers hosted Mike Howe’s defending state champion Otter Valley Otters last Friday night, under the lights in Bellows Falls and everything about the game was perfect – at least for Otter Valley. In fact, Howe, former Terrier and Post 37 pitching standout, and his team took the Connecticut River Valley by storm last week.

They met Springfield Monday and easily disposed of the Cosmos 13-3. They traveled to Hartford Wednesday and Otters pitcher Josh Beayon tossed a no-hitter in a 12-0 victory. Then on Friday it was in a sense double-trouble as staff ace Payson Williams threw a perfect game versus the Terriers, 27 up, 27 down.

Howe guided his nine to a Division II state title last spring and disposed of Bellows Falls 5-1 in the quarterfinals along the way. Otter Valley athletic director Steve Keith feels Howe has been instrumental in building a strong base for the school’s baseball program.

Keith told us, “Mike gets players playing the game in the summer. He really promotes the sport. I hired him in my second year as AD as the junior carsity coach and he has been the varsity coach for four years now. He holds a big clinic every spring, which draws interest from the younger players. He partners with the area rec directors and encourages players of all ages to play baseball in the summer. He stresses the importance of repetition in the sport and sells that to the players to make themselves better.”

Moving back to Howe’s area ties, the OV coach says, “Coach Lockerby is right,” in reference to the quote I read to him over the phone, which began this piece, going on to say, “That’s what I learned from my coaches in Bellows Falls. Coach Bisbee and Coach Lockerby both taught me how to play the game the right way. Every spring when we start practice inside, we talk about how you hustle on and off the field, how you never show up an opponent, and to play the game hard. Now I’m just passing that along.”

Is there pressure on you and your team, Mike, because you are near the top of the standings and you are the defending champions? The team’s only losses in an 11-3 season are all to Division I teams.

“There is pressure on us every game, but it isn’t because we are looking to repeat. The kids put pressure on themselves. They are just going out to beat the next opponent, whoever that is,” Howe says of his team. He adds, “They are a pleasure to coach. They love the game. They get mad when I have to call off practice.”

Howe was a good pitcher, and I asked if his perfect game pitcher (Williams) drew from who Howe was as a pitcher to help better himself. Howe said, “No. We are complete opposites. I always wore my emotion on my sleeve and he is a quiet kid. We were both competitors, but he doesn’t show hardly any emotion. It was tough to even get him to crack a smile after the perfect game.”

The former pitcher Howe insisted on crediting his catcher for playing a part in the two pitching gems last week. He mentioned he will never forget how important former Terrier catcher Garin Clough was in his pitching success. “Daniel Allen has been a four-year starter and he has a big part in calling pitches in both of those gems.” The coach points out.

There is another thing Howe said that goes even further towards how to play the game the right way. “I like a pitcher to work fast. Get the ball back and throw it. I always worked fast. You can get into a rhythm and your defense stays sharp and ready to play.” If all pitchers were like Howe, there wouldn’t be talk about pitch clocks in the game of baseball at the major league level today.

Bringing one more area reference into the Otter Valley baseball story, Springfield Cosmos first-year baseball coach, Jim Winslow, was one of the centerpieces of Otter Valley’s last State Championship Baseball team prior to Howe’s arrival. The Otters have had very few strong teams over time, but 2012 and 2013 and the past two years, have things headed in a different direction.

Winslow was, by my count, a centerpiece because he was the oldest of three players who just happened to all live in the same house, and he also played the most important position of the three who just happened to command the entire left side of the baseball diamond on those successful teams. The last of which captured the state title. Winslow had younger brothers who played third base and left field. Jim was the shortstop.


Springfield track comment

It was reported in a story in this paper last week that Springfield’s Cadence Wheeler was the male winner of the triple jump in the annual Connecticut Valley Conference Track Meet. This was exciting for a number of reasons, including the fact that Wheeler should be a constant for the Cosmos Track program in the coming years as he is just a sophomore.

Wheeler’s coach Jim Fogg told me, “Cadence rose above the conditions on a day that it was extremely difficult to compete in.”

Wheeler was the performer of the day for Springfield as he also brought home points in the long jump, 5th, and the javelin, 6th.


Legion baseball

At one time or another all the towns that host high schools in the area have fielded a Legion team. This summer Bellows Falls and Ludlow will be the only two locales to offer competition. Bellows Falls will draw from Fall Mountain and have a couple grandfathered players from Windsor and Green Mountain, while Ludlow will attract the rest of our reporting area with current players from Springfield and Green Mountain headed that way.

On the Legion front, Rutland’s Bill Flory passed away a few weeks ago. I knew the longtime Post 31 Legion coach who brought Rutland to 14 state title games in his 30-plus years of coaching. He had me by a few years on the age scale, but to see 90 years listed in his obituary was a surprise. The last time I saw Bill was at last year’s state Legion tournament in Rutland. He still attended those affairs regularly and was still serving on the Vermont State Legion Baseball Committee, as well as the Vermont Principals Association Baseball Committee at his death. Rutland won nine of those title games in Flory’s tenure.

The Southern Vermont Legion League will be comprised of eight teams this summer. In addition to the two area teams, there will be Rutland, Hartford, Brattleboro, Lakes Region (Fair Haven area), Bennington, and Randolph. There will be seven teams in the Northern Division.

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