Cates, Steve (2008)
Sometimes, a high school or collegiate athlete is so dominant in a time period that the accolades he earns include not only rave reviews of what the athlete did accomplish, but also the enthusiastic speculation about what other marvels “might have been”. Great long-distance shooters in basketball in the 1970’s and 1980’s are often discussed in terms of – imagine if the three point shot had been invented when they played? Imagine how many more points they would have scored!
Steve Cates, native of Cutler, Maine, and left handed pitcher extraordinaire, is one such athlete. Canvas a group of veteran Washington County baseball watchers, and you hear many things about Cates, but none more prominent than some “imagine what could have been’s”.
Willie Corbett, an outstanding player in his own right, remembers Cates’ talents well, and recalls coaching the fireballer.
“If you’ve looked at his high school record at Washington Academy, you know that Steve was ‘almost unhittable’ at that level of competition” Corbett says. It is fair to say that in the past 50 years of high school baseball in Eastern Maine, there has not been a more dominant pitcher. It is unfortunate that a state champion was not determined in those years as his pitching alone would have allowed Washington Academy to compete for that title, (regardless) of school size.”
Omar Norton, another fine ballplayer from Down East, and a member of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, demonstrates much enthusiasm when talking about the days of Cates. Norton says that Cates had unparalleled success as a left-handed pitcher who possessed both a very good fastball and a sharp breaking curveball. Add to that good control and a great pick off move to first base, and you had a player responsible for many Quoddy League championships in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s.
“Steve had a long career with the Cutler Cardinals in Washington County,” Norton said. “That team was managed by Maine Baseball Hall of Famer Neil Corbett, and Steve played with that team from 1966 through the late 1980’s.”
Norton says that, “Ironically enough, one of Cutler’s greatest game ever was a game that he lost.” Steve suffered a loss in the 1980’s against a Bangor team in the summer that was made up of guys who had been UMO players, playing on college world series teams. He threw a four hitter against this Bangor team, and lost 4-3. This was a team that had guys like Dick Devarney, Joe Ferris and Joe Stubbs on it. Just an incredible performance.
Stephen began his illustrious baseball career as an ace southpaw for the Washington Academy Raiders in 1965, Norton wrote in a nominating letter to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. “He pitched four years at the Academy with only two losses and they came very early in his high school career, a remarkable feat in itself. He once struck out ten consecutive Calais High School hitters to begin a championship game, a record that still stands at Washington Academy, Washington County and possibly even the state”, Norton says. “Steve pitched one no-hitter and never allowed more than three hits in any game he pitched in high school. He had a two hit, 16 strike out game against an undefeated, Class ‘L’ Orono team, which many considered the best team in the state. Steve also pitched a three hitter, with 14 strikeouts against a previously undefeated Sumner High School team. He finished his senior year with a 0.33 ERA”, Norton says.
During his senior year at Washington Academy, Cates was scouted by the New York Mets and was invited to report to Jacksonville, Florida, but he chose to remain in Cutler.