Coutts, Michael (2009)
MAINE AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL LUMINARY IS IN LATEST INDUCTEE CLASS FOR MAINE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
A quick glance at the baseball resume of Mike Coutts compels the thought not just that “He belongs” in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. Instead, “What has taken so long?!”
Coutts, who played schoolboy baseball in Auburn and graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in l98l, is what social commentators in the l960s and 70s would have called “the Howard Johnson’s” of baseball coaches--his track record includes many different varieties, levels and geographic areas of baseball coaching. If Howard Johnson’s and its famous orange-roofed roadside restaurants had more varieties and types of ice cream than could be listed on the counter blackboard, Coutts has probably coached baseball at most any place you can think of. His senior year at Orono, he captained a team that made a trip to the College World Series. A third baseman, he hit .319 that year, and was among team leaders with 43 hits, 32 runs, 23 base on balls, and 24 RBIs.
He then soon jumped into the coaching world:
*assistant baseball coach, UMO, to John Winkin, l987--93;
*associate head baseball coach, UMO, to John Winkin, l993-97;
*head coach, Cape Cod Baseball League in Massachusetts, Cotuit Kettlers, l995--2002;
*head coach, Alaska College Summer League, Peninsula Oilers, 2005
*head coach, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Sanford Mainers, summer 2007.
Oddly enough, however, if you really want to capture the essence of Coutts, set aside those gloried stops in the baseball coaching world, and glimpse what he took on voluntarily in the summer of 2006 --head coach, struggling American Legion baseball team sponsored by Libby-Mitchell AL Post 76 of Scarborough.
A back and forth between the Post Commander and the Post Baseball Committee search group tells the story:
Commander: “So who do we have for candidates for the head coaching position?”
Baseball Committee: “A fellow named Mike Coutts. Coached at UMO with John Winkin. Coached in the Cape Cod Summer League with top college players for several years. Coached last summer in the Alaska Summer League with more top college players.”
Commander: “So why does he want to coach a bunch of high school kids with Libby-Mitchell Post?”
Baseball Committee: “Well, we don’t actually know yet; we haven’t met with him. But he did just move to town.”
Commander: “Oh, son on the team?”
Baseball Committee: “No. His son is in kindergarten, I think.”
Commander: “Nephew? Cousin on the team?”
Baseball Committee: “Not that I know of.”
Commander: “Well, why in the world would he want to do this, and why should we pursue this?”
Baseball Committee: “We have some letters and phone calls from people who know him, played with him in college or summers, people who have coached with him. Apparently, the guy just loves baseball, loves to coach, loves kids. One guy said if he doesn’t coach Libby-Mitchell this summer, he will certainly have other opportunities, and will be somewhere, in some dugout, at some baseball field, coaching kids.”
Commander: “Okay, hire him.”
Baseball Committee: “Aren’t we required to interview him first?”
Commander: “Oh...yeah...right. Well, let’s interview him. Then hire him.”
The Post hired Coutts to hire a young team in summer 2006. The team struggled. It was saddled by injuries, and a downturn in talent. Despite that, Coutts represented the Post well.
“The word we got from everybody was that Coach Coutts did the job you would want a coach to do. Ran a good team. The kids behaved. They played hard. They were respectful of umpires, other teams. You would never tell when they showed up for a game, or when they left the dugout at the end of a game, whether the team won or lost, or whether they were having a good year,” said former Libby-Mitchell Commander Dave Dolloff. “First class operation.”
When the Sanford Mainers came calling the following winter, Coutts was gone--and the loss was Libby-Mitchell’s.
Former UMO player Nick Caiazzo offers a strong endorsement of Coutts.
“I have had the chance to be a player for Coach Coutts at UMaine, and was able to play four and a half years of professional baseball. I can honestly say he was one of the best teachers of the game that I have come across in my time playing,” said Caiazzo, now a business partner of Coutts in Frozen Ropes in Portland, in his letter nominating Coutts for induction in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
Caiazzo says Coutts legacy to baseball in the state of Maine does not end with his playing career at UMO, or in his impressive and varied coaching resume.
“Mike can teach any ability of player--both oys and girls. That is a rare quality.” said Caiazzo.
Todd Cifelli echoes many of these sentiments about Coutts. “I had the privilege also of playing for Coach Coutts at Orono. While his impact as a coach and player is outstanding, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mike Coutts is how he has been a driving force to promote baseball within the state of Maine,” said Cifelli, now at Lewiston High. “Whether it is thru Frozen Ropes and teaching kids...or being the head of the Maine Baseball Coaches Association...he is constantly trying to find ways to encourage youngsters to play the wonderful game of baseball.”
Kevin Fifeld, co-owner of Frozen Ropes with Coutts, chimed in with similar comments in his nominating letter as well. “Mike eats, sleeps, breathes and lives to provide opportunities for youth baseball. He is more passionate about baseball than any person that I have ever met.” Fifeld noted that Coutts was the initiator of the Maine High School Senior All Star Game, which annually pits the best players in the state against each other, and also against kids from New Hampshire. “Mike’s mission is quite simply to provide the best opportunities for players of all levels,” Fifeld added. “He has the passion. He wants everyone to experience what baseball can teach us.”
Coutts is married, and lives with his wife, Lynn, a former standout UMO softball player, in Scarborough with their two children.
His induction is an honor for him, and his family and friends, and also for American Legion baseball in Maine, which has thrived for more than 50 years because of the involvement of individuals such as Mike Coutts.