Fairchild, William (2012)
Influenced by the lessons from two legendary figures in Maine baseball history – Jack Butterfield and John Winkin – and inspired by his father’s example, Bill Fairchild was destined for a life in baseball.
Bill’s family moved to Monmouth from Gorham when he was 8. His father, Thomas L. Fairchild, was the principal at Monmouth Academy and a formative influence in his life. Sports, and baseball in particular, were a frequent topic of conversation around the Fairchild dinner table and the famed Fairchild work ethic and penchant for coaching fundamentals was forged by the close father-son relationship.
Bill graduated from Monmouth Academy in 1969 where he pitched and played shortstop, tossing a no-hitter against Bridgton High School and campaigning in the summers for the Winthrop legion team.
Moving on to the University of Maine, Bill gravitated toward the orbit of Jack Butterfield whose reputation was by then solidly established among college baseball coaches. Fairchild was drawn to Butterfield’s tactics and philosophy as a coach and absorbed as much as he could from the legendary mentor. “I took all his classes,” said Fairchild. “I was like a sponge when he talked baseball.”
John Winkin arrived at Maine at the start of Bill’s junior year and further nurtured his coaching aspirations. “John was terrific throughout my career,” remarked Fairchild. “I stayed in touch with him through it all.”
Lessons learned from the legends, Fairchild graduated from UMaine in 1973 and took his first teaching job at Leavitt Junior High School in Turner.
In 1976 the newly formed Oak Hill High School opened its doors to students from Wales, Litchfield and Sabattus and hired Bill Fairchild as a physical education teacher and its first baseball coach. The new school was the perfect launching pad for Bill’s coaching career which spanned 28 years and vaulted him into elite status among Maine’s high school baseball coaches.
His teams compiled a 418-139 won-lost record while copping league championships in the Mountain Valley Conference (’77, ’78, ’79), Mid-Maine Conference (’80, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’95), and the KVAC (’03). The Raiders were Western Maine champions in ’78, ’81, ’86 and ’03, and won Class C state titles in 1978 and 1981 and added a Class B state crown in 2003.
Bill stepped down as baseball coach in 2004 and fully retired from athletic administration duties in 2011. What was the secret of the Fairchild coaching success? Among other things, the emphasis on fundamentals and a matchless work ethic resonated in the Oak Hill communities. The parents worked hard, they expected their kids to work hard, and Bill Fairchild showed them how that approach could lead to winning records. “I liked teaching the game to these kids and letting their work ethic drive their success,” commented Fairchild. “I’ve been fortunate to have a populace of students who have that good work ethic. That was the main thing that kept bringing me to school. If they want to work hard, you’ve got to love it. That’s a coach’s dream.”
Another Fairchild core value: “Talent’s not geographical. If the program is solid, kids from three small communities can compete with anyone.” Not that there weren’t a few bumps in the coaching road. Bill’s plain-spoken, commanding style ruffled a few teenage (and parental) feathers along the way, but his commitment to the kids and the school never wavered and the respect that comes from that overarching philosophy followed.
Maine Baseball Hall of Famer and former Lisbon High School coach George Ferguson (whose son graduated from Oak Hill) paid Fairchild the ultimate compliment: “If my son couldn’t play for me, I’m glad he played for Bill Fairchild. Bill is foremost a great teacher and a great practice coach. He took a bunch of farm kids and turned them into really good, sometimes great, players.”
Bill’s son Tip, an All-American pitcher at USM who rose to the Triple A ranks in the Houston Astros organization said frankly: “I and other players would not be where we are as players or individuals without him. He taught the fundamentals of baseball, but he preached the fundamentals of life as well. I took his advice when I was 4 years old and I took it when I was 26.”
Looks like the Butterfield/Winkin/Fairchild stew is a pretty good recipe for baseball success. The Maine Baseball Hall of Fame proudly opens its doors to Bill Fairchild’s well-deserved induction.