Palmer, Mark (2011)
A life-long devotion toward the sport is a satisfying journey and the efforts will be recognized when Mark Palmer is inducted in to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, this summer.
Palmer has worn numerous hats throughout five decades of dedication on the diamond, however, his desire to share his vast knowledge continues to be a driving force. This transformation may have tempted in recent years, but the enjoyment received from continuing to remain in competitive environments isn’t taken for granted.
“It was toward the end of my Pine Tree League playing days,”Palmer said, reflecting on when his demeanor changed. “That set the tone for how I am today. Now, don’t get me wrong because everyone wants to win. But, I came to the conclusion that although winning is better than losing, it’s not the end of the world.”
Palmer, a Mexico graduate, began playing PTL on a talent-rich Rumford team in 1970 and played until 1995. He made his mark as a junk ball pitcher who earned a fierce reputation for accuracy and being able to locate the baseball around the strike zone. This was enhanced by Palmer’s cool-collective attitude that allowed him to hold emotions in check; which prevented opponents from realizing Palmer was on the ropes.
“Good things happen to good people,”Bitsy Ionta said, a MBHOF pitcher. “Mark has always been a class act, whether you play with him or against him. He respects his opponents and especially the integrity of the game.”
Palmer won PTL championships with Rumford in 1973, Mexico ’74 and ‘85 and ‘87 Rumford, again. He and younger brother Matt ran the Mexico Sombreros for several years at Virgin Field (now Recreation Park).
Palmer formed Rumford entry in the Senior League, winning the 2000 championship and now 59, continues to play and pitch for Rumford Expos in the re-named PTL.
“It was always nice to have Dad around,”son Ryan Palmer said, who will present his father at the 2011 induction ceremonies at the Portland Holiday Inn By The Bay, in July. “He was patient taught me the strategies of the game. Up until high school he was pretty much the only baseball coach I ever had. I had Chris Olson my first year of middle school, but before that, it was always Dad.”
Over the years, the opportunity to play against and beside the competitors has drawn-up mutual respect and friendships. It has been a family affair- being teammates with brothers Matt and Noel- while the proudest moments has been playing with sons Travis, Ryan and Marcus.
“Unlike other teams, the PTL is weekly thing,”Palmer said, who has enjoyed years with Ionta, Bob Russell, Steve LaPointe (MBHOF) and Ed Paterson. “You see guys year after year and they become more than just acquiesces, as a matter of fact I consider Rick (Whitney), Jerry (Verrill) and (Dick) Decato from West Paris as good friends.”
Palmer grew up in humble beginnings and played baseball on Mexico streets, until George Harkness’ Pit became a Field of Dreams at the end of Granite Street. His mother Leah served as President of eight neighborhood Little League teams and father Stan was always supportive.
Palmer has had an extensive coaching career, Greater Rumford Community Center, 11 championships since 1988 in Little League and Babe Ruth; American Legion and assistant coach at Mountain Valley and Mount Abram H.S.
“My philosophy is simple,”Palmer said. “Just go out and have fun and I’ve had a lot of good groups of kids who have been able to do it. Still, at the end of the season I hope they think back that they learned some things about playing baseball. If I hear that ten I can say I did my job.”
The punch and Judy hitter has multiple stories to tell that occurred playing baseball, however, two in particular stand out. In the latter innings of a high school conference championship game, against Lisbon, Palmer reached third and scored the winning run when Mark Burns laid down a suicide-squeeze bunt. Palmer had always possessed WTP (Warning Track Power), but had never been able to clear the yard. Finally, a few years ago, in the season finale Palmer used an aluminum bat to hit a ball out of Hosmer Field.
“I remember those well,”Palmer said, with a sparkle in his eyes. “(Coach) Tom Farrell) called the play and I’m no fleet of foot, but I almost beat the pitched ball to the plate. The home-run ball I hit was a high-inside fastball from Dave Lafleur.”
Palmer has been married to wife Stephanie over 30 years and employed at New Page Mill, Rumford in Quality Control 35 years.
Lewiston Sun Journal Posted August 8, 2005
Young at heart America’s pastime never gets old for these guys
RUMFORD – The sport of baseball is regarded as America’s pastime because of the memories and pleasures it provides.
Those attributes have continued to drive five veteran ball players in carrying on their love for the game.
Bitsy Ionta, Bob Russell, Mark Palmer, Steve LaPointe and Ed Paterson have enjoyed playing baseball for more than a combined 200 years.
The five friends played with and against each other for decades in the former Pine Tree League. They are currently together again as teammates on the Rumford Cardinals entry in the Men’s Senior Baseball League.
Ionta, a member of the Maine Baseball Hall Of Fame, is the elder statesman who just recently hit his 70th birthday. Although his skills aren’t what they were, he serves as an inspiration to those who simply say they won’t or can’t get out and play ball.
“It is amazing that Bitsy can still do what he does at his age,” said Paterson, a mere 45. “His passion seems to be fueled by the desire to do something that few people have accomplished, and because he can. It is impressive, and it has definitely rubbed off on all of us. It is great to be around a bunch of guys that have similar backgrounds and interests and be able to relate.”