Rick Lashua (2019)
Rick Lashua was as competitive and self-driven as a baseball player that you would find on the University of Maine at Orono (UMO) Black Bears Baseball Team from 1981 through 1984. He was one of the chief catalysts of a team that earned four straight trips to Omaha, Nebraska to play in the prestigious Division I College World Series. Rick and his teammates were well-known not just in Maine and New England, but also at a national level competing annually against the likes of universities such as Miami, Texas, Stanford and Oklahoma State. The team had fans in Maine on the edge of their seats as they followed their success in the local newspapers and highlights on the evening news.
Rick grew up in a small rural community of Danville. He is the seventh of eight children born to Martin and Beverly Lashua. Strong work ethic and commitment to family were instilled in him and modeled by his parents with how they provided for their family.
Many of Rick’s first sporting ventures came through the neighborhood pick-up games with his siblings and friends. During these times, he often would play against others who were several years older than him. The guys never took it easy on him and challenged him to get better or not play. The grassroots of Rick’s athletic development were well established by competing daily with his siblings and neighborhood friends.
Auburn Suburban Little League (ASLL) was well known as a youth baseball powerhouse in the 1970’s. ASLL is where Rick fell in love with the game of baseball. He enjoyed everything about the game including the practices, repetitions, competition, learning from successes and failures, and most notably the time with his teammates including Jim Turcotte and Rusty Case. His 15-year old senior little league team had a good showing at the New England tournament. Rick credits his senior little league coach, Al McCarthy, for showing confidence in him and being a great mentor during his ASLL days.
Arriving as a student athlete at Edward Little (E.L.) presented its challenges. Rick began competing on the gridiron playing football in the fall and on the diamond with baseball in the spring. He caught the eye of E.L. varsity baseball coach Dick Osgood. Coach Osgood saw enough potential in Rick to start him in left field as a sophomore and bat him fifth or sixth in the lineup.
In 1979, his junior year at E.L., Rick won the Telegram League Triple Crown (led the league in average, homeruns and runs batted in). College coaches and professional scouts were taking notice. Rick had caught the eye of UMO Coach John Winkin who had established a very good college baseball program within the state of Maine.
As a Senior in 1980, Rick was the recipient of many intentional and “non-intentional” walks out of the third spot in the batting order. He still batted .412 and was named to the first team all-state baseball team for the second consecutive year.
That summer after his senior year, Rick played on the New Auburn legion baseball team for Coach Al Carson.
Coach Winkin offered Rick a spot on the UMO roster. Due to the very limited scholarship money available to the team, financial aid and family contribution would be the primary sources of funding Rick’s education. During his senior year, scouts from a few professional organizations had watched him play. Rick considered looking into the potential of signing professionally as an option.
The Pittsburgh Pirates invited Rick to attend an invitation only tryout. Rick attended and left a very favorable impression with the coaches. The Pirates sent up one of their organization officials to watch Rick play in a few legion games and attempt to sign him. Coach Winkin caught wind of the Pirates interest. He urged Rick to attend UMO with the school finding additional aid to assist with the financial burden. Rick decided that attending UMO was the better decision as he turned down the Pirates offer.
Fall baseball began and Rick began building relationships with his new baseball teammates. The college team’s drive for excellence fit right in with Rick’s will to compete daily. He earned the starting assignment in centerfield which he would keep a strong hold on for all four years.
During his four years at UMO, the team was highly successful with a team record of 129-63 and appearing in the College World Series (CWS) all four years. Rick was the leadoff hitter for three of those years while having a career batting average of .337. Upon graduating from UMO, Rick held 11 school records, nine New England Division I records, and had been named the 1984 Division 1 New England Player of the Year.
Maine played a very difficult schedule including their annual spring trips. The University of Miami (Fla.) (national champions in both 1981 and 1982) was always an opponent on the trips and later in the season during the CWS for three of the years. Most of the opponents that Maine played on the trips were teams that were at an advantage of practicing and playing outside while UMO was confined to indoor practices due to weather conditions. The team found a formula for excelling at the fundamentals inside that allowed them to compete with their opponents. There were several big wins for the program during the four years. The team earned trips to the CWS all four years.
In 1981, the team advanced to the CWS, but lost to eventual national champion Miami (Fla.) and then South Carolina to finish the season 32-14. In 1982 regular season wins included against #2 ranked Stanford, Washington and Wisconsin. In the CWS the Black Bears defeated Cal State Fullerton and Stanford again before losing to eventual national champion Miami (Fla.). The team settled for a national third place finish and a 35-13 record. In 1983, the team advanced again to the CWS but lost its first two games to Michigan and Arizona State. In 1984, Rick’s senior year included a fourth straight trip to Omaha. The regular season included big wins against Oklahoma and two wins each against both Michigan and Miami (Fla.). During the CWS, UMO lost its first two games to Oklahoma State and Miami (Fla.) finishing the season 33-20.
In 1982, UMO defeated #2 ranked Stanford during a west coast trip. Rick hit his first homerun which gave the team the lead. The game situation appeared to call for a sacrifice bunt. After short conference with Coach Winkin, Rick was given one strike to work with by his coach prior to bunting. He played the situation up that he would be bunting. Rick even squared to bunt when the pitcher attempted a pick-off to first base to see if he may tip off his intentions. When he got the next fastball, Rick cashed in and hit a three run homer. He was always thinking of what the game may call for and staying one step ahead of his opponent.
Always up for a challenge, Rick decided to become a switch hitter for his senior season. Remarkably against Division I pitching, Rick was very successful with his new skill. His batting average for the 1984 season was .420. Rick hit four homeruns from each side of the plate during the season.
After his Black Bear playing days were over, Rick spent a summer playing with the New York Yankees Minor League Affiliate Oneonta Yankees in the New York-Penn League. He enjoyed the summer playing ball and learned a lot about the game. The coaching staff included notable baseball names with Manager Buck Showalter, Third Base Coach Brian Butterfield, Hitting Coach Bucky Dent and Pitching Coach Hoyt Wilhelm.
Rick worked for years in the automobile industry. He met his future wife, Carol, while selling her a car. They have two children Drew and Emmy. Both of the kids were active in sports in which Rick coached them from early youth playing days. Rick was a board member of the Auburn Suburban Little League Association for nine years where he gave countless hours coaching baseball and softball as well as tending to the fields and doing the “odd jobs” to improve the facility for the kids. Rick assisted the baseball team at Edward Little High School for seven years. He also coached football in the Auburn community for nine years. He was successful in coaching, making it enjoyable for youth athletes and giving back to the community in which he gained so much from during his childhood playing days.
Rick has played and coached a game that he fell in love with as a young boy. Baseball has given him many opportunities in life and he has given back to the game out of his appreciation and respect for the game. Out of all the accomplishments he had garnered, Rick appreciates and is thankful for the memories, relationships and friends that he has made along his baseball journey.