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“It feels great.” Players, coaches, and umpires get ready for a unique high school season

Bangor's preseason game Saturday was the first time the Rams have played since 2019 and the first time playing without a home plate umpire

BANGOR, Maine — The sights and sounds of baseball returned to Mansfield Stadium in Bangor Saturday when Bangor High School played Bucksport in a preseason game.

“With all the conditions happening, and missing a year of baseball, I’m just so glad for the kids that they were able to get out here and play," Bangor head coach David Morris said.

It was the first time seniors Bradley McLaughlin and James Neel took the diamond together as high school teammates since 2019.

“I thought it was going to be a little different with all the COVID stuff going on, but it still feels like baseball," McLaughlin said.

“Being on the field for the first time, it was really anticipated, a long time coming," Neel added.

Lon Bagely took the field for the second time during the preseason and wiped off home plate and called balls and strikes, but this umpire wasn't doing so from behind the catcher. New Maine Principals' Association guidelines state the home plate umpire must work from behind the pitcher's mound.

“It’s been going well so far, we all have some adjustments to make," Bagley said.

Although Bangor played John Bapst in the second game of the doubleheader, Bagely said umpires rotated every game to give everyone a chance to practice the new way of calling balls and strikes before the regular season starts next week.

“The big thing is being as consistent as we can, we want to give both teams a fair shake, both the pitcher and the batter," he added.

Both McLaughlin and Neel thought it was a little different not having an umpire behind the plate, but didn't seem to be bothered by it.

Credit: NCM

Fans, of course, were masked in the stands due to COVID-19 guidelines, but for the first time this year, they are allowed to watch high school games. Regardless of the new protocols, on the field or off, these coaches and officials want to do anything they can to give the kids a season.

“Whatever rule changes they have, whatever restrictions they may have, I think everyone is trying to do the best they can do," Morris said. "We just don’t sweat that small stuff, we’re just glad we’re out here playing baseball.”

“We’re going to do whatever we have to do to get this season in and make sure these kids get to play ball," Bagley added.

Credit: NCM

As for a prediction on the Rams season, McLaughlin said the team has a lot of energy and swung the bat consistently in its first test against Bucksport which he said is a good sign for the future. 

Bangor begins its season on April 20.