WESTBROOK – Mike Rutherford remembers how his parents used to watch all of his games when he played for Portland High. Wanting to do the same for his daughter and stepson, and knowing that would be difficult with his job as the Westbrook baseball coach, Rutherford resigned last week after four seasons with the Blue Blazes.
“It came down to family,” Rutherford said.
“I know how much it meant to me to have my parents at my games. I tried to envision ways I could still coach and get to their games. I knew I couldn’t do both and be fair to Westbrook and my family. I’ve enjoyed my time at Westbrook. The players were great along with the administration and the parents. I’m disappointed we didn’t win a state baseball championship,” he said.
The Blue Blazes lost in the Western Class A final in three of Rutherford’s four seasons.
All three of them were close games.
“A pitch here or a hit there could have made the difference in all three,” he said.
Rutherford had a 59-20 record at Westbrook. Prior to Westbrook, he was the Portland baseball coach for 12 seasons. He won a state title in 1998 with the Bulldogs.
“Westbrook was a good change for me,” he said.
Rutherford said he isn’t leaving the position because the baseball talent has run dry with the graduation of the likes of Scott Heath, Sean Murphy, Zach Collett, and Jake and Zach Gardiner. Quite the contrary, he said.
“Westbrook has some real good talent coming up,” he said. “The junior American Legion team won the Northeast regional title. I would have loved to coach those kids.”
Rutherford’s daughter, Kaitlin, is a sophomore at Portland while his stepson, Domenic, is a freshman.
She plays softball, while his stepson plays football and baseball.
As the freshman football coach at Portland, Rutherford coached his stepson this fall.
He said that he wants to stay active as a coach, but has no desire to be a head coach at this point.
“If the freshman baseball job opened up at Portland, I would be interested,” he said. “I’ve been coaching Babe Ruth baseball and will probably coach Junior Legion next summer.”
Westbrook Athletic Director Todd Sampson said Rutherford did “a tremendous job” with all facets of the Blue Blazes’ baseball program, including both American Legion and Junior Legion.
“He had a lot of success and he’s going to be missed,” Sampson said.
“Whoever takes over the position will have big shoes to fill. Mike has children in high school and he wants to see them participate. You have to respect that decision.”
Sampson said the head varsity baseball position is officially open and he hopes to have a new coach in place by Dec. 1.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]