Sarah McLean’s teammates couldn’t see her eyes behind her sunglasses. They couldn’t see her mouth working or hear the words spoken from behind the baseball glove she raised for cover.
But they knew. McLean’s pop-off valve was working again. The sparkplug shortstop for the University of Southern Maine softball team was throwing sparks.
“I don’t want to say she was intense,” said Katie True Bisbo, a teammate and roommate. “But whenever that glove went up to her mouth …”
Bisbo laughed. She presents McLean for induction into the USM Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. Some 10 years after they graduated, Bisbo gets to talk about the McLean she knows. There should be more laughter. McLean has learned to turn her frustration playing and coaching women’s softball on its head.
She has written, developed and acted in a new Web series about a professional softball player who attacks an umpire, gets suspended by the league and must move back into her parents’ home.
She gets a job as the softball coach at her old high school, where she’s observed by an anger management therapist. For every flash of temper, Coach Megan O’Malley, played by McLean, gets a strike. After three strikes, well, you know what happens.
The name of the series of five-minute episodes to be shown? Why, “3 Strikes,” of course. You can find the pilot at www.funnyordie.com/videos/3417811ea4/3-strikes-pilot. Watch for Coach O’Malley’s first appearance at practice wearing a USM T-shirt.
Is all this biographical? McLean is coy. She’d rather say she was inspired by her career as a player and coach.
“I remember Sarah as being very intense,” said Al Bean, the USM athletic director. “She definitely didn’t like to lose.”
McLean majored in history but selected theater as her minor. Bisbo teased her friend. “What are you going to do with that, re-enact battle scenes or something?”
After graduation, McLean returned to her hometown of Portsmouth, R.I., and was an assistant high school softball coach for six years. Acting and improvisation comedy lured her to Los Angeles about four years ago. She hasn’t yet struck gold and takes jobs such as a promotions assistant for a classic rock radio station to help pay bills.
So women’s softball doesn’t draw much of an audience in real life. McLean looks at it this way: She has an open field. The world of female athletes and the games they play really hasn’t been touched. The plan is to stream nine episodes of five minutes each over three seasons beginning next spring.
Think “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie about the actual All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that existed too briefly during and after World War II. Add a touch of “The Bad News Bears.” You’ve got a peek at how McLean’s mind works.
She’s a fan of Madonna but relates more to Dottie, the Geena Davis character in “A League of Their Own.” McLean is also tall, a lanky 5-foot-10, and may have been the tallest shortstop in the Little East Conference when she played.
“Why are you pointing out how tall I am? I had very good range,” said McLean. “I wish people would talk about my defense. It’s always my hitting.”
McLean’s humor is wry, almost to the point of being sardonic.
In photos, her small, tight grin seems to indicate she’s on the verge of laughing or smacking someone upside their head.
“I’d say that’s Sarah,” said Bisbo, a 5-foot-4 infielder from Massachusetts who now lives in New Hampshire. “She was hard to read, especially when she wore those sunglasses. She was an incredible player — and she played tennis, too.
“I saw her doing improv in Rhode Island. She’s very good.”
McLean comes back East to see her family regularly. She returns to Maine.
“I still have so many friends there. The campus looks the same. The people are the same. Al Bean is still there. Bonnie Brown-Denico (the softball coach then) is still there. Gary Fifield (the women’s basketball coach). It doesn’t feel like 10 years.”
Joining McLean in the 2013 class of inductees is Kim Brewer Griger (2005) from women’s track, Meg Cressler (2005) from women’s basketball, Mike Fish (1995) from men’s soccer, Phil Gerolstein (1998) from men’s hockey, Jason Levecque (2006) from men’s basketball and Pat Toomey (2002) from baseball.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said McLean. “It doesn’t define me but it’s definitely an honor to be recognized. I could have easily been forgotten.”
With that temperament? Not likely.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: