Spring is a lovely time of year, ain’t it?

The flowers bloom anew, the birds have returned to perform their graceful flights far above us, and gentle April rains tumble down from the heavens to provide a cool drink for a vast and diverse array of vegetation struggling to survive in an asphalt and concrete world.

Okay, it isn’t just April rains. It is May, and also June. And it cancels all the Little League games. And your cookout for your nephew Harold’s high school graduation had to be moved inside to your too-small living room and den. And let’s get right to the point: But for all the rain, the mosquitoes would shrivel up and die, right?

In any event, my copy editor better be happy; I have just Satisfied My Annual Minimum Required Amount of Poetic References and Language in a Newspaper Column.

(Editor’s note: Your copy editor does appreciate the poetic language – and the complete sentences – but was sorely disappointed by the over-capitalization in the previous paragraph.)

Here is the best thing of all when it comes to spring: Kids in the school system get awards.

No, I don’t mean the kindergarten soccer trophy that all of them, even the daisy pickers, received. And I don’t mean the Candystripers Student of the Month awards, given out in a systematic way to Make Sure Each Kid Is Recognized At Least Once During The Years He or She Is A Student In Our School.

(Editor’s note: You’re doing it again.)

I mean some other awards.

The awards I’m interested in are based not on what you did last week at your neighborhood car wash for UNICEF, but what you did over four years. It’s harder to rack those up, chummy. Being well-behaved for four years is more difficult than showing up smiling at the camera during a walk-a-thon around Beech Ridge Speedway.

Over the past 20 years, I have become involved in some groups in Scarborough that, among other things, try to recognize young people for long-term, earned accomplishments each year. I like to do that. I especially like to recognize reformed, or about to be reformed, Knuckleheads who, in earlier years, were not accumulating Good Conduct Points toward any award, other than perhaps FDA (Future Delinquents of America). (I have some expertise in these fields; my name is still scribbled on the wall in the faculty break room at SHS, I am told, although, after 30 years, the Magic Marker dart board with the photo in the middle has begun to fade.)

Here are some awards and award winners that I know about this spring. I am willing to risk charges of non-objectivity; I am not shy about saying, e.g., if you put the brain of the typical SHS boy in a rabbit, the rabbit would hop backward.

Here goes. Hold your applause to the end.

Jamie Sproull and Jared Brooks, Wentworth Middle School.

To some kids, sports resembles dessert after eating their academic vegetables and protein. For others, who take their sport a little more seriously, there are opportunities to try to practice skills in the off-season. The Libby-Mitchell American Legion Post 76 runs indoor baseball skills development programs in winter. It can be cold inside, and slippery and icy outside. Kids are often battling respiratory infections and lack of sleep due to homework.

Jamie and Jared showed up every Friday for four months in the dead of winter. No excuses. No whining. They paid attention. They were polite and responsive. They were interested in learning more about throwing, catching and hitting from guys like Dave Paul, Rick Libby and Mike Scott, who played the game, coached their now-grown kids, but still want to help teach.

Jamie and Jared, for their approach, won the 2008-09 Libby-Mitchell Off-Season Baseball Dedication Award. (Full disclosure: I am general manager of the summer American Legion baseball team for Libby-Mitchell Post 76).

I was so impressed with these boys I wondered if they also help with housework at home, clean their rooms without being asked, etc.?

Nah. Probably not.

Should have quit while I was ahead.

Manisha Punjabi, SHS

Journalism is a controversial field, but actually can do a lot of good for society.

(Stop typing at computer; dodge thrown vegetables; resume typing).

The thing I like about student journalism is that it is nonglory work. There’s no varsity letter, no Friday night game under the lights, no cheerleaders. You either think it is important to write about school events and explain them to your peers, and tell them why they should get worked up about something, or you have no clue what we are talking about.

In l978, a group established an SHS Student Journalism Award to be given annually to the senior who appeared the best candidate to go into journalism or the public information field. This year the Harold J. Boyle award went to Manisha Punjabi.

You go, girl! Er, young woman … sorry.

Nice to see my alma mater is still producing some firebrands.

Chris Bernard and Jim Rouse, SHS

I promise – this is not another story about Chris hitting another home run or throwing another shutout on the baseball field! Yes, he has done plenty of that this spring. And he and Jim have played some very good baseball the past four summers for Libby-Mitchell Post (and Jim has been part of some great SHS state soccer title teams, and indoor track champs, too).

But that is not why they are being mentioned now.

The boys are co-winners of the two scholarships the Libby-Mitchell Post established three years ago to honor Kenneth Dolloff and Sonny Noel. Dolloff and Noel are both D-Day veterans in their 80s. Both men have spent their post WWII lives giving their time to help others and their communities. Credit local businessman and former Colby College catcher Eddie Woodin with the idea that it is way past time to honor their service with a scholarship in their names.

The Dolloff scholarship goes to the Libby Mitchell player who excels both in baseball and in community involvement. The Noel scholarship is for a senior who excels in baseball and has strong academic plans for the future.

Winning these scholarships is not a matter of a name drawn out of a hat. Woodin and others involved in the process announced: If you want to win the scholarship that has the good names of two guys who have worked 80-plus years to earn those good names, show us why you are worthy.

Chris and Jim were grilled. Examined. Analyzed.

Without elaborating much here, each player has shown great growth and development on and off the field in four years. It has been nice to see. They have gone from having some blips on the radar screen (“Sorry I missed practice) to being the kids who quiz other kids: “Hey, where were you the other day? We needed you. You let down the team.”

Chris is headed to UMO and Jim to Saint Joe’s. Woodin said Sunday at a presentation ceremony, “They’ve gone from being typical kids to being leaders. Isn’t that what we all want?”

Congratulations, boys.

In Philip T. Martin’s footsteps

Phil Martin was a Scarborough Junior High teacher in the l960s, ’70s and ’80s. Bad knees drove him out. It’s tough to run phys ed classes if you need to do a lot of it from a folding metal chair.

He was a teacher, but also a mirror. He was from that old, old, old school of educators who teach best, when it comes to Smart Kids Doing Stupid Things, by asking questions and not giving lectures.

A paper airplane thrown from the back of the class? A spitball catapulted against the blackboard?

“Come here,” I am told he would say to the potential criminal defendant he had eyeballed, pointing an index finger at them. “What are you doing?”

“What do you mean, um, I don’t know what …,” I have been told the about-to-be convicted would stammer.

“Don’t give me that crap,” Martin would bark back, although at a low decibel level. “You’re not an idiot. Smarten up.”

He was Dr. Phil before Dr. Phil.

Phil also was SHS boys varsity baseball coach for 30 years until about 2000. In l997, we named a youth baseball award after him. It was for middle school ballplayers. Not for the MVPs. Not for the home-run hitters. It was for the kids you want on a team who help with the equipment, cheer on their teammates, don’t whine, don’t make excuses, do what is asked of them, try to get better each day and show enthusiasm and dedication to the game.

The idea was to honor Coach Martin by choosing kids who reminded us on the committee of him.

“Just one request,” he said at the trophy store in l997. “Try to pick kids with a smile on their face every day when they come off the field. Pick kids who like the game, and you’re going to do OK with this.”

This year, he certainly got his wish.

The winners this year of the Philip T. Martin Youth Baseball Dedication Award recognized Sunday at a ceremony and photo session at Town Hall are: eighth grade, Sam Wessel;

Developmental Team: Max Christian and Brandon Ruel; seventh grade, Matt Morrell.

Sam, Brandon and Matt are catchers. Max is a pitcher.

Congratulations, boys. Other than Mom and Dad, you will have no bigger fan the next few years than Philip Thomas Martin, UMO ’59.

Two other honorable mentions

How about a shout-out for two adults?

Scarborough is now near about 22,000 people. Facilities are maxed out. Gym time is impossible to get. The same goes for field time.

Enter the private sector.

Two businesses waved a magic wand and transformed warehouse space into playing fields, if only for a day or an hour.

Direct Mail of Maine and CEO John Cloutier turned building keys over to a bunch of screaming 7-, 8- and 9-year-old baseball players and some slightly older basketball players carrying portable hoops with them.

Nice of him to do. And his own son, Mitch, is many years away from high school basketball, or high school anything.

Dick Michaud of Michaud Distributors responded to another group of kids in need. A Gorham sports facility filed for bankruptcy, leaving no place for the kids to play. There was Dick on his property, shoveling snow, clearing ice off steps so a bunch of kids could come into one of his warehouses and do winter workouts.

Dick’s son Mike is also years away from high school basketball or baseball – although do not challenge Mike to a game of P-I-G or H-O-R-S-E unless you can afford any money you care to wager.

Libby-Mitchell Post sports outreach program can only serve kids if others chip in. Both businesses were honored at Sunday’s ceremony.

And so ends another nice story at the end of the school year about our little town. Next week, back to gloom and doom!

But for now, enjoy the final days of spring.


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