SANFORD – In Deering purple, Regan Flaherty pitched, played first base and outfield and smacked the ball around almost every high school field where the Rams played.

In Vanderbilt black and gold, he adjusted to playing sporadically in the competitive Southeastern Conference during his freshman season, getting just 24 at-bats.

This summer, Flaherty has come home to wear Sanford Mainers green.

His mission: at-bats, as many as he can get in the twilight of Goodall Park and around the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

“It’s nice to get back home and play on a summer team,” said Flaherty last week before a Mainers game. “It was a lot different not playing every day. It’s difficult to come in as a pinch hitter. I still had to learn as much as I could.”

Flaherty chose the Mainers for this very reason.

He originally signed to play with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League, but about a month ago, he took some advice and changed course to return to Maine.

“This just seemed a better fit,” he said.

The Mainers, it seemed, would afford him a chance to play every day, most likely at first base where, as a left-hander, he is a strong defensive presence.

Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin and dad Ed Flaherty, the longtime coach at the University of Southern Maine, agreed.

The Cape League generally attracts the elite sophomores from the top college programs in the country.

And Flaherty couldn’t afford to sit on the bench for most of another season. He needed to get up to the plate.

“Sometimes in baseball there’s a gradual development you need to make,” said Ed Flaherty. “(Corbin) agreed (Regan Flaherty) needed to play and the worst thing would be to go down to the Cape and not play. He needs to play.”

He could also live at home in Portland, sleep in a familiar bed. He also could host his college teammate, Anthony Gomez, and eat home-cooked meals.

On a muggy night last week, Flaherty played at Goodall as some 430 fans dotted the old grandstand amid the smell of burgers cooking on the grill and fresh popcorn.

First promotion of the night: Chase the Old Man. Eleven kids in tiny sneakers ran their hardest around the bags, hair flying.

The Mainers wound up losing 8-4, but rallied in the ninth for a final run before the park emptied for the night.

Flaherty stepped to the plate four times. He had just one hit, but his swing from the left side is still fluid.

“He came here two weeks after everyone else and he looks better every day,” said Mainers Coach Aaron Izaryk. “Vanderbilt has plans for him and he is really a perfect candidate to come and play here.”

He hit .292 at Vanderbilt, appearing in just 16 games.

“They’ve got to play,” said Ed Flaherty. “When you get to this age kids have to find themselves as ballplayers. He’s got a good swing. He’s an athlete.

“They had a veteran team this year at Vandy. That’s tough to break into.”

Izaryk spoke to Corbin, who asked that Flaherty get as many at-bats as possible, play first base and outfield, when needed.

In just over a week he’s gone 4 for 22. That’s expected, said Izaryk, after coming off a stretch in Vanderbilt’s postseason run when he got few at-bats.

That’s nearly a month without quality at-bats.

“His batting practice is better every day,” said Izaryk. “They’re not as concerned where we play him. And that has to do with the fact that he’s already an outstanding defensive first baseman.”

Since leaving for college Flaherty has sprouted to 6-foot-2 and has filled out, he said, to about 195 pounds.

His older brother Ryan, a prospect with the Chicago Cubs, went to Vanderbilt as a power-hitting middle infielder.

After his junior season he was picked 41st overall by the Cubs in the 2008 draft. He’s playing high Class A in Daytona, Fla.

There’s no sibling rivalry.

“You wonder about it. You have to walk into that Hall of Famer room every night and see your brother’s picture,” said Ed Flaherty. “(Regan is) a different player, a good player but a different player.”

Regan said he talks to his brother daily, generally about everyday life and not baseball.

Occasionally, when he could use advice, he gets it.

“He gives me help with my hitting,” said Flaherty. “And he really helped lay out how things work at Vanderbilt. The routine. It’s really a huge part of your life. Your day begins at 8 a.m. and ends around 10.”

For now, Flaherty will continue to eat up at-bats as he grows more comfortable with the less-forgiving wooden bats.

It’s summer ball.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]