While trying to imagine the finish to Maine’s next football game on the road against nemesis Villanova on Saturday …

The wave-of-the-cap recognition to Jason Motte outside the Bonanza Steakhouse in Sanford had to be taken down Tuesday.

“I had promised a local charity I’d put their message on the sign,” said Geoff Titherington, the restaurant owner. “But it takes no time to move the letters around. His name could be out front again.”

Motte pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals out of the bullpen. He won the closer’s role late in the season and was the pitcher Manager Tony LaRussa wanted warming up when the Texas Rangers started their rally in the bottom of the 8th inning in Monday night’s Game 5 of the World Series.
The guy answering the phone in the bullpen apparently heard a different name.

Motte was born in Michigan, grew up two hours north of New York City and attended nearby Iona College. His connection to Titherington and Sanford? All of about three months playing for the Sanford Mainers during their first season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. That was 2002.

Various local media outlets have noted the association. For Titherington, it’s more personal. He was one of the people responsible for bringing to life the idea of a summer baseball team for college players. For nearly 10 years the community has embraced the players like adopted sons. Motte was one of the first.

He was a catcher with a great arm and borderline hitting skills, even as a Sanford Mainer. Motte hit .111 for the Mainers but threw out 37 percent of the runners trying to steal a base. After surgery for a fractured thumb, his swing really disappeared. While batting .133 in the low minors, the Cardinals converted him to a relief pitcher.

Titherington got more than a little pleasure in having these words put up on sign outside his restaurant: “Jason Motte 02 Sanford Mainers pitching for St. Louis Cardinals in World Series.” He wanted to take a photo but didn’t know how to get it into Motte’s hands or onto his computer.
Texas and St. Louis play Game 6 tonight. There’s still time. …

Alan Mapes, another person behind the Sanford Mainers, has been spearheading a fundraising effort to upgrade Goodall Park, the team’s home. Some $300,000 has been pledged, which also speaks to the community’s pride in its baseball team in a bad economy. …

Ted Woodward, the University of Maine men’s basketball coach, says there are only five Maine high school graduates on NCAA Division I teams this year. He has two: Jon McAllian, a junior guard from Bangor and Stefano Mancini, a freshman guard from Falmouth.

The other three are Tom Knight from Dixfield, in his junior season at Notre Dame, Keegan Hyland of South Portland, who is listed as a sophomore on the Fairfield University roster but must sit out a season due to his transfer from Gonzaga. Indiana Faithfull, the Cheverus grad who prepped last year at St. Thomas More, is a freshman guard at Wofford College. Wofford (Greensboro, N.C.) is the two-time Southern Conference champions.

Knight is listed at 6-foot-10, 253 pounds on the Notre Dame roster, which means he’s grown an inch and added a few pounds. He’s second on the depth chart behind senior Tim Abromartis, who is hyped as a possible Big East Player of the Year. Knight played a few minutes in most games last season, averaging 1.4 points a game. Notre Dame needs more from Knight off the bench.

Woodward may have missed a Maine product or two but the point is startling. On average, the state can only produce one Division I player a year. …

After Maine’s football team scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to beat the University of Richmond on the road, Coach Jack Cosgrove commended his opponent for its “beautiful facility” and “great crowd” as he left the interview room. “This is football country down here,” he said with a smile. “We come from ice hockey country.”

Interpret that as you wish.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway