OLD ORCHARD BEACH – A kid wearing a fluorescent summer camp T-shirt spotted 20-year-old Matt Verrier trudging behind the grandstand, a blue duffel bag filled with his catching equipment slung over his shoulder.

“Good game, number 2!” yelled the kid, who couldn’t have been more than 10.

A smile split the dirt-streaked face of Verrier, who waved in acknowledgment.

Actually it wasn’t such a terrific game Wednesday afternoon for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide, who lost 11-1 in a noon contest attended by more than 1,000 Parks & Rec summer campers.

Most of the Tide players had returned by bus from a Tuesday night win in Pittsfield, Mass., rolling into The Ballpark parking lot at 2:30 Wednesday morning, although Verrier had stayed behind to rest because he was Wednesday’s starting catcher.

A rising junior at the University of Southern Maine who grew up in Norway and led Oxford Hills to the 2010 Class A baseball state championship, Verrier toiled last summer for the Sanford Mainers, the state’s other franchise for college players hoping to sharpen their skills and perhaps draw the attention of professional scouts.

Last summer, both teams played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. This summer, Sanford continues with its 11th NECBL season while Old Orchard Beach (7-7) is in its first season with the 2-year-old Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

“This league is up and coming,” Verrier said. “It’s pretty much the same thing. College baseball, wood bats, trying to get better for next year.”

Verrier is one of the nine Mainers on the Raging Tide’s 29-man roster. Another five play at Maine colleges. League rules stipulate that at least half the team must reside or attend college in New England.

“That’s the best thing about this league,” said David Verrier, Matt’s father, from the third row behind the Tide dugout. “There’s a lot more Maine kids and a lot more New England kids participating. I think it’s more apt to bring people to the stadium if they recognize the names on the roster.”

David Verrier grew up in Old Orchard Beach and worked on the grounds crew at The Ballpark when the Triple-A Maine Guides (and later Phillies) played there. A 1985 graduate of Old Orchard Beach High, he now lives in Windham.

Matt’s grandfather — Gerry Verrier — lives just up the road from The Ballpark.

“I was on the town council when we first got it,” Gerry Verrier said, moments after Matt tagged out a Nashua Silver Knights runner attempting to score on a fly to left field. “I voted for it.”

The Parks & Rec summer campers didn’t seem to mind the dropped infield pop fly, the ball misplayed in left field or the five earned runs Nashua scored before even taking the field. They cheered lustily when, two hours into the game, Sam Balzano of Portland, a graduate of Deering High and sophomore at the University of Maine, broke up the shutout by scoring from second base on a single.

“I love it,” said Balzano, noting the Tide’s longest bus trip is four hours. “From Orono, our shortest bus trip is six hours.”

Before entering the game as a substitute, Balzano milled about the picnic area with some of the campers, signing autographs and trading banter. Besides baseballs and T-shirts, he signed a forehead and even an ear lobe.

“I signed the most autographs I’ve ever done,” Balzano said. “I like putting a smile on kids’ faces.”

Teammates Henry and Oliver Van Zant — brothers who also pitched for Bowdoin College this spring — each lifted a camper to his shoulders and gave the kids piggy-back rides back to their section.

“We were just sitting at the (picnic) table signing autographs,” Oliver said as the lopsided game slogged on, “and the kids said they wanted to be carried to their seats. So my brother picked up one kid and I grabbed another and off we went.”

Henry Van Zant, the younger of the two, has twice won the league’s pitcher of the week award. Pitching in relief, he racked up 22 strikeouts in his first 101/3 innings while allowing only three singles and two walks. Both Van Zants, who hail from Connecticut, live with a host family who also is housing two other players.

Thirty-nine miles to the east on Route 111, Sanford has the host family program down pat.

The Mainers have more than 20 host families who take in ballplayers for the summer, providing room and board at no cost.

The Mainers have more Division I players on their roster, and only two — both Canadians — are from the University of Maine.

“Although our record (4-10) doesn’t reflect it, we have on paper the best team we’ve had in the 11-year existence of the Mainers,” said John Webb, the general manager.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have the bigger Division I schools start to come our way.”

Through each team’s first seven home dates, Sanford was averaging 535 fans per game and Old Orchard Beach 462. Threatening June weather hasn’t been helpful for same-day ticket sales, so both franchises are anticipating bigger crowds in July and August.

In Sanford, those fans will find nearly $300,000 in improvements to Goodall Park, including a warning track, a new fence and leveled outfield, new foul poles behind (rather than inside) the fence, a new scoreboard with built-in radar gun and a wrought-iron fence outside the park “to make it look more like the Hall of Fame,” Webb said, “than the Maine Youth Center.”

Sanford is on the road until next Friday. Old Orchard Beach is home tonight and hosts Nashua in a doubleheader that starts at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Back at The Ballpark, following a handshake line between the Tide and the visiting Silver Knights, the only Old Orchard Beach hitter with a run batted in Wednesday, Jason Vosler, jogged over to an opening in the stands and stopped behind a plexiglass barrier to hand an autographed baseball to a youngster in a wheelchair.

“We all signed it,” he explained to the boy and the surprised people with him. “I hope you had a good time.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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Twitter: GlennJordanPPH