Family and friends gather around Old Orchard Beach resident, Matty Carle, second to left, in front of home plate at Staples Memorial Field on Saturday to celebrate the start of a new little league season and the program’s renovated building, the Bill Dodge Auto Group Snack Shack. Carle’s mother Maggie  donated $7,500 to the league as one of her last acts before she died from complications following open-heart surgery in August 2018. ANTHONY LOMBARDI/Journal Tribune

If Maggie Carle was still alive, she’d have attended Opening Day for the Old Orchard Beach Little League last Saturday in her wheelchair, wrapped in eight blankets and dressed in her favorite L.L. Bean Winter Parka.  

She’d be proud of all the kids who braved the cold with a smile on their faces, said her son, Matty Carle, and she’d be happy to know that her donation of $7,500 helped repair the league’s snack shack less than a year after a bolt of lightning struck an electricity meter and left many in the program in shock.

“Mom has always loved children,” said Matty Carle, 40. “She was teacher for almost 60 years, and children always came first. ‘Do what we can for the kids.’”

‘It could have been worse’  

The OOB Little League board didn’t initially realize the extent of damage done by the lightning that struck their 40-something-year-old building on June, 28, 2018.  

They knew the fire department, who arrived on scene first, had to kick in the doors, and they knew they’d dodged a bullet when the flames didn’t reach the propane tanks in the kitchen. 

The night before was also the final game of the league’s Summer Classic Tournament, and several dozen people had all spent time standing directly on the side of the snack shack where the lighting hit.  

 “It definitely could have been worse,” said Matt Aceto, one of the league’s vice presidents.

 It wasn’t until the smoke had settled they discovered a voltage spike had carried through the tower’s wires and blew the meter that feeds electricity to the field’s lights and scoreboard.

 “We were shocked,” said league secretary Misty Beaulieu. “This is what we do for more than half the year. This is what about 100 kids in town do.”

 The board knew they couldn’t afford the more than $13,000 in damages by themselves, said Aceto, so they turned to the people they could count on: their community.

 A GoFundMe titled “Save the OOB Little League Shack” raised $1,360, Ralo Construction  provided new windows for the two-story building at a discounted price and a couple of neighboring Little Leagues donated approximately $500 each.

 “Just having those groups reach out to us, being willing to donate to put the funds into it to put the shack back up, is huge,” said Tyler Stewart, another of the league’s vice presidents. “It was unexpected for sure.”

 ‘An amazing woman’

 Maggie Carle, 60, knew that complications from a recent open-heart surgery had left her with just a few months to live, and the Old Orchard Beach resident knew how she wanted to spend her remaining days.  

 Her son, Matty, had just brought to her attention a telecast on how lightning had played a role in destroying the community’s Little League building, and the family decided they wanted to help however they could.

 Baseball had always consumed much of the Carles’ time over the years — Matty Carle played through college — and they reflected on those clear, spring days with Dad coaching, Mom in the concession stand and the kids getting dirty on the diamond

 “It was just something that we felt very appropriate about,” said Matty Carle. “We became just such a part of the community and just wanted to give back. (Old Orchard Beach) is that small town, Maine town, seaside community that we fell in love with.”

 Maggie Carle, her son said, was no stranger to generosity. She loved making others smile through music, theater and art, and she could flash a smile that would light up any room. Before her death in August of 2018, she also donated to local scholarship and school lunch programs.  

“She was the most amazing woman in this world,” said Matty Carle. “She’s one of the those people who never searched for recognition.”

‘A great cause’  

Bob Colson, the service manager for the Saco Bill Dodge Auto Group, read about the lightning strike in the newspaper last fall and approached his superiors, Saco General Manager Pat Sullivan and the group’s CEO, John Mallia, to gauge their interest in a donation.

Both Sullivan and Mallia were more than willing to contribute.

“The community keeps us in business, and we want to give back when we can,” Mallia said. “We thought this was a great cause to do so.”

Bill Dodge Auto Group told OOB’s Little League board they’d match the Carle family’s donation, and, as a show of gratitude, the building was named the “Bill Dodge Auto Group Snack Shack.”  

“There’s no ‘i’ in ‘team’ playing ball here,” Colson said. “You win together, you lose together. It definitely feels good to know you’ve helped out. It’s family.”

 The league secured enough funds by January, board members said, to begin the shack’s renovations, but the final preparations weren’t finished until a week before Opening Day. The scoreboard wasn’t fully operational until the night before.  

“We were all sweating bullets,” said Aceto. “Some families won’t even know what happened.”

On Saturday, about 20 of Maggie Carle’s family and friends gathered around Matty Carle as he stepped on top of the pitching mound at Staples Memorial Field in his crocks, cargo shorts and zippered sweater, a few dozen yards in front of the building his mother helped rebuild.

Matty Carle throws out the first pitch to open the Old Orchard Beach Little League season at Staples Memorial Field on Saturday. Carle, and his mother, who died last summer, were honored for their $7,500 donation to help rebuild the program’s snack shack after lightning had caused damage to the building last June. ANTHONY LOMBARDI/Journal Tribune

 He stood a moment and looked through his sunglasses at the several hundred appreciative faces that circled him from the field and bleachers.

As he threw out the league’s first pitch, a single thought raced across his mind: “I just hope that Mom was able to look down, and she’s smiling. She’d probably be in tears.”

— Sports Editor Anthony Lombadi can be contacted at 780-9017 or [email protected]

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