GRAY — The Gray-New Gloucester High School baseball program gave Brad Smith an opportunity at the tail end of his long coaching career, and he gave a lot to the program during his eight years with the Patriots.

Smith is retiring as Gray-New Gloucester’s head coach, nearly 50 years after the start of his coaching career.

Brad Smith, seen here in 2015, is retiring as the baseball coach at Gray-New Gloucester High School. Adam Birt/Lakes Region Weekly

“I had kind of retired from teaching, and I’m thinking, ‘You’re not getting any younger,'” Smith said. “And so I’m thinking, ‘Well, at some point you’re going to stop.’

“So one of the things on my bucket list was to coach when I was 70, which I did this past season.”

Another bucket list item was to reach 400 career wins, which Smith did in 2017. He finishes his career with a 412-298-4 record. The Patriots won more than 40 games and made the playoffs five times during his tenure.

His resume includes a first coaching job in Massachusetts in 1971 and stops in Oklahoma and at Hebron and Bridgton academies. He took some years off from coaching to focus on teaching and administration.

Before he took the Gray-New Gloucester job, he even looked into umpiring.

“I was in a class to become an umpire,” Smith said. “So I obviously wanted to stay in the game. And then the job got posted. I finished the umpires class, and got certified for that, and then applied for the (Gray-New Gloucester) job.”

Then-athletic director Gary Groves, in an interview with the Portland Press Herald, lauded Smith’s experience after the hire.

Aaron Watson, another former Gray-NG athletic director during Smith’s tenure, said, “You can’t measure how invaluable that (experience) was.”

“It’s more than just knowing what defense to run on a first-and-third situation, or what type of bunt coverage you have. It’s understanding the psychological part before games, how to prepare kids for games,” Watson said. “It’s invaluable what he brought to our program.”

Tangibly, Smith also helped champion upgrades for the program.

“He was very instrumental in our annual baseball and softball golf tournament fundraiser, which helped to buy a lot of our equipment and other things to improve the overall experience at the field,” 2019 graduate and team captain Nick McCann said. “Examples included the new bullpen mounds, batting cage net, turf inside the cage, helmets, bases, and a lot more.”

“We’ve done things that when the kids come out — and despite the record, despite anything else — they know that we’re endeavoring to run a first-class program, and that we don’t cut corners in the things that we try to provide for them,” Smith said.

As someone who spent a lifetime in education, it’s no surprise that Smith stressed academics in his program.

“I had complete trust in him to run an education-based athletic program, and he did it near flawlessly,” Watson said.

“Kids know if you’re not cutting it in class you’re not going to be able to cut it on the baseball field,” Smith said.

McCann said Smith was “adamant” about players putting school work first.

He also brought his teaching onto the baseball diamond.

“Coach taught me how to be a team player, how to become a leader, and how to create team unity,” McCann said. “He helped me to not only become the player and leader I was, but also to grow as an individual and to be confident in all aspects of my life.”

“He understands how to connect with youth, he understands how to motivate them appropriately,” Watson said. “He was just a fantastic coach.”

Smith said that he’s “probably very old-school” in his methods, and that could have turned some kids off, but his Gray-New Gloucester teams always featured players who wanted to show up to the field every day.

Next spring, however, it looks likely that Smith himself will stop showing up to the field. He doesn’t know what he will be doing.

“We’ll see what happens when the spring rolls around, but I haven’t crossed that bridge yet. I’m too busy to think that far ahead, quite frankly,” Smith said. “My wife will attest to the fact that I have a list a mile long of deferred maintenance projects.”

Watson said whatever Smith does end up doing “you can be assured he’s going to be very good at it.”

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