Will Sanborn, the new athletic director at St. Joseph’s College, is shown at the Alfond Center on the school’s campus in Standish. Sanborn will continue his duties as head baseball coach, a title he’s held since 1993. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Like many other schools, St. Joseph’s College canceled its fall sports season because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the Monks still had a senior day for their fall athletes, something Will Sanborn enjoys talking about.

“We allowed the seniors’ parents to come. Did the flowers and the ceremony, the whole bit,” Sanborn said. “Then they played intrasquad games, and you’d have thought they were playing the seventh game of the World Series. … Any little competition you can give them, they love it.

“The first challenge (in this pandemic) became: How do we give the most meaningful athletic experience as possible to these students. We had hoped to play games in the fall. That didn’t materialize. Yet we’ve been able to practice right along since the start of school.”

Guiding an athletic department through a pandemic can be challenging, especially when you’re new to the job. Sanborn, 56, has been the St. Joseph’s head baseball coach since 1993, and officially added the role of athletic director in July.

“I thought it was a great move by the college,” said women’s basketball coach Mike McDevitt, who first met Sanborn when they were students at St. Joseph’s.

“Will stepped right in and provided great leadership. He has led us through a seamless transition during this pandemic.”

High praise for a man who had avoided the AD job.

“I never wanted to do it. Never had any desire to do it,” Sanborn said.

But Sanborn had been unofficially filling in since January, when Brian Curtin left after 14 years as athletic director to take a position with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which focuses on ending abuse in sports. Jim Dlugos, the college president, did not name an interim replacement, but Sanborn became an obvious leader.

“Will served as the de facto AD,” said sports information director Corey McCarthy. “Even though he was starting up indoor (baseball) practices, and was about to begin the baseball season, he kept the department running smoothly.”

There is never a question that Sanborn will put in the work needed, especially when it comes to St. Joseph’s College.

“He’s always logged long hours at the school and that has just been considered normal,” said his son, Lincoln Sanborn, who is the Monks’ associate head baseball coach.

“I don’t think he really considers it to be work, to be honest. He really loves the school, loves working with young people, and loves competing in the spring.

“I remember him being in his office at home, making recruiting calls late a night. His closet would be full of royal blue St. Joseph’s shirts and polos, and pretty much nothing else.”

When Sanborn sat down for a recent interview, he was indeed wearing a royal blue St. Joseph’s polo.

The challenges of the fall have continued into the winter sports season. Workouts came to a halt when St. Joseph’s closed its campus on Nov. 15 and went remote for the rest of the semester after 12 students tested positive for COVID-19. Students won’t return until the second half of January.

St. Joseph’s is a member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, which has canceled its winter schedule, but Sanborn hopes to have his teams play nonconference games against other teams in Maine later in the winter.

“We’re still hoping to get some games at some point second semester,” he said. “We won’t bring the basketball, swimming and indoor track teams back early, as we normally do. They’ll come back with the rest of the student body (for second semester).

“We’ll hope by then that things are better, and we can start nonconference games, particularly with Maine schools. We’re hoping we can get (competition) for the winter sports and hold on for spring.”

St. Joseph’s baseball coach Will Sanborn, standing, has led the Monks to 21 championships since becoming the school’s head coach in 1993. David Bates Photography

Spring, of course, means baseball, when Sanborn will exchange his polo for a jersey. In 28 seasons, he has compiled a 752-396-5 record (.652 winning percentage) and has led the Monks to 21 league or regional titles.

“I would only do this (AD job) if I could continue to coach. That’s still a huge passion and I don’t want to give that up.”

If there is a baseball season in 2021, it will be Sanborn’s 29th as head coach. That’s interesting because – just like he never planned to be an athletic director – Sanborn never figured to be a college coach.

HOMEGROWN TALENT

Sanborn grew up in Standish, as did his father, Robert Sanborn. Robert attended and played baseball for Standish High (under legendary coach Rupe Johnson, who was also the school principal). Robert Sanborn would go on to run the Sebago Lake Esso station, where Will worked as a boy.

Standish High eventually became the multitown Bonny Eagle High, where Will attended and played baseball. He then played at St. Joseph’s. An outfielder, Sanborn still holds the school record for walks in a season (51) and career (104).

After college, Sanborn married Lynn Brown – “our fathers knew each other. We began dating when I was in eighth grade” – and took a job at Bonny Eagle as a history teacher and junior varsity baseball coach in 1986. Sanborn was content.

“My dream job was to be a high school coach,” he said.

Before the 1991 season, Rick Simonds, then athletic director at St. Joseph’s, offered Sanborn a job as assistant baseball coach.

“I said no,” Sanborn said. “But Rick can be persuasive. He called back …”

Sanborn took the job, while still teaching at Bonny Eagle, using unpaid days off to go on the Monks’ spring southern trip. Sanborn took over as head coach in 1993.

The college has offered Sanborn a family atmosphere, figuratively and literally. Lynn has worked at St. Joseph’s since 2006 and is the Dean of Student Financial Services and Retention. Lincoln, who like his father played at both Bonny Eagle and St. Joseph’s, joined the coaching staff in 2015. Will and Lynn have a daughter, Morgan, who is a dancer and faculty member with the Florida Ballet.

Lincoln’s presence as associate head coach gave Sanborn confidence that he could take on the role of athletic director.

“Having Lincoln here, we know baseball isn’t going to slip,” he said.

“Everything had to fall into place to have a coach (become AD), and it did.”

Dlugos, the school president, named Sanborn the athletic director on July 13, saying, “Will’s commitment to St. Joseph’s, to Monks sports and to the success of our student-athletes, both on and off the field, is well-known.”

Men’s basketball coach Rob Sanicola applauded the move: “It’s great. Will is organized, detailed, thoughtful and takes a sincere interest in everyone around him.”

When Sanborn officially took over, McDevitt, Sanicola and McCarthy were named associate athletic directors. McDevitt (Class of 1983) has coached at St. Joseph’s for 31 years. Sanicola joined the Monks staff after graduating from St. Joseph’s in 1999.

McCarthy came to St. Joseph’s in 2004, initially as an assistant baseball coach. “I’ve been here 17 years and I’m the ‘junior’ administrator,” McCarthy quipped.

One of Sanborn’s first moves was to hire the school’s first full-time strength and conditioning coach, using funds saved by not hiring a full-time athletic director. The strength coach, Jameson Collins, has been able to keep the athletes focused and working out.

“It’s been huge,” Sanborn said. “Keep our students active and help them feel they are developing athletically.”

Until St. Joseph’s and other colleges can get back to a regular athletic schedule, Sanborn has time to make sure the department that he now heads is ready to go.

“We have the pieces in place. We have veteran associate athletic directors and a great coaching staff,” said Sanborn, sounding like a coach who is pleased with his team.


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