Tom Griffin and the Scarborough softball program had plenty to celebrate over the years. Griffin recently retired as the Red Storm’s coach after nearly 500 victories. Portland Press Herald file photo

While the wins were nice, and they came in abundance, what Tom Griffin will miss the most is the fun times he enjoyed with his fellow coaches and hundreds of players over three-plus decades as the head coach of the powerhouse Scarborough softball program.

Griffin, who took over in 1990 and led the Red Storm to 498 victories and eight state titles, retired at season’s end after Scarborough’s loss at Windham in the Class A South semifinals.

“It was never just me,” said Griffin, 64. “I’ll miss the connection and conversations I had with (my assistants) Charlie Andreson and Liz Winslow before practice, after practice, during games. I’ll miss watching the kids interacting in the dugout and the fun they had.”

Griffin, who has also retired from his longtime position at Scarborough Middle School as a health and physical education teacher, knew a year ago that 2022 would be his final campaign and that, while he still loves the competition, other factors led to his decision.

“There are a lot of things I really like, but (coaching’s) not as easy as people might think,” Griffin said. “I don’t want to continue to have make decisions about who gets to play and it’s more than just coaching in season. There’s dealing with budgets, boosters, equipment, practice schedules. There’s a lot to the job. I don’t want to do that stuff anymore. I’m happy to remove that stress from my life.”

A legacy of triumph

Griffin, a one-time standout athlete at Deering High School who went on to pitch at the University of Maine, coached middle school basketball and soccer in Scarborough before taking over the high school softball program for the 1990 season.

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Scarborough, then known as the Redskins, won just twice in Griffin’s first season and only four times in his second (see sidebar for previous records), but he quickly figured it out.

“When the Scarborough opportunity came up I told my wife I’d give it a try, but I really didn’t know what I was doing,” Griffin said. “I learned it was easier playing than coaching. I’m very competitive and I don’t like to lose, and I wanted to be a successful coach. I realized I needed to focus on pitching and working with younger kids.”

In 1992, Scarborough won a dozen games and, by 1996, had produced a perfect regular season. The following year, Griffin led the program to its first championship (in Class B), and in 1998, it lost in the state final.

By 2002, the newly named Red Storm were playing in Class A and they would enjoy immediate success, to the point where every season but one between 2003 and 2019 resulted in at least a trip to the regional final.

Scarborough broke through and won its first Class A title in 2007, then did it again in 2009, 2011, 2013 and every year from 2017-19.

In fact, for a time, the Red Storm didn’t lose period, capturing an unthinkable 66 straight games between the start of the 2017 season and May 14, 2021, winning a never-to-be-duplicated 111 consecutive league games between 2013 and 2021.

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“Scarborough was going through tremendous growth, and the parents coming in were able to afford travel ball and private lessons,” Griffin said. “We had more kids playing travel ball than other towns. We always had that great pitching and some terrific, dedicated kids.

“I never really looked back because there was always next season, a new group, but this year, I did a lot of reflecting. I connected with hundreds of kids. The kids I coached back when I started are full grown with kids of their own. I’m fortunate to have so many great kids and families.”

One of those great kids was Bella Dickinson, class of 2020, one of the program’s many standouts who went on to play at the next level.

Dickinson reflects fondly on her time with the Red Storm.

“(Coach Griffin) truly is a special coach,” said Dickinson, now playing at Southern New Hampshire University. “Playing for him was the greatest experience I ever had. He was always patient, goal-oriented and had a genuine love for the game that inspired me to learn and grow that same passion. His excitement for every practice, every game and every team activity was a quality that I admired most and is what brought Scarborough softball to where it is today. Being surrounded by genuine love for the game makes you love spending time developing skills and growing as a player, which Coach Griffin was able to show many girls from a young age, thus creating that environment of good chemistry of players who just love to play the game.”

On nine occasions, Scarborough posted an undefeated record in the regular season, and in five of those years, it went on to win a championship with an unblemished mark.

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Griffin was named Coach of the Year by The Forecaster in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2013 and 2017.

Many coaches, when asked about their most memorable victories, have a hard time coming up with just one.

Not Tom Griffin, who got to watch his daughter, Kelsey, pitch the Red Storm to their first Class A championship in 2007.

“I was very fortunate to have Kelsey dominate the state game, then jump into my arms after the game,” Griffin said. “That was very special. Years later, I had my niece (Chloe) do the same thing. My best team of all could have been in 2020, when we lost just one starter from the year before and had Bella and that group back, but we never got to play (because of COVID).”

While Griffin won nearly five times as often as he lost, some setbacks still linger.

“My hardest loss was to Messalonskee (1-0 in the 2017 Class A state final), when they beat (eventual University of Maine pitcher) Lilly Volk,” Griffin said. “She gave up one hit, a home run, in the first inning and we had three or four decent shots to score. And of course, that game versus Falmouth (losing, 5-2, in the 2021 Class A South preliminary round to a team the Red Storm had beaten, 15-0, in the regular season) was devastating.”

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Mike LeGage, Scarborough’s athletic director since 2010, raved about what Griffin brought to the Red Storm softball program.

“Tom is a person who has made an overwhelmingly positive difference every day,” LeGage said. “He gives honor, dignity, integrity and class to the term coach. Tom is a great ambassador for athletics and a wonderful role model for our kids. It has been a pleasure working with Tom these past 13 years and he will certainly be missed within our athletic family.”

Griffin also started the well-known and loved Scarborough Dribblettes youth program, participated in the annual AIDS bike ride and was a long time advisor of Scarborough Middle School’s “Builders Club,” which is associated with the Kiwanis Club.

The mark he’s left is indelible, and while his tenure as head coach has concluded, Griffin hinted that perhaps we haven’t seen the last of him in the dugout.

And if he does return to the Red Storm, he’ll have no trouble finding the field.

Which is now known as Tom Griffin Field.

“I might be back, I’m not sure,” said Griffin, who is about to welcome his first grandchild. “If I do come back, it won’t be as the varsity coach. I’ll do what I enjoy but without the stress.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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