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Kezal joins impressive local list
RIVER VALLEY -- Several talented individuals from the River Valley have excelled on numerous baseball diamonds.
Their endeavors didn't go unnoticed and they have achieved the ultimate by being inducted in to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
This year's recipient, John Kezal, is the 10th inductee from the area. A trio who were recognized have since past away, including Mico Puiia (1980), Stan Horne (1983), Raymond Baum (2007). More recent honorees were Neil Stinneford in 2011 and Frederick "Ted" Clark (deceased) in 2009.
Puiia was a fierce competitor throughout his athletic career and maintained the same no-nonsense approach as an educator.
After having starred at Colby College, Puiia made his mark on the baseball diamonds around the state. He eventually relocated to the River Valley and served as athletic director at Stephens and Rumford high schools. There wasn't much that got by him and he was willing to confront any individual(s) who was out of line; those who experienced the stern raft. Puiia coined the phrase "need I say more?" The respect earned was legendary and the gymnasium at Mountain Valley High School was named in his honor.
Stan Thomas (1987) might spark memories among baseball junkies because he eventually reached the major leagues. Thomas entered as a skinny freshman but developed his pitching skills while attending Ted Williams camps. The determination and sacrifice provided positive results, while donning the orange and black for Mexico High School in the 1960s.
Following graduation, Thomas entered the minor leagues and through hard work and sacrifice, he was called up to the big leagues. Thomas was a reliever for the former Seattle Pilots in the Great Northwest.
Horne became well known for having a sharp breaking ball, often pitching both ends of double headers. His career spanned the 1940s, 50s and early 60s. The Dixfield resident was a fixture in the Timber League, which eventually merged with the Pine Tree League.
Baum had enjoyed an outstanding athletic career, with a focus on baseball. He eventually became a well-respected coach.
Clark was revered as a three-sport star at Stephens (1947) and later at Farmington State Teachers College. The lefthanded hitting infielder played for the semi-pro Farmington Flyers and earned a reputation for his home runs, belting 20 beyond right field at Hippach. While serving in the Air Force, Clark was playing in Europe and impressed pro scouts.
He signed a major league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and played one season of Class D ball in Georgia. He coached baseball at Dexter High School for 20 years and had the town field was dedicated in his honor.
Stinneford started playing town team baseball, while still attending Dixfield High School. He was known for his speed and earned all-New England honors while playing for John Winkin at Colby College in 1950.