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Abundance of past baseball talent
RIVER VALLEY -- There has been an abundance of talent from the Western Mountains who have honed their skills on numerous baseball diamonds and several have achieved the ultimate by being inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
This year's recipient John Kezal joins Mark Palmer and Neil Stinneford, who were honored in 2011.
Ted Clark and Steve LaPointe in 2009, Bitsy Ionta, Stan Horne, Raymond Baum, Mico Puiia and Stan Thomas.
Palmer, a Mexico graduate, began playing PTL in 1970. The junkball pitcher earned a fierce reputation for accuracy and being able to locate the baseball around the strike zone. This was enhanced by Palmer’s cool-collective attitude that allowed him to hold emotions in check; which prevented opponents from realizing Palmer was on the ropes.
Palmer won PTL championships with Rumford in 1973, Mexico ’74 and ‘85 and ‘87 Rumford, again. He and younger brother Matt ran the Mexico Sombreros for several years at Virgin Field (now Recreation Park).
Palmer formed Rumford entry in the Senior League, winning the 2000 championship and now 59, continues to play and pitch for Rumford Expos in the re-named PTL.
LaPointe, a catcher lacking foot speed, realized he needed to develop his offensive skills. The self-taught switch hitter has played every position and remains active in the PTL. He worked hard at becoming a starting pitcher and chucked a no hitter in the process.
He still remains enthusiastic about being able to share the vast knowledge of baseball. This is evident because he has been the varsity baseball coach at Rumford and Mountain Valley since 1981. LaPointe’s teams have won over 300 games, including 1992 Class B state champions.
LaPointe has earned a strong reputation for being able to adapt to most get the most out of his players; reverts back to his teaching skills and being able to communicate with the student-athletes. The teams haven’t always been well blessed with speed, size or strength, but usually rise to the occasion.
Ionta, a Mexico High School graduate, proved that physical statue certainly doesn’t expose the heart and desire that a human being is capable of delivering, because he quietly became one of the best-ever pitchers in Western Maine. The sheer determination that he carried on his shirt sleeve, led to a 223-41 record in the PTL, in addition to earning the utmost respect and admiration of those who witnessed these traits.
The self-taught pitcher truly drew the most out of an unimposing 5-feet-9, 145-pound frame (that’s a stretch) as countless players who had stepped in to a batter’s box, were soon retracing their footprints back to the bench. The unsuspecting opposition became another victim of the white-haired legend.