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More in Sports
Kezal to become member of baseball hall of fame
LOVE FOR BASEBALL — From left, Leon Hadley, Bryant Pond, starting pitcher; Stan Farrar, Bryant Pond catcher and manager; and John Kezal, Rumford, of the Pine Tree League on June 20, 1955.
RUMFORD — 81-year-old Rumford native John Kezal lived and breathed baseball for 37 years.
And, to celebrate this achievement, he will be inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2012 at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland on August 5. Inductees will also be introduced during the Portland Sea Dogs Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Night at Hadlock Field on August 4.
"The Maine Baseball Hall of Fame [a non-profit organization] honors players, coaches, umpires, organizers and benefactors from all corners of the state who have achieved prominence in, or made valuable contributions to baseball in Maine," reads the April 3 letter informing Kezal of his accomplishment.
"I'm the only one in Oxford County that was chosen," said Kezal, who began playing baseball at the age of 15. "And I'm proud of all that I've accomplished."
The Hall of Fame is also recognizing nine other members from the towns of Turner, Portland, Bath, Gorham, Monmouth, New Limerick and Hollis.
Induction selections, said Kezal, are chosen each year based on the informed opinions and recommendations of respected members of the Maine baseball community.
Kezal's baseball career began with the Oxford County League in 1945, which became the Pine Tree League 10 years later. During this time, under Coach James Sullivan, Kezal played baseball on more than 75 fields in Maine and New Hampshire.
"He coached us for a couple of summers, and he always insisted that when we came to the games he didn't want to see any smoking, or any drinking, or any horseplay," said Kezal. "I abided by probably 99 percent of that." In other words, Kezal took the sport very seriously.
"He taught us some real good manners," said Kezal. "He motivated me and a lot of the other guys."
Kezal was a Junior Varsity outfielder as a sophomore and junior at Stephens High School in Rumford.
After graduating in 1949, he joined the Coast Guard as a fireman from 1951-1954. "I was stationed in Portland ... on a ship [Cutter Yukutat] for about two-and-a-half years," he said. But when he completed his service, he returned to Maine where he played and coached baseball until 1982. "When I wasn't playing, I was umpiring," says Kezal. "I was very involved in American Legion baseball [in the Rumford area] also, back in the 70s, 80s and into the 90s."
Records indicate that Kezal was a lifetime .342 hitter with a career-best of .400-plus for Pine Tree in Norway in the 60s. He was also instrumental in organizing Rumford Point Community Athletic Association (RPCAA) in the fall of 1960.
During this time, Kezal took over as coach until 1966. "We had more players than we knew what to do with," says Kezal. "I was stuck with 18 players.
"I asked them ... "Do you want to play to win, or do you want to play for fun? They said they wanted to play to win, so I kept the best 9, 10, or 11 ... and we were very successful."
Kezal remembers playing the Roberts 88ers in Lisbon with Stan Doughty and George Ferguson and a doubleheader at the Maine State Prison in Thomaston on July 3, 1957.
"You should've seen the team. That was a crackerjack team ... It was a bunch of local college kids home for the summer. The team had a lot of talent."
Kezal served area youth as the Northern Oxford County Little League Baseball Commissioner for 10-plus years and was a member of the Central Maine Board of Umpires for more than 20 years. He also helped to raise the necessary funds to keep these programs running for many years.
In 2000, Kezal became a volunteer at the Maine Veterans Home in South Paris, where he now serves as Liaison Chairman and as a member of the Board of Directors. For 43 years, he also dedicated his time to working as paper machine mechanic for the Oxford Paper Co. and Boise Cascade paper plant in Rumford.
He is also a lifetime member of the South Paris American Legion, the local Elks and Eagles Clubs and the Coast Guard Cutterman's Club in South Portland.
HALL OF FAME — John Kezal holds up a letter that he received on April 3 informing him that he has been selected for induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is scheduled to take place on Sunday, August 5 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. In addition, on August 4, all inductees will be introduced during the Portland Sea Sogs "Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Night" at Hadlock Field.