John Winkin, legendary Maine baseball coach, remembered

ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The state of Maine lost a legendary coach Saturday night: John Winkin, who took the UMaine baseball team to six College World Series, has died at the age of 94.

Former players and members of the college community are remembering the man who defined Maine baseball for decades.

"At first you realize the passion that he had for the game, ad then you realize how competitive he was and how every time he went out, made you believe that you can compete with anybody in the country," said Mike Coutts, a former captain of the UMaine baseball team.

Coutts would go on to be Winkin's assistant coach for 11 years.

"A lot of us just felt like he was going to live forever," said Coutts. "He had that kind of presence."

Winkin started coaching in 1954 at Colby College. In 1975, he moved to the University of Maine. In 1996, he started coaching at Husson University.

Winkin won more than 1,000 games in his career.

"He was trying to prove people wrong," said Coutts, "that you could take kids from the state of Maine and from the University of Maine and be competitive across the country."

He coached thousands of players in his career. Many of them would go on to coach themselves - and several went on to play professionally.

"When I became a major league pitcher, I just had that basis and that foundation of what [Winkin] taught," said Bill Swift, who played for the Black Bears from 1981 to 1984.

Swift says Coach Winkin changed his life.

"He gave me the opportunity to play," said Swift. "I couldn't afford college, with 14 brothers and sisters. He really opened the doors for me, just letting me go, inviting me, recruiting me."

According to former UMaine Athletic Director Steve Abbott, Winkin not only put Maine baseball on the map -- he also raised the profile of the school.

"The publicity he gave the school through those amazing College World Series experiences -- every place in the country, people were talking about the Black Bears," said Abbott.

He said Winkin's impact went beyond the world of sports.

"He's somebody that we all looked up to," said Abbott. "And he will be sorely missed."


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