Misfits tough act to follow as coed softball teams look to fill championship voidAfter eight-year hold on cup, Misfits disbands, new champ to be crowned
Camden — While there certainly is never any certainty in sports, one thing is certain in the Camden Adult Coed Softball League this summer. Namely, that there will be a new champion crowned.
How can one be sure, you ask? Easy. Because the squad that dominated the league en route to eight straight titles has disbanded and is not participating in the popular, decades-old league.
Players from the Misfits have either moved from the area, joined other leagues or simply needed to take a break from the annual summer slow-pitch softball scene.
No matter the reason, the Misfits' departure has opened the door for a handful of other squads to soar to the top of the league's hierarchy.
The nine-team league, which includes 14 regular-season games for each squad and ran July 18 through Aug. 21-22, continues to thrive as the postseason is set to kick off.
Games are played behind Camden-Rockport Middle School, or what is known as the Mary E. Taylor School field, along with the traditional, longstanding site at the Camden Snow Bowl and Point Lookout in Northport, a field used years ago when the former MBNA had a team in the league.
The final regular-season league standings were: Knox County Benchwarmers, 11-3, .786 winning percentage; Camden Herald Redwings, 11-3, .786; Smokestack Bar & Grille, 10-4, .714; FMC Seaweed Sluggers, 7-7, .500; Maine Cat, 7-7, .500; Mad Bombers, 6-8, .428; French & Brawn, 5-9, .357; Feener's Pride, 5-9, .357; and Back Cove Yachts, 1-13, .077.
Knox County Benchwarmers hold the tiebreaker over Camden Herald Redwings; FMC Seaweed Sluggers hold tiebreaker over Maine Cat; and French & Brawn holds tiebreaker over Feener's Pride.
The playoffs will begin on Wednesday, Aug. 8. The playoff games for the first week include:
Aug 7 — Play-in game: No. 8 Feener's Pride 14, No. 9 Back Cove Yachts 13.
Aug. 8 — No. 4 FMC Seaweed Sluggers versus No. 5 Maine Cat - 6 p.m. (MET). No. 2 Camden Herald Redwings versus No. 7 French & Brawn- 6 p.m. (Snow Bowl).
Aug. 9 — No. 3 Smokestack Bar & Grille versus No. 6 Mad Bombers - 6 p.m. (MET or Point Lookout). No. 1 Knox County Benchwarmers versus No. 8 Feener's Pride - 6 p.m. (Snow Bowl).
Aug. 10 — No. 1 Knox County Benchwarmers-No. 8 Feener's Pride loser verus No. 4 FMC Seaweed Sluggers-No. 5 Maine Cat loser - 6 p.m. (Snow Bowl). No. 2 Camden Herald Red Wings-No. 7 French & Brawn loser versus No. 3 Smokestack Bar & Grille-No. 6 Mad Bombers loser - 6 p.m. (MET or Point Lookout)
The double-elimination playoffs continue Monday, Aug. 13 and conclude Aug. 17 or 19, weather permitting.
Camden Herald is the former Journey's End, while the Mad Bombers are the former Free Press Redwings.
With the Misfits on the sidelines, the door has been opened for a new champion to emerge, one that just might, with luck, include a former Misfit who has found a new home.
Sami Commeau now patrols the outfield for The Camden Herald-sponsored Redwinds. She played first base and outfield for more than a decade for Misfits.
Ironically, Commeau, who has an unwavering passion for softball (she was a high school and collegiate standout), was one of only three people who played on all eight Misfit championship squads, along with Kim Felt and Jim Leonard.
With an incredibly talented group of players, that always included a mixture of veterans and young newcomers, Misfits stayed on top year after year. The eight-time champs often beat opponents with tremendous hitting and fielding, and the crafty, steady pitching of Felt, who played into her 50s.
How impressive was Misfits eight-year title journey? Under the guidance of Joseph Cyr and Ricky Bagnall, it was unparalleled in league history. The teams' combined overall record in those eight championship years, from 2004 through 2011, was 119-16, an eye-opening .881 winning percentage. The squad was 18-2 in 2004, 13-2 in 2005, 16-3 in 2006, 15-1 in 2007, 13-3 in 2008, 12-2 in 2009, 16-2 in 2010 and 16-1 in 2011.
Cyr's record as coach was 84-13 and Bagnall's record as coach 32-3 (including 8-0 in the playoffs). The first championship year came in Cyr's seventh year guiding a team in the league. Misfits officially started in 2000 and Felt was the only player to be on all Misfit teams from 2000 to 2011.
Commeau is the only former Misfit still playing in the Camden Adult Coed League, while several of the former male Misfits now toil in the Elks League in Rockland or other all-male, slow-pitch softball leagues.
With Commeau still playing in the Camden league, whom better to give a prospective on the end of the Misfits' dynasty.
"As the Misfits legacy comes to an end, I can’t believe I have been part of the team for 11 years now," she said. "Playing for the Misfits was not just showing up two times per week to play in a summer softball league. I have made some lifelong friends. Over the years, many people came and went but there was always an incredible core group of players that loved the game of softball, were super competitive, and wanted to win. Each person had their own individual role which made for a fantastic team effort. Each player was supportive and found a way to pick up the person that just made a fielding error or got out. One of my favorite quotes was, 'Pick me up Sam!' It was always the next batter’s responsibility to pick that person up in front of them to keep the team going."
Some of Commeau's favorite memories from her time with the Misfits include:
• Each game, I looked forward to seeing how many double plays could be turned up the middle by shortstop Ricky Bagnall and second baseman Jimmy Leonard.
• Matt Merrifield always batted behind me and gave 150 percent when running the bases. My goal was to make sure he didn’t catch me or pass me before I got to home plate. Unfortunately, he often times popped it up, which meant I had to hold to see if it was caught, which sometimes made it interesting on the bases when the ball wasn't caught.
• The Misfits were always a little bit different. They loved having a girl at first base who wasn’t scared of Shawn Hiller, Matt Merrifield, Paul McFarland and Ricky Bagnall firing the ball. Or putting Matt Merrifield or Mike Longley in short field to plug the gap and take away the bloopers. They often were able to make an incredible play to first base and catch the other teams off guard.
• I like to joke about the fact I got the reverse David Ortiz shift because I was always going to hit the ball to left field. If I hit the ball to center field, my teammates would joke that I finally hit to the opposite field.
• We didn’t have a lot of practices but I can remember catching fly balls in the pouring rain for hours and hours with Gary Hamill and Joe Cyr. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to scare us away.
• Kimmy Felt was the most dedicated pitcher and didn’t just lob the ball to the catcher. She looked at how they were standing, knew what they liked to hit, and made sure she did the opposite. I was always so impressed with Kimmy’s batting. Although she wasn’t fast, she also knew exactly where she wanted to hit the ball and could place it perfectly. I would kill to be able to hit to right field when I want to.
• Over the past 10 years, the team had gone from a lot of young 20-somethings to one of the older teams in the league. Our team had grown from young athletes, to families with lots of little ones running around. Check out the team pictures over the years — it goes from no kids to lots of little kids. Everyone would make sure their kids were at the championship game so they could be included in the team picture.
• Every game I made the team incredibly nervous because I wouldn’t show up until five minutes before game time because of work. The best was during a playoff game in our final season where I showed up after our team had taken the field. My dad ran out into the field, grabbed my gym bag and I pulled my cleats on. I finished getting ready after the first inning. Our umpire, Mark Potter, wanted to make sure he kept everything on time.
• My dad came to almost every game and cheered us on. If he didn’t show up to a game, the entire team was asking where he was and if he was OK. I would have to say he was our most dedicated fan — rain or shine. Whether you are 7, 13, 20, or 31 years old, it is awesome to have a supportive parent who shares your passion and cheers you on.
Commeau sums up the thoughts of many who played for Misfits over the years. But, alas, that dynasty's reign is over and perhaps a new one will emerge from this year's crop of league squads. Because, for certain, there will be a new league champion crowned in the coming days.
Here is a partial list of players during the Misfits' eight-year title run: Joe Cyr, Ricky Bagnall, Heath Commeau, Samantha Commeau, Matt Merrifield, Shawn Hiller, Rachel Campbell, Jim Leonard, Kim Felt, Justin Bagnall, Alicia Bagnall, Dana Clark, Gary Hamill, Jake LaBree, Mike Longley, Becky Moore, Woody Moore, Greg Polk, Bethany Snow, Chelsea Eugley, Susan Ware, Sarah Mazurek, Laura Mazurek, Stacey Lytton, Jordan Lytton, Paul McFarland, Kristy Hastings, Scott Hastings, Joe Holub, Stacy Holub, Loralie Franklin, Mike MacDonald, Jason Peasley, Nicole Clark, Steph Hiller and Jenny Boscia.
Coach Joe Cyr, who now lives in Houlton, said the Misfits started when Demers Chiropractic (1998) disbanded and few of those players, including Cyr, had the Camden National Bank for one year in 1999. Then, in 2000, CNB became the Misfits.
Cyr began managing that CNB team and remembers "at that time thinking I had drawn the short straw, but in hindsight, it was one of the most gratifying things I have ever done.”
Cyr said the team name became Misfits because “we had difficulty getting a consistent sponsor for the team. Some years, we all simply kicked in $20 to $30 to play. In the early years, we were a rag-tag assortment of players, thus the name Misfits just seemed to fit us perfectly.”
For a time, the team was known as “Putters’ Misfits,” as the team was sponsored by Jeff LaBree, who operated Putters’ Grille at the Rockland Golf Course. Many on the team often went to the golf course after its games for a sit-down meal that often resembled a family gathering.
When LaBree closed that restaurant, the team went back to being simply “the Misfits,” but still often found themselves back at the Rockland Golf Course following games.
“They had a great location,” Cyr said. “You could sit outside on the deck and the prices were great. Plus, they didn’t care that a group of people wearing softball uniforms all came later in the evening for a bite to eat.”
Cyr said success did not come overnight. In fact, the team sported a below .500 record in its first few seasons, failed to experience postseason success, and often struggled to field a team. For a brief time, the Misfits were known as a very good team that couldn’t get it done in the playoffs, he said.
In 2001, the Misfits lost to French & Brawn in the championship game. The following season, the team went two-and-out in the postseason. In 2003, the Misfits rolled to a 9-1 regular-season record and the top seed in the playoffs, only to see Gilbert’s Pub beat the team twice in the championship.
And then things started to click, Cyr said. It wasn’t until a team decision was made in 2004 that things started to click for the Misfits in the postseason.
“Initially, we treated a playoff game the same way we did a regular-season game, meaning everyone who showed up played in the game,” Cyr said. “We came to the decision (in 2004) that we were going to play to win in the playoffs, and sometimes that meant sacrificing playing time.”
The Misfits also were a bit unconventional in how they positioned their players in the field, Cyr said. While most teams positioned women at catcher, second base, short field and right field, the Misfits put a female on first base, center field, catcher and pitcher.
“Finding the right person to pitch made all the difference in the world,” Cyr said. “I remember seeing Gilbert’s Pub have such great success and a big part of that success was because of the crafty pitching of Tom Ford. It was almost as if he could make a batter hit the ball exactly where he wanted them to. It was amazing.”
The Misfits struggled to find consistency inside the pitching circle. It wasn’t until Felt, one of the eldest members on the team, made a move from catcher to pitcher that things really started to change.
“Kim re-invented herself,” Cyr said. “She went from a second basemen to a part-time catcher who shared playing time before offering to pitch. She saw a spot where she could really help the team and worked her tail off to become one of the best pitchers the history of the Camden Coed League. None of our success would have been possible without her.”
The results paid dividends as the Misfits won their first title in 2004 en route to eight straight championships.
“Putting together a roster is tricky,” Cyr said. “You don’t want to have too many people, because playing time then becomes an issue. But on the same hand, you can’t have too few because if one or two people can’t make it on a given night, you might wind up forfeiting due to lack of players.”
The Misfits typically had a roster of about 12-14 men and six to eight women. Recruiting new (and often younger) talent was the key to the Misfits continued success over the years. As a local sports reporter, Cyr said he may have had an unfair advantage with getting younger athletes to join his team over others.
“Finding exceptional women to play remains the challenge of every team in a coed league,” Cyr said. “We were always looking for the right people to add to the team. It wasn’t always about getting the best player; it was about getting the right fit for the team. Many of the younger players we added were players I covered during their high school playing days, so they may have been a bit more comfortable joining our team than someone else’s.
“One of the best compliments I ever received, and I don’t know if it was intended to be one, came from Todd Anderson of French & Brawn,” Cyr said. “It was during one of our many playoff encounters between his team and mine. I remember him looking at the players sitting on the bench and commenting that most of those people would be starting on other teams. And he was right. They would have been.”
Chemistry trumps talent
Finding the right positions for everyone on the field was another challenge. It often involved convincing a player that their talents were better suited in a position someplace other than where they wanted to play.
“I think the key to the team’s success was a chemistry,” Cyr said. “Many other teams in the league were equally talented, but lacked the experience of playing together for as long as we did.”
The Misfits prided themselves on defense. While other teams were more interested in bashing home runs and plating 20-30 runs per game, the Misfits went the opposite direction and focused on defense. The team routinely allowed the fewest runs in the league, even when facing the top offensive squads.
“There is nothing more deflating to the opposition than a double play to end a rally,” Cyr said. “The Misfits excelled at that, I think.”
Much of that defensive success came from the infield play of Jim Leonard, Shawn Hiller, Rick Bagnall, Paul McFarland with either Rachel Campbell or Sami Commeau at first.
“Jim’s instincts at second base were simply incredible,” Cyr said. “He routinely fielded ground balls to the right side and made side-arm flip throws to second base, where the shortstop was waiting to tag the bag and fire to first for the out. Sometimes it seemed like Jim didn’t even have to look to see if the shortstop was covering the bag. He just knew the person would be there and made the throw without hesitation. When you are playing on such a small field, that fraction of a second is the difference between getting the out or allowing the runner to reach.”
Having a first baseman go into full splits, as Campbell and Commeau often did, also helped by reducing the amount of time it took for the ball to reach their gloves.
Cyr said all things come to an end and, after nearly a decade of championships, the Misfits reign has come to an end.
“While I was saddened to learn that the team was going to disband, deep down I knew it was time,” Cyr said. “I spoke to Ricky at length about it. Even though I had moved away after the 2009 season, we have remained close.”
The decision was not an easy one.
“He was going through the same struggles that I always did with trying to manage the team, give everyone enough playing time, have enough players on a nightly basis to field a team, and often footing the league fee while then trying to collect money afterward,” Cyr said. “There is a lot of work that also goes into running a team. I think that’s why so many (other teams) in the league came and went, while the Misfits remained constant.”
• Before and after each game, the team huddled for a pre- and post game talks. Those talk often focused on teamwork and family; the importance of playing hard; but most importantly about having fun.
• Kim Felt is the only player to be with the Misfits for their entire 12-year run (2000-2011).
• The team chanted “Mis What? Misfits! Winnah, Winnah, Chicken Dinnah” after each victory.
• The team also adopted the “Git Er Done” philosophy during much of its championship run.
• The Misfits were the only team to have possession of the “Championship Cup” before turning it back to the league after the 2011 season.
• Superstitions played a large role in the team. The dugout on the third-base line at Camden Snow Bowl, was perceived as the “good” dugout, while at Mary E. Taylor, the bench on the first-base line was favored.
• The Misfits felt MET was the “unlucky” field as losses or injuries tended to happen there. One of those injuries involved a compound fracture on the foot of one of its players — Laura Mazurek.
The scores from all 2012 Camden Adult Coed Softball regular-season games were:
Back Cove Yachts 8, Maine Cat 4.
Camden Herald Redwings 12, Feener's Pride 4.
FMC Seaweed Sluggers 14, Back Cove Yachts 3.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 7, Knox County Benchwarmers 6.
Camden Herald Redwings 9, Mad Bombers 7.
French & Brawn Baggers 9, FMC Seaweed Sluggers 4.
Feener's Pride 11, Maine Cat 8. (8 inns.)
Knox County Benchwarmers 12, French & Brawn Baggers 3.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 14, Mad Bombers 3.
Knox County Benchwarmers 16, Maine Cat 3.
French & Brawn Baggers 9, Smokestack Bar & Grille 2.
Feener's Pride 15, Back Cove Yachts 7.
Camden Herald Red Wings 12, Smokestack Bar & Grille 6.
Mad Bombers 14, Back Cove Yachts 10.
Feener's Pride 3, FMC 2.
Maine Cat 9, French & Brawn Baggers 3.
FMC Seaweed Sluggers 12, Mad Bombers 11. (8 inns.)
Knox County Benchwarmers 11, Camden Herald Redwings 5.
Camden Herald Redwings 24, Back Cove Yachts 8.
Maine Cat 12, Smokestack Bar & Grille 11.
FMC 6, Back Cove Yachts 3.
French & Brawn Baggers 11, Feener's Pride 6.
Knox County Benchwarmers 23, Mad Bombers 3.
Camden Herald Redwings 8, Maine Cat 6.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 11, FMC 7.
French & Brawn Baggers 7, Mad Bombers 4. (11 inns.)
Knox County Benchwarmers 13, Feener's Pride 4.
Maine Cat 13, Back Cove Yachts 5.
FMC 10, Feener's Pride 3
Camden Herald Redwings 7, French & Brawn Baggers 3.
Knox County Benchwarmers 16, French & Brawn Baggers 1.
Mad Bombers 12, Back Cove Yachts 7.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 9, Knox County Benchwarmers 5.
Camden Herald Redwings 17, FMC 9.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 16, Mad Bombers 1.
Maine Cat 11, Fenner's Pride 6.
Knox County Benchwarmers 20, Feener's Pride 0.
FMC 9, Maine Cat 5.
Camden Herald Redwings 9, Back Cove Yachts 1.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 9, French & Brawn Baggers 6. (9 inns.)
Maine Cat 6, Mad Bombers 4.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 23, Back Cove Yachts 6.
Camden Herald Redwings 7, French & Brawn Baggers 2.
Knox County Benchwarmers 10, FMC 3.
Mad Bombers 2, Feener's Pride 1.
Camden Herald Redwings 11, Smokestack Bar & Grille 7.
Maine Cat 9, French & Brawn Baggers 5.
Mad Bombers 12, FMC 5.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 9, Feener's Pride 4.
FMC 12, Back Cove Yachts 6.
Camden Herald Redwings 8, Knox County Benchwarmers 7.
Mad Bombers 5, French & Brawn Baggers 3. (9 inns.)
Feener's Pride 12, Back Cove Yachts 2.
Knox County Benchwarmers 9, Maine Cat 1. (5 inns., halted due to rain)
French & Brawn Baggers 14, Back Cove Yachts 12.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 6, Maine Cat 3.
FMC Seaweed Sluggers 10, Camden Herald Redwings 3.
Knox County Benchwarmers 8, Back Cove Yachts 1.
Smokestack Bar & Grille 12, FMC 5.
Mad Bombers 15, Feener's Pride 6.
Feener's Pride 7, French & Brawn 6. (8 inns.)
Maine Cat 11, Camden Herald Redwings 1.
Knox County Benchwarmers 8, Mad Bombers 5.
Courier Publications Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.