Special game: Baseball connects three generations of Mazureks
Rockland — The Mazurek men are taking control on the baseball diamond — one generation at a time.
Starting in the 1950s to the present, a trio of Mazureks — Edward, Richard and Nicholas of Rockland — has been making, and leaving, their mark in the baseball books.
Ed, the oldest, won two World Series championships, one in Little League and another in Babe Ruth, as a youngster, while his son, Rich, won a state Class B title during his playing days at Rockland District High School.
Nicholas, Ed's grandson and Rich's son, currently is making his mark as well and is showing off the Mazurek heritage, contributing heavily to the Oceanside High School baseball team as a freshman last spring.
Ed and Rich agree that the actual game of baseball has not changed over the years, but the competition has. The players train harder and the competition is at a completely different level than when the older Mazureks played.
“Back when I played it was just going out on the field, whatever it looked like it didn’t matter,” said Rich. “I mean, we played on fields that were horrendous and you would have cut legs, scraped knees and [you] were guaranteed to get one ground ball in the face every game.”
Rich also compared the difference in equipment.
“Back when we played, I might have had the bat that was used 20 years before," he said. "I mean that was the equipment. The grips were ripped off, tapped handles; if the bat was dead it didn’t matter. Now a-days, bats are like cars. You need to have the newest model.”
There certainly are other Midcoast families with three generations of sports standouts and the Mazureks are one of them, with a keen connection through baseball.
The first generation
Ed, a 74 year-old Stamford, Conn. native, took baseball by storm when his team won the 1951 Little League World Series with Stamford Little League and the 1954 Babe Ruth World Series three years later with essentially the same squad. Baseball was a passion for the eldest Mazurek and pretty much dominated his life until he began playing football during his senior year of high school.
Aside from winning the Little League World Series, one other moment highlighted the entire trip to Williamsport, Pa., where the games were held.
“One of the standout memories was when we were fortunate enough to have in our dugout, in between innings one game, Cy Young," said Ed. We met him [and it was] pretty cool."
“[Young] was pretty old at the time, probably close to 90, and everybody had heard of him at the time. We were all just awestruck. He was an immortal baseball pitcher and we were getting a chance to shake his hand and talk to him — which was for a 12-year-old kid, pretty neat.”
Young, whose name adorns Major League Baseball's best annual pitcher award, was not the only Hall-of-Fame baseball player to visit the team over their two championship runs, as Ed recalled from the team's 1954 Babe Ruth World Series experience.
Playing in Washington D.C., at Griffith Stadium — home of the then Washington Senators (now Minnesota Twins) — the boys had a fan that was familiar to everyone watching them.
“We were a playing a late afternoon game and were out there doing our warmups and Ted Williams was watching us warm up which was pretty cool,” Ed said. Williams, the former Boston Red Sox great, was manager of Senators at one point.
After graduating from Stamford High in 1956, Ed went onto earn his bachelor's degree in business administration from Xavier University in 1960 and his master's from Fairfield University in 1968.
While at Xavier, he was a member of the football team and was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals, now the St. Louis Cardinals, as the 60th overall pick in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
After getting cut prior to opening day, Ed became a member of both the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings, while he also was a member of the Stamford Golden Bears and Louisville Raiders, both semi-professional teams.
After calling it quits as a football player, Ed took up coaching at the high school level.
Between coaching football in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine, as well as softball in Maine, Ed tallied up quite a few years on his coaching resume.
He is best known in the Midcoast for serving as the varsity football coach at RDHS for 10 years and the varsity softball coach for 18 years.
Ed, along with his wife MaryEllen, has five children and four grandchildren. Ed currently serves as a Maine senator and previously served as a member of the Rockland City Council (2002-2004), as the Rockland Mayor (2003-2004) and in the House of Representatives (2004-2012).
The second generation
Rich, 41, is best known on the baseball diamond for “The Foul Ball” in the 1989 state Class B championship game at St. Joseph's College in Standish as a member of the Tigers.
The then youngest Mazurek baseball player hit what appeared to be a home run so high and far that it sailed over the left field line trees that were beyond the home run fence, but the shot and ruled foul by the umpires, but could have been ruled either way.
“I have traveled [...] all over the state [since then for college ball and coaching] and one play in particular that people always come up to me and ask me about is 'the foul ball,' ” said Rich. “To this day, the only play anybody ever talks about from that state championship game is the foul ball. I will see people in Bangor; I’ve seen people in Massachusetts who say, ‘Geez, I remember that foul ball you hit in that state championship game.”
Rich, a Providence, R.I. native who moved to Rockland when he was age five, excelled in golf, basketball and baseball throughout high school. In addition to being a member of Rockland's lone state Class B baseball championship team, he also was a member of the 1989 boys basketball state runner-up squad. In basketball, Rich posted over 1,000 career point, hitting the milestone during a game with rival Camden Hills Regional (then Camden-Rockport) High School.
After graduating from RDHS in 1990, he attended then Husson College (now university) in Bangor, where he was a 1994 graduate who dominated the basketball courts and proved it by scoring 1,505 career points and shooting 77 percent from the free-throw line.
Rich was inducted into the Husson Hall of Fame in 2007 and later in the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame. Aside from being a member of two separate halls of fames ,he also won the Nelson Degrasse Award for athletic ability and sportsmanship at Husson and the Rockland Rotary Community Person of the Year Award.
“It’s not something you expect, but is still nice,” Rich said. “You don’t play to get those awards and it is not something you ask to receive.”
After his playing days, Rich married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Gamage, and now have two children, Nicholas and Alexis, who both excel in sports.
For as long as his children could play sports, Rich has been a coach of their teams — many times coaching both of his children’s teams simultaneously.
“It is very fun," said Rich. "To be able to coach your kids is something that I think all parents, not all of them, but a great portion that have kids in sports, want to do at some time. My kids are fun to coach. They are without any [doubt] the team leaders and role models for the other kids on the team. That’s special and fun to have that; you know when you are coaching your kids and they are looked upon like that. You have to coach them a little differently [than the other kids]. A lot of times, people look at it like the coach's kid gets special treatment and you know they are right. Most of the time, the coach is harder with their kid on the team. That’s how I am with my kids. I hold them to a higher standard, more or less their attitude or behavior, than their skill of the game.”
“I think it is kind of neat [that Rich coaches both of his children],” Ed said. “That’s something I always took pride in — the coaching aspect. Watching Rich coach Nick and Alexis is really, very good. I’m very proud of that and I know Rich’s mom is very proud of it. We are very grateful Rich is able to pick up the coaching end and carry on the family tradition.”
The final generation (for now)
Nick, a 15 year-old Rockland native, soon will begin his sophomore season as a member of the Oceanside Mariners, a consolidation of Rockland District and Georges Valley high schools. The as-of-now, final generation Mazurek to make his mark on the baseball diamond was an important cog as a freshman on the varsity team at Oceanside High School in the spring.
Nick chalked up a .310 batting average (third best on the team), tied for third in hits, tied for third in singles (11), tied for the team lead in doubles (5), and led the team in both runs batted in (13) and home runs (2).
“That’s really special to know because the team I played on this year had two outstanding players — Drew Townsend, who will be playing college baseball, and Zac Roman, who was probably up there with one of the best batting averages in the state,” said Nick of his offensive stats. “It’s outstanding to know that I kept up with those guys [in my own way] and led in some categories.”
On the mound for the Mariners, the freshman worked 36.1 innings on the hill, allowed 29 hits, 16 runs (10 earned) and 35 base runners. He also struck out 47 batters (a season-best for the team), walked four and hit two in his seven appearances on the mound (five starts), where he boasted a 2-0 record with one save and an earned run average of 1.93.
Nick said it was "pretty cool" having such a strong season on the mound, while offering credit to his father.
“I had a really good year pitching and, as a freshman, it’s good to have my dad as a coach because at practice, we don’t have a pitching coach, so, it’s nice to go home and work on [my craft] with my dad. It always helps because at the field we don’t get to practice my pitching and [working at home with my dad] is what helps me throw strikes and have good numbers.”
Nick is one of a handful of players who get to have their father coach them on and off the field.
“I like having my dad coach me just because I know he has a lot of experience in all the sports he coaches and looking at coaches that coach other sports, you could say [some of them] don’t have a lot of playing experience and [my dad] has a lot of playing experience and I really like that," Nick said.
Having his grandfather and father attend most of his games — whether as coach or a fan — is pretty meaningful to the third generation star. “It is really nice to know that they are always there to support me. It is nice to know that they are always supporting me and they will always be there trying to help me out.”
Following baseball season, Nick was named Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B second-team all-conference, was selected to play in the rained-out Maine Underclassmen All-Star Game and considered to be one of five finalists for Courier Publications' male athlete of the year — all as a freshman.
“It’s kind of like what my dad said," Nick said. "You just don’t expect [that recognition] and I was definitely not expecting any of that. I knew I had a good year, but I did not expect or think any of that would come out of it. I had no clue and it is just special to get recognized when I wasn’t even thinking of those awards like that. It’s pretty special.”
For the remainder of his high school baseball career, Nick has his goals planned out. “[I am going to] try and lead the team to a state championship, that’s the main goal — almost the ultimate goal,” he said. “While doing that, I hope to play good enough myself to try to [play college baseball].”
While he currently is following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather as a baseball player, and standout all-around athlete, Nick hopes to do the same in his later years as a coach.
"I feel like it would be really fun to become a coach,” he said “To be there with the kids and try to help them get better at whatever they're doing, that would be pretty cool.”
George Harvey, an intern for Courier Publications, lives in Coral Springs, Fla., except in the summer, when he resides in Warren. The incoming Coral Springs Christian School junior has had a passion for sports journalism since a young age. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.