High school softball

Coach Worcester elevated Bucs, Mariners to state-championship heights

After nearly two decades, state titles at two schools, he walks away from 'softball daughters' for more time with family
By Mark Haskell | Jun 14, 2019
Photo by: Mark Haskell Oceanside coach Rusty Worcester.

Thomaston — For nearly two decades, Rusty Worcester mentored hundreds of young women not only on the game of softball, but the game of life.

And after 19 seasons coaching teenage student-athletes — inside and outside the diamond lines — at Georges Valley and Oceanside high schools, Worcester said it all with two words: “It’s time.”

Prior to the team’s Class B North quarterfinal playoff loss to Midcoast-rival Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, Worcester told Oceanside athletic director Molly Bishop he planned to resign at the end of the season.

Worcester coached 11 seasons at Class C Georges Valley before GVHS merged with Rockland District High School to form Class B Oceanside. He then coached eight more seasons and between those schools, he amassed an impressive 276-63 record (an eye-popping.814 winning percentage), including three state championships — two with the Buccaneers (2007-2008) and one with the Mariners (2013).

“I wrote in my letter of resignation that it was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life,” he said. “When I wrote the letter, it honestly was something I never thought I’d write. I never thought about it or thought that day would ever come. That’s how much I’ve enjoyed it.”

The Bucs won back-to-back state Class C titles in 2007-2008 before, in the early 2010s, GVHS merged with RDHS to form Oceanside.

Then, Worcester led the Mariners to the school’s first state title — in Class B — in any sport in 2013.

“Georges Valley and Oceanside will certainly miss Rusty on the softball diamond,” said Bishop. “A true gentleman, a class act and one fierce competitor. He was the ultimate role model for the young women in his program over the years.”

Bishop said she “will miss him as a sounding board [as he was] the coach who always set the bar high for his colleagues and as a true friend.”

While the state titles are impressive, so too is the consistency of Worcester’s teams as all qualified for the regional playoffs in each of his 19 seasons.

In addition, he was a four-time conference coach of the year (three times in the Mountain Valley Conference and once in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference) and between 2007-2009 with Georges Valley had a 46-game win streak, which coincided with an undefeated season for the Buccaneers in 2008.

However, his ride as coach came to an end on the field in Waldoboro, a 2-0 defeat to Medomak Valley, his team’s most storied and competitive local diamond rival.

“As I stood there and listened to Rusty’s last speech after our season ended, I suddenly just felt a massive void,” said Rachel (Campbell) Burns, who played first base for Worcester in his first four years at Georges Valley and is now an assistant coach with him at Oceanside. “Not the usual void from another season being over, but suddenly everything was over. No more watching this man who pours his heart and soul into every second of the softball season.”

“I’m going to miss him,” said Medomak Valley softball coach Richard Vannah. “This is fun. This is softball. This is what it’s all about these intense moments. And it’s so fun to play against him and it’s going to stink not having him in the league. The team will go on, but facing Rusty is always [a good challenge].”

His decision to ultimately hang it up came midseason, when, as Worcester said, “Life has twists and turns that brings you to different chapters.”

Of late, Worcester’s mother-in-law passed away in May, as did another close family friend. Most recently, Worcester’s father-in-law suffered a stroke.

“That stuff opens your eyes,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty rough go of it personally and when that stuff happens, you start thinking about everything and the future and we’re all getting older every day.”

Worcester has a wife, Mae; a daughter, Brittany, and two stepchildren, Paul and Angela Benjamin, a total of five grandchildren and a bevy of nieces and nephews.

“I want to spend some time with family. And what it boils down to is family comes first," he said.

“I have grandkids in [Las] Vegas that play on big club soccer teams and go all over the place and they’re tremendous players," said Worcester, who also coached boys basketball at GVHS. "I have a niece in Washington that plays softball. She’s a really good softball player and if she progresses the next two years could possibly be D1 material. And I’d love to watch her play.”

Brittany, who played second base for her father in her time with the Bucs, said “It was not easy for him” to make the decision to step down.

“It seems surreal to me that he is finally stepping down,” she said. “He has so much passion and love for the sports and his ‘softball daughters,’ family and fans. He is such an inspiring coach and I know it was one of the most difficult decisions he’s ever had to make."

Often, Worcester, who also has built a career in correctional facilities in Thomaston and Warren, misses such family opportunities due to his dedication to the program.

“From March to June every year you’re right busy, and that’s the only way I can take it,” he said. “I take it full speed ahead and I don’t take any time off.”

Of course, to spend more time with his family, he will have to step away from his extended family. Or as he calls them, his “softball daughters.”

“They’re so super and they’ve kept me young all these years,” he said. “They’re full of enthusiasm all the time every day. They’re just like sponges. They want to learn and everything you teach them they suck it up and just do so well. And they’ve turned themselves not just into great softball players, but wonderful young ladies.”

“I have always called him dad number two and he stays true to that role,” said Burns. “He traveled to Mexico for my wedding [and presided over the ceremony]. He’s one of a kind and irreplaceable and this community will miss seeing and hearing that voice on the third-base line.”

As far as his fondest memories go? Look no further than the 2007 and 2008 seasons at GVHS, where he coached the Buccaneers — and his daughter Brittany — to back-to-back titles.

Brittany called that run “the most special moment of my life.”

“Dad and I are very close, so to share that experience together was amazing and so special,” she said. “We smile reminiscing about it and share stories together and it’s something I will cherish for the rest of my life. He inspires me every day and I have always looked up to him.”

“Winning it with your daughter? Man, nothing will ever be better than that.,” he said. “There was just so much elation and enjoyment and that team was tremendous. Brittany and I, there probably isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about it when we get together.”

“But [also] that 2013 season, when you hang the first-ever state title at a new school? I told the girls ‘You know what? They can never take that down. You’re the only ones that will be the first.’ And that’s quite an accomplishment. All three of those state titles carry big, emotional memories for me.”

No matter the season or circumstance, for Worcester, “those game situations” are what gets his blood pumping.

“Right down to the wire and one little call either way is going to win the game,” he said. “I thrive on that stuff. I just love it.”

Worcester is a mainstay on the sidelines of various Oceanside athletic events, “helping out at basketball games and football games and things like that,” and plans to continue in that capacity.

As far as what could happen down the line? The 55-year-old Worcester has resigned, but as far as his options down the road? “I always leave them open.”

“You never know what might come along,” he said. “I take it one year at a time or day-to-day and maybe the itch comes back, who knows?”

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