By Laura Dolce
Andy Young is a sports guy. He’s played or coached most, from baseball to soccer, basketball to football. But it’s baseball that’s always been his first love.
Young was always involved in some way with the sport, even back in college when he’d announce the games for the radio, maybe write them up for the college paper. He says his love extended to realizing that he wasn’t good enough to play baseball later in life, but he figured he could still be a part of the game.
So following college, Young hit the road. He went up to Alaska and did some time with the Alaska Goldpanners, a summer collegiate team. Then it was down to Durham, N.C., and a stint with the Durham Bulls. He left the year before the movie that would make the team famous was filmed, missed the hoopla, meeting Susan Sarandon. But he paid no mind to that. He wasn’t in this to meet movie stars.
It was the love of the game that kept him coming back, working the announcer’s booth, raking the infield “” whatever it took to keep the lifeblood flowing into the game he loved.
Following Durham, Young took a slight detour through the Peace Corps and Guatemala, where he said his goal was a small one: to end poverty and bring an end to hunger by teaching kids how to play basketball.
When that didn’t pan out, Young was back to baseball. This time it was with the Burlington Indians, then the Vero Beach Dodgers and then back to Burlington again. In ’94 he headed out to Butte, Mont., to work for the Copper Kings, a Pioneer League team. And that winter he switched sports and did a stint announcing for the Raleigh Ice Caps, a hockey team.
In the spring he signed on with a team by the name of the Portland Sea Dogs and he figured he finally had it right: winters in North Carolina with the Ice Caps, springs and summers with the Sea Dogs in Maine.
But Young’s plans to continue his nomadic existence hit a snag when he met the woman who would become his wife. It was then his plans to travel morphed into one thought: stay in Maine.
And so Young stayed with the Sea Dogs for seven years, announcing games and working in media relations. But all the while a new thought was growing in his head, one that might take him away from baseball. It was teaching.
The concept wasn’t really a new one for Young. He had thought about getting his teaching degree once he graduated from college, even stayed on for a post-graduate year to try to make that happen. It didn’t, so he moved on. But each year, in between the work with the baseball teams, he would head back to Connecticut and coach kids during the summer. He taught kids to play basketball, how to swing a bat “” even how to kick a soccer ball, though he swears he knew nothing about the game. And, of course, there were those kids in Guatemala who he taught how to shoot hoops.
So in between the Sea Dogs seasons he found himself taking courses at UNE, learning to become a teacher. And finally the day came when a professor at the school told him it was time to stop taking classes and start applying to schools. He had plenty of life experience to make up for what he was lacking in classes.
Young sent out 10 applications.
“I received 10 rejections,” he says with a laugh. “Cape Elizabeth rejected me twice.”
But Kennebunk High School didn’t reject Young. They invited him for an interview and later, offered him a job.
It’s for that reason that Young, who lives in Cumberland and has to commute for an hour and a half each day, is still with Kennebunk.
The way he puts it is like this: “They gave me a chance when no one else would.”
Kennebunk also gave him a chance to bring together his new love, teaching, with his old love, baseball and the rest of sports. Today, five years after he started at KHS, he’s spending his third year teaching a course he created. It’s called “Reading, Writing and Thinking Sports.” Young credits teacher Mary Greely with pushing him to develop the course.
During one recent class, Young and his kids “” three girls and about six times as many boys “” covered topics ranging from high school basketball to the year Roger Maris hit 61 home runs. Young is a master at getting the conversation going, calling on the quiet kids to offer opinions, challenging the easy answer. The kids respond to him, listen to his thoughts, feel free enough to offer their own. Many of them are like Young himself at that age “” still immature, still spending too much time thinking about sports and not enough about the future. But here, in Young’s class, no one gets pushed too hard to make choices before they’re ready.
“I have faith,” he says, “that all of them will figure it out.”
After all, Young says it took him 21 years and 48 states to find his own answers. Sometimes it takes something a bit more “” like a teacher who believes in you, or the common ground of talking over a ballgame “” for kids to be ready to take that next step.
And sometimes it takes 21 years of looking and 48 states of traveling to find your place in the world.