ORONO, Maine — Shane Bussey was a changed man when he returned to the University of Maine campus last August.
He had a fresh outlook on his life and his role as a student-athlete, a privilege which he nearly squandered during the previous school year.
“I was very excited about having a new start, but I knew it was going to be tough,” said Bussey, who lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.
His sophomore season ended unceremoniously in early May when he was suspended indefinitely from the baseball team after committing an undisclosed violation of UMaine’s Student-Athlete Code of Conduct. The violation occurred during the team’s road trip to Stony Brook, New York, where he did not appear in any of the games.
Bussey missed UMaine’s last 10 regular-season contests and its two America East playoff games.
The situation was magnified because it was his second incident in five months. On Dec. 7, 2013, he and teammate Luke Morrill were arrested on campus by Orono police and charged with burglary after they allegedly broke into a UMaine shed and removed tools.
Both were suspended from the team, but remained in school. Each received a six-game suspension, which was served over the first six games of the 2014 season.
On May 6, 2014, Bussey and Morrill pleaded no contest at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor to disorderly conduct, a Class E misdemeanor, and were assessed a $300 fine.
“That was a stupid mistake,” Bussey said. “This [latest] one was a little more personal.”
The second violation put Bussey’s UMaine career in jeopardy. Coach Steve Trimper sought to make it a learning experience for Bussey rather than sever ties.
“We wear the coach title, but we’re really educators and teachers,” he said. “You want these kids to grow.”
With input from Trimper and the athletics administration, Bussey’s situation was handled through UMaine’s Division of Student Affairs. Ultimately, he was deemed worthy of another chance to prove himself.
In addition to the suspension, which also prohibited Bussey from practicing with the team until Oct. 20, he was required to undergo counseling. Trimper was confident that Bussey would complete the requirements.
“You have to weigh when is the time to educate, when is the time to cut loose,” Trimper said. “I err on the side of trying to educate and have these kids grow.”
“Coach Trimper definitely went to bat for me again,” Bussey said. “I’ll never forget that and I’m very thankful for him doing that.”
Bussey refocused last summer in Florida. He worked with an air conditioning company in the morning, then played baseball in the afternoon and evening.
He said he was determined to earn another shot at UMaine.
“I worked on getting my head clear, getting back on track for my future,” Bussey said. “I had to look at my priorities, my responsibilities and mature a lot more.”
Bussey’s arrival on campus last August was bittersweet. He was eager to play ball, but was not allowed to practice with the baseball team.
He attended all the practices, helping out however he could, then got in some individual work once the sessions were over. He met weekly with UMaine Associate Athletic Director for External Operations Joe Roberts to make sure he was complying with the requirements of his proposed return.
With several new teammates on board, Bussey explained his situation to the team early during preseason.
“It was real tough going through that fall,” Bussey said.
“My focus mainly was to work hard, to show that I care,” he added.
Bussey is back as the starting shortstop for the Black Bears, who open a three-game America East series against Albany with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday at Mahaney Diamond.
He is batting .319 with 12 runs batted in and leads UMaine with 19 runs scored, 11 walks, three stolen bases and two triples. He also has five doubles.
He believes the UMaine suspension has helped him turn things around.
“It helped getting in trouble,” Bussey said. “As hard as that is for anybody to say, it was a good thing.
“I could be somewhere else and [my] career over,” Bussey said.
Bussey hopes to reward the confidence Trimper and UMaine have shown in him.
“I’m thankful for where I am now and I’m comfortable, excited,” Bussey added.
“He has a lot to prove, too,” Trimper said. “He’s shown some tremendous growth, but he’s got to continue to grow and mature, even after he leaves the University of Maine.”