Mark Armstrong remembers being molded by three coaches as an aspiring athlete growing up in Millinocket.

Two of them were his Little League baseball coach, the late Jim R. DiFrederico, and Stearns High School head football coach Roger Geren.

The third was head baseball coach and football assistant Carl DiFrederico, who died Sunday in Millinocket at age 73 after a long illness.

“Carl, [Jim R. DiFrederico’s nephew], was always someone you could talk to. He was more like a father figure out there. He guided us,” said Armstrong, a three-sport standout at Stearns who graduated in 1975 and went on to earn a baseball scholarship at the University of Maine.

Carl DiFrederico, a longtime coach and business teacher at Stearns, was always fair with his players, recalled Armstrong, who lives in California and works for a nonprofit organization.

“When practices started each season, we’d always have 2 feet of snow on the ground and would have to practice in the gym, but Carl always had these new training techniques to try and made it fun,” Armstrong said. “I enjoyed playing for him. He always had the respect of his players.”

DiFrederico’s love of sports probably started on the streets and fields of Little Italy, a residential area in Millinocket, recalled his cousin Jim M. DiFrederico.

“In those days, after you got your chores done, it was time to have some pickup games. I think Carl, too, looked up to my dad, [Jim R. DiFrederico], as someone involved in sports,” DiFrederico said, adding that his cousin went on to play football, basketball and baseball at Stearns.

DiFrederico remembers his cousin as being a very methodical coach and a student of the game, but it was his ability to understand his players that stood out.

“He was just a real good coach to play for because he was kind of a players’ coach,” he said. “He knew when he had to get on people, but he had a good way about doing it. He had high expectations. He wanted his players to succeed.”

Those expectations also were passed on to his younger cousin, DiFrederico recalled, saying it was a little harder, not easier, to play for a member of his family.

“I remember him telling me then and years after that he didn’t want anyone to think he was playing favorites and or anything of that sort. He always demanded that people play the best that they could,” he said adding that Carl DiFrederico also relished family time with his wife of 48 years, Barbara, and their two children, Louis and Darcy, and grandchildren, Jack DiFrederico, Molly, Eva, and Lilah Blythman.

Carl DiFrederico guided the Stearns baseball team in two different stints from 1970 to 1997 and led the team to a regional runner-up finish in the early 1970s and then to a Class B state title in 1975 when the Minutemen beat Cape Elizabeth 4-3 in 11 innings, a memory that still vividly stands out for Armstrong, especially since he was able to share it with his brother, Hale, the team’s third-base coach.

“That was a big thing for Hale to be the third base coach. He had cerebral palsy, but Carl never looked at him like that. He was his third base coach, and that was it,” Armstrong said.

DiFrederico, who earned a bachelor’s degree at Husson in Bangor and then a master’s degree at the University of Maine, enjoyed a 40-year career in education, starting at Schenck High School in East Millinocket (1966-69) and then at Stearns until he retired in 2006.

He also contributed to the success of the Stearns football program where he assisted with the defensive secondary, running backs and quarterbacks while helping the program win four states titles during his tenure from 1972-97.

After a grueling freshman year of football, Armstrong wanted to quit the program, but DiFrederico persuaded him to not give up and to give a new, incoming coach a chance.

That coach was Geren, who guided Stearns to the state title in 1974 with Armstrong as one of the team’s star running backs, a position DiFrederico recommended Armstrong change to from quarterback.

“That was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Armstrong said.

A wake will be held for DiFrederico 9-10:30 a.m. Saturday at Lamson Funeral Home in Millinocket, followed by a mass at 11 a.m. at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church.

Joe McLaughlin

McLaughlin (right) is a Stearns High School and University of Maine graduate who worked for three years at the Aroostook Republican and News in Caribou as a reporter and editor. He has worked on the BDN...