BANGOR, Maine — Retiring Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has little on Jeff Fahey when it comes to going out on top.
Fahey, who has led the Bangor High School baseball team to Class A state championships in each of the last three seasons, has announced his resignation after 16 years as the Rams’ head coach.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I didn’t move toward it until a month ago,” said the 51-year-old Fahey, who told his players of the decision Wednesday. “After we won in June, I took the summer to think about it. I struggled with it, but after coaching for 30 years [overall], I just felt this was a good time to go.”
Fahey, who as a high school junior played center field on Bangor’s 1982 state championship baseball team coached by his legendary predecessor, Bob Kelley, compiled a 246-50 record as head coach, winning four state titles overall as well as a fifth regional crown.
“Jeff is incredibly knowledgeable of the game and has had high expectations,” said Bangor Superintendent of Schools Betsy Webb, who announced Fahey’s resignation to the city’s school committee on Wednesday evening. “His athletes were great students and wonderful citizens, and they brought that onto the baseball diamond as well.
“I certainly want to thank him for all of his years as a coach and the lessons he taught his players that go not only throughout the season but throughout life,” she said.
After graduating from the University of Maine and spending one year teaching and coaching in Hermon, Fahey returned to his alma mater as a physical education teacher and began coaching baseball under Kelley — who led the Rams to eight state championships and 15 regional crowns during his 32-year tenure.
Fahey spent 12 years on Kelley’s coaching staff — a run highlighted by four consecutive Class A state championships from 1994 through 1997. When his mentor retired in 2000, Fahey took the helm, and his teams went on to average 15.4 victories per season.
“Coach Fahey followed a tremendously tough act in coach Kelley and did everything we asked him to do,” said Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine. “His kids played hard for him, he was very positive, and his kids knew he said what he meant and meant what he said, and we had a lot of success over all these years because of it.
“Jeff did an outstanding job, and we’re going to miss him. It will be very difficult to replace him,” he added.
Fahey reached 200 career victories with a 5-4 win against Brewer on May 20, 2014.
Fahey won his first state championship as Bangor’s head coach in 2006, followed by a second-straight regional crown a year later.
Fahey concluded his head coaching tenure with an .831 winning percentage, including .917 (55-5) over his last three seasons — with the Rams’ 12 consecutive postseason victories during that span producing three-consecutive state titles.
Fahey’s final game in the dugout came last June when Bangor defeated Falmouth 5-0 in the 2016 Class A state final at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish behind the three-hit pitching of left-hander Trevor DeLaite, now at UMaine.
“My biggest concern when I took the job was that the program — which was really one of the tops in the state — would decline, and I don’t think that’s happened,” Fahey said. “Probably that’s what I’m most proud of now, that it’s at the point now where it was when I took it over. I don’t think as a coach you can ask for anymore than that.”
Part of Fahey’s success stems from the stability within his coaching staff from the likes of current or former assistants Rob Gould, John Tennett, Fred Lower and Dave Morris — each one a product of the Bangor baseball program.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have very dedicated assistant coaches,” said Fahey, “and the fact they’re all Bangor guys helps, too.”
Fahey said his coaching philosophies also were influenced by those who coached him in Bangor high school — particularly Kelley and former baseball assistants John Stubbs and Neil Waterman and former football coach Gabby Price, now the head coach at nearby Husson University.
“Bob Kelley was very professional, he never used a curse word, he had high expectations and he was kind of the silent leader while John and Neil did a lot of the coaching,” said Fahey. “But when it came down to strategy and calling a game, it was all Bob Kelley, and we all knew that as players.
“With Gabby, he was the ultimate motivator. He treated the 75th kid on the football team no different than the first one, and part of his success was that he got all of his kids to play as hard as they could because he made everyone feel equal,” he said.
While graduation losses from Fahey’s 2016 state championship team include DeLaite, the state’s reigning Mr. Baseball, and fellow four-year starter Kyle Stevenson, the Rams should be among the favorites in Class A North next spring with a pitching staff that features UMaine-bound senior Peter Kemble and classmate Nick Cowperthwaite and a top catcher in senior Derek Fournier.
“I just felt like this was the right time to get done as far as the next coach is going to be left with a good solid team and a chance to repeat again with five returning starters and a good bunch of younger kids,” said Fahey, who works as a registered Maine guide and will remain as chair of the physical education department at Bangor High School.
“I would rather leave it that way than with the cupboard bare,” he said.