In this June 10, 2021, file photo, Hodgdon shortstop Silas Graham slaps the tag on Madawaska's RJ Minor during the Class D North quarterfinal. Hodgdon beat Madawaska 12-0. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Teams from as far away as South Paris and Turner have converged on the Winkin Complex at Bangor’s Husson University this weekend for the start of the state Senior American Legion baseball tournament.

But three players from one of the local entries in the eight-team event that runs through Wednesday may be traveling even farther in their quest for a championship and to fulfill their love of the game.

Players from Presque Isle, Mars Hill and Houlton are on the roster for Quirk Motor City, which had its home games this summer across town from Husson at Mansfield Stadium. With a lack of competitive baseball teams in Aroostook County, the three teammates sacrifice many hours on the road each week just to play summer baseball.

Kaiden Crowley, who just completed his first year at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, will make the 160-mile drive down U.S. Route 1 and Interstate 95 from his Presque Isle apartment to play. Or he might choose to commute from his native Jonesport, approximately half the distance but still a lengthy sojourn from the coast.

Teammate Josh Thomas, who recently graduated from Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill, has only a slightly shorter drive than Crowley — approximately 145 miles — while Silas Graham, who will be a senior at Greater Houlton Christian Academy this fall, has a 120-mile ride to the ballpark on game days.

That compares to the trips faced by Bessey Motors of South Paris (130 miles) and the Turner Bandits (105 miles), the teams otherwise facing the longest road trips in their quests to capture the Senior Legion title.

Hodgdon’s Silas Graham pitches during the team’s June 8 game against Fort Fairfield, holding them to zero runs. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

“These are three kids that have been in our program for the last two or three years,” said Quirk Motor City co-head coach Ryan Lincoln, who routinely faces a long drive of his own from his day job as recreation director in Baileyville, about 100 miles east of Bangor. “They have a hard time finding a place to play ball up north, but they’re really committed.”

“I love the game of baseball and it’s fun to get out here and play with a good group of guys and work on my game,” Crowley said. “With the travel situation I still stay in Presque Isle and travel back and forth, and sometimes I’ll just stay with friends [in the Bangor area] to cut the travel down.”

Road trips are nothing new for Aroostook County players interested in American Legion baseball.

For many years, players from The County were eligible to compete for the Old Town-Orono Twins, at the time the state’s northernmost program. As interest in Legion baseball grew statewide, so did the number of teams. By 2007 there were 48 entries, including the Presque Isle Patriots as a local option for players from throughout The County.

The Patriots folded in 2010 due to a lack of players, and since then several County players have resumed traveling south to get their summer baseball fix.

Recent examples include Graham’s cousin, current Husson University pitcher Cam Graham, who traveled from Littleton to play for Quirk Motor City in 2016 and for the Bangor Coffee News Comrades in 2017.

Nick Perfitt, a former Houlton High School pitcher like Cam Graham, played for Quirk Motor City in 2016 and 2018 and now is one of Crowley’s UMPI teammates.

“Down here there’s better competition than from where I’m from because there’s not as many people that like to play baseball. Mostly it’s basketball,” said Silas Graham, who pitched and played shortstop this spring at Hodgdon High School.

“I’m facing better pitching down here so it will prepare me for next spring. It’s overall making me better.”

Graham admits he benefits greatly from having his parents, Montie and Sarah Graham, drive him to the games.

“I appreciate them bringing me down here just about every day, absolutely, so I don’t have to drive down here. That’s a piece of work in itself,” he said.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...