By Mike Whaley
Posted Mar. 17, 2016 at 7:37 PM
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Eric Fernandes was chuckling. “I feel like a presidential candidate,” he said. “Flip flopping.”
After a year away, Fernandes is back as the head coach of the Marshwood High School baseball team. He takes over for Bryant Lausberg, who resigned earlier this month after one season.
Fernandes coached the team for eight years, which included seven trips to the playoffs and back-to-back trips to the Western Maine Class A championship game (both losses) in his final two years. He stepped down after the 2014 season, citing a need to spend more time with his business, Fernandes and Sons Landscaping in Eliot. “I think when I saw the job posted, my initial thought was to offer some help,” he said. “I spoke with one of the coaches and I put my name in. I thought I could help out.”
Fernandes had a bit of an epiphany. “I realized I still enjoyed it,” he said. “I can make this work. We’ve got the people (at the business). I spoke with my wife. It’s something we can do. It’s more time I get to spend with the kids. It’s far more important than money and business.”
In eight years at the Hawks’ helm, the team went 95-45 under Fernandes, including 45-10 his final three seasons. He left the program in a good place and he is back, and it is still in a good place. Last year Marshwood went 14-4, losing in the regional semis to South Portland, 9-8.
Fernandes did not completely distance himself from the sport last year. He coached a fall ball team and his youngest son, Luke, is still playing on scholarship at Boston College. This is his senior year. “I had a great time with the fall ball kids,” Fernandes said. “The thing is there have been about 20 or so kids playing college ball at various levels. The commitment is there from the kids, the parents and the community. If those type of kids are on the field, it breeds success and the other kids tune in. In meeting with the kids, clearly they are all locked in and ready to go.”
A new rule in Maine allows pitcher and catchers to start a week earlier to throw, and then a week later tryouts and regular practices begin. It gives the Hawks less than a three-week turnaround before their April 14 opener at Noble.
Marshwood lost seven seniors from the 2015 team, including Zack Quintal, Maine’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Nine players return who were on the varsity roster, and a half dozen were with Fernandes in 2014, so he feels the Hawks will again have a competitive edge to them, despite the heavy losses.
The program has varsity, JV and reserve teams, and with 48 to 52 players projected to go out for the teams this year, the numbers are good. “All those years, I’ve never had to cut a kid,” Fernandes said. “Everyone’s a part of it. We foster that. We want kids to play.”
Fernandes also returns a coaching staff that has been around for 10 years or so. “They’re looking forward to getting the kids going,” Fernandes said. “I can see it in their faces. I’ve got a lot of confidence that (the kids’) energy level is really high to go out there and play ball.”