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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

G21D Interview, Dale Plummer, Bigger Plans

Colby College coach Dale Plummer at the bench during a game at rival Trinity College.

Part 1: Good Thing | Part 2: Bigger Plans

Called into his manager's office in 1995, Dale Plummer got the news he'd waited to hear: He'd been called up to the majors. Then came the second part: They couldn't send him.

He was in no shape physically to pitch. Two days earlier, he'd pulled his groin. He would be better in short order, but he wasn't better then and Plummer knew it.

"I knew I couldn't pitch because I knew how sore I was," Plummer recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently in an interview. Still, he was at a loss for words.

"It wasn't that bad," Plummer said of his reaction, "because I knew I couldn't pitch. If I was healthy... If it was three days earlier or three days after that, I'm thinking I could have had a nice career and stuck around for a while."

As it stood, he never got that opportunity again. It was his last year playing professionally.

But, just to get to that point, it was an ordeal. He was in his seventh season as a pro. In his fifth, he'd been diagnosed with cancer. But he struggled through the treatment and recovery process to take the mound again.

Released for 1994, Plummer returned for spring 1995, with the Red Sox. He also became a replacement player. It was a decision that Plummer said was an easy one.

He knew several union members. He'd roomed with Mo Vaughn years earlier in the Cape Cod League. He also knew big league guys he'd played with at AAA.

But Plummer wanted to play baseball. He also had bigger plans than simply playing in the majors.

"Coming from Maine, being a Red Sox fan lifelong, I just wanted to win the World Series. And that was my goal," Plummer said. "And if those other guys in the clubhouse didn't want to win the World Series, then so be it. But, if I got called up and they wanted to give me crap, then too bad on them.

"The game had been taken away from me a couple times, and I battled back, taking advantage of any opportunity I could get," Plummer added. "I just wanted to win a World Series for the Sox."

Colby coach Dale Plummer visits starter Dominick Morrill on the mound during a tough inning at Trinity College.

After his retirement, Plummer started his coaching career. By 2001, he was an assistant at Colby rival Bowdoin College. In 2006, Plummer moved to Colby as an assistant. In 2007, he took over the top job.

He joined Colby the year after the historic program didn't win a game, going 0-27. By 2008, Plummer's Colby Mules were 18-14.

Several of Plummer's former players came out for the recent game at Trinity College in Hartford. Among them was 2009 graduate Kyle McKay. McKay is now in the Boston area, working for a software company.

In introducing them, Plummer said they were the ones who turned the program around, not him.

McKay recalled "Coach Plum" taking the mound in practices, having his players hit off him.
McKay recalled Plummer always telling his players how the game was played at the next level, "everything from the way you talk, to how you play, to the swagger you carry on the field."

"He's a great coach," McKay said. "And I like him as a friend."

McKay also talked about the difficulties Plummer and Colby face getting good players. Rival Trinity won the 2008 NCAA Division III national championship, McKay noted.
Colby College senior Richard Newton takes a swing during a game at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. In the background is Trinity College Chapel.

Plummer works by selling the school, and its baseball program. Baseball has been played at Colby since 1867, he noted.

"I tell the guys that come to Colby that they've got to love the game, every recruit that comes in my office, that if you don't love the game of baseball, then it's not going to work out for you at Colby," Plummer said, "because you've really got to love it."

The goal, Plummer said, isn't just to be good, it's to win.

"They're definitely here to get their education," Plummer said, "but this enhances it. This baseball opportunity enhances their education. Hopefully, it's gonna get them through in life, when things don't go their way."

Part 1: Good Thing | Part 2: Bigger Plans

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