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May 4—DIXFIELD — Bob McPhee, a former longtime sportswriter for the Lewiston Sun Journal and now an assistant baseball coach at Dirigo High School, never allowed a wheelchair to restrain him from leading a full life of inspiration and perseverance.
Members of this tight-knit community came out in droves to honor a courageous man on Monday afternoon before the Leavitt-Dirigo baseball game. Dirigo renamed the baseball field at Harlow Park with a sign that reads Bob McPhee Baseball Diamond.
"When I came over to Harlow Park in the summer of 1975, I lived in Peru and was a sophomore at Rumford High School," McPhee said in a statement. "My biggest interest was trying out in hopes of playing some baseball for the Dixfield Dixies in the Pine Tree League.
"It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learned a lot and was able to play a lot of baseball with a great group of rednecks. Then as a starting shortstop in 1976, Dixfield won the PTL championship. In fact, I've been fortunate to help coach relations of former teammates.
"So having this field was the furthest thing on my mind. It is quite an honor and I extend my gratitude to everybody who helped make this event possible."
McPhee was surrounded by the Cougar baseball team and the community during the dedication.
Former Dirigo baseball coach Ryan Palmer and Jon Holmes spearheaded the campaign to have the field named after McPhee.
"One of the things that we also thought was you see these things happen when someone has passed on," Palmer said. "We thought it was appropriate. We wanted to make it happen while Bobby was still here with us."
McPhee has been a lifelong friend of Palmer.
"I have been around Bobby most of my life," Palmer said. "I would bring him to a lot games that he would do for the paper. One thing he told me is, 'I have never been a coach,' and that was a no-brainer for me. I said, 'OK, you're on my staff next year.' Two-straight championships later, and he is the big reason why."
Holmes was inspired by McPhee's determination and his dedication to this community.
"After his devastating accident in his last year of high school, he aspired to become a man who has no limitations," Holmes said in a written statement. "He put himself through college (at the University of Maine) when the classrooms were not all handicap accessible. His many friends would carry him and his wheelchair to the rooms below so Bob didn't miss a class."
One of those good friends is Dennis Smith of Augusta, who still maintains his friendship with McPhee. Smith lived with McPhee for a year at UMaine, and from there, a strong friendship grew.
"I don't know if I helped him a lot," Smith said. "We helped each other a lot. We ended up having a class together and taking notes for him. He is an inspiration. This is a guy who never gives up. My son and his high school friends wanted to meet him so badly. My son's buddy in high school is a wrestler like Bob was, and Bob is kind of legend in high school sports in Maine.
"In terms of his willpower and determination and grit, I have never seen anything like it, and it is just great to be around. So you get as much as you give back with Bob and more."