Miami’s Maine Man

Baseball was the farthest thing from Miami coach Jim Morris’ mind as he and pitching coach J.D. Arteaga stood in Scott Maine’s hospital room, worrying if the lefthander was going to live after shattering his skull in a serious automobile accident. Maine couldn’t see, couldn’t talk. He had been in a medically induced coma for two days. He had seven titanium bolts holding the bones in the front of his skull together.

But baseball was the only thing on Maine’s mind.

“He got J.D. over beside his bed and whispered in his ear’"because he couldn’t talk’"he said, ‘I’ll be your number one.'” Morris recalls. “And he was, at the end of the year.”

Maine, now Miami’s junior ace, doesn’t remember any of that exchange, nor does he recall crashing his pickup truck into some trees on his way back from the dentist in Palm Beach in August of 2005. The team came to visit him seven or eight days after the accident, and he says he remembers that vaguely. He has a more vivid memory of his doctors’ words during the three-plus weeks he spent in the hospital.

“The whole time I was in the hospital, the doctors were saying I wasn’t going to play again because I had a head injury,” Maine says. “I wasn’t going to talk right, think right, I wasn’t going to play again. The whole time I was saying, ‘Oh yeah? Watch, I’ll be back out there.'”

He was as good as his word, but it wasn’t easy. Maine missed the fall semester of classes while he recovered at home. He lost 45 pounds while he was in the hospital, and gaining it back was difficult. But on Oct. 17, 2005, two months after he had nearly died in a car accident, Maine was cleared to resume physical activity.

Early in the spring, Maine was allowed to return to the mound, as long as he wore a protective mask. By May, a bone scan revealed that his wounds were healing, and he was allowed to discard the mask. He was still down 20 pounds and his stuff wasn’t yet all the way back, but he had emerged as the ace of Miami’s staff. He finished 12-3, 4.57, and the 12th win came against eventual national champion Oregon State in Miami’s first game of the College World Series. He allowed just four hits over seven shutout innings in that one before a long rain delay at the start of the eighth ended his outing.

“That was like the first game of the season that all my pitches were working and I commanded all of them,” Maine says. “I went out there and threw strikes, got zeroes put on the board early, and my teammates put up runs behind me, which was a relief.”

He was eligible for the draft as a redshirt sophomore last June, having sat out his freshman year following Tommy John surgery in January, 2004. Maine made a fairly quick recovery from his surgery and pitched 10 innings as a redshirt freshman in 2005, then spent the summer in the Clark Griffith League. The aches and pains that had dogged him that spring finally started to dissipate in the summer, and he was named the league’s top prospect. He figured to be a top-three-rounds draft pick the following June, but his momentum was stopped in its tracks by the car accident. He wound up as a 23rd-round pick of the Rockies and opted to return for his redshirt junior year at Miami.

The extra year gives Maine a chance to finish his degree, which he will do this spring. For a guy who had to sit out a semester and had trouble speaking and remembering things, that’s a noteworthy achievement as well.

Maine also gets another chance on the field. Finally, he will have a chance to go through a collegiate season entirely healthy. He has struggled to command his low-90s fastball and curveball early in the year, going 2-4, 4.68 through his first seven starts. But he says he still feels confident in his best pitch, his changeup, and Morris thinks he’ll snap out of his early-season funk. He showed signs of it in each of his last two starts against Maryland and Virginia, allowing just three runs (two earned) in each and pitching into the sixth inning in both games.

“We all know he can win, he can beat good people, he’s got good enough stuff, and he does a good job fielding his position and holding runners and doing all of those little things to win games,” Morris said. “He’s good enough to win at this level and the next level, he just has to locate. It’s not that he walks people, he just misses spots.

“We’ve just got to get him going, physically and mentally, because he’s a little bit down on himself right now because his record’s not where he wants it to be.”

But Maine has overcome far greater obstacles than an early-season slump to emerge as Miami’s No. 1 starter before.