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After 30 years leading UMass baseball, Mike Stone is ready to walk away

  • UMass head coach Mike Stone, right, talks with Nate Cole, an assistant coach, during a game against Fairfield, Tuesday at Earl Lorden Field. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone, left, talks with Ryan Lever during their win against Fairfield University, Tuesday at Lorden Field. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass baseball head coach Mike Stone will retire after Friday’s season finale with Davidson. Stone has spent the last 30 years on the Minuteman bench. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone, front, coaches his team Tuesday at Lorden Field. They defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. He is sitting beside Nate Cole, an assistant coach. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone bumps arms with Ryan Venditti in their dugout during their win against Fairfield University, Tuesday at Lorden Field. It was his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone coaches his team Tuesday at Lorden Field. They defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone signals a batter while coaching at third base Tuesday at Lorden Field. His team defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone signals a batter while coaching at third base Tuesday at Lorden Field. His team defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone claps while coaching at third base Tuesday at Lorden Field. His team defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone coaches his team Tuesday at Lorden Field. They defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone claps while coaching at third base Tuesday at Lorden Field. His team defeated Fairfield College, making it his 750th win. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass baseball coach Mike Stone coaches his team Tuesday at Earl Lorden Field. The Minutemen defeated Fairfield, making it Stone’s 750th career win. Stone will retire after Friday’s noon season finale against Davidson at UMass. He is finishing his 30th year at UMass. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass head coach Mike Stone, left, shakes hands with pitcher Casey Aubin in the dugout during their win against Fairfield, Tuesday. Looking on is catcher Andrew Noonan. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass Head Coach Mike Stone coaches at third base during his win against Fairfield University, Tuesday at Lorden Field. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@MattVautourDHG
Thursday, May 18, 2017

AMHERST — There is no hint of finality from Mike Stone. The start of Wednesday’s practice looked a lot like the thousands of others he’s run at Earl Lorden Field.

The Minuteman coach hung the day’s workout plan near the third-base dugout’s two good luck horseshoes before throwing a few rounds of batting practice.

On Friday at noon, UMass and Davidson will play the season finale.

When it’s over, Stone, 62, who coached the Minutemen for 30 seasons, will be retired.

UMass is out of contention for this year’s Atlantic 10 Tournament so the game won’t officially affect anything for the home team other than finalizing how many victories Stone, the program’s all-time winningest coach, will complete his career with.

But he wants that win. Not to add to the 751 (697 at UMass, 750 in his career) he’s already got, but to avoid adding to his loss total. If Stone is going to coach a game, he wants to win it.

“I hate losing more than I like winning, that’s for sure,” Stone said.

While sentimentality is well behind losing on the list of things Stone doesn’t like, it isn’t a favorite of his either. He announced his plans to make season No. 35 his last, but has avoided making it a schmaltzy farewell tour. He’s enjoyed hearing from former players all year, but mostly he’s stayed focused on giving his best to his current team all year.

There will be a presentation and gifts for him from the athletic department before the game Friday and a cookout for friends, family and alumni before and afterward. Athletic director Ryan Bamford said the coach declined anything beyond that.

The Cheshire, Connecticut, native, who played minor league baseball and college football, wanted wins more than recognition. UMass’ facilities and resources have fallen behind its league rivals. Since winning an eighth Atlantic 10 regular season title in 2003, the Minutemen have had just one winning season. They’re 15-31 heading into Friday’s finale.

“I wish we had finished better. Regretfully the last few years, I wish it was better. I like to win,” said Stone, who took over for Dick Bergquist in 1988. “It’s been an uphill battle lately. It wears you down.”

Despite that frustration, he’s proud of his career and hoped whoever replaced him would carry on the program’s core values.

“Hopefully the new guy has ties to UMass and will try to keep the tradition of trying to do things the right way. Never quitting. Giving a great effort,” he said. “I’ll be here to help whenever asked. But it’ll be their job going forward.”

Stone wasn’t sure if baseball will hold any part of his retirement life.

“I’ve been involved with more games of baseball in the past. I can do other things,” he said. “Being involved in competition? Definitely.”

Golf figures to quench some of his competitive thirst. He’s always loved the game and now he’ll no longer feel guilty that he’s not recruiting or scouting when he’s on the course.

“I love golf,” Stone said. “That’s the plan. To play a lot.”

Perhaps as soon as Saturday.

When Friday’s game is over, Stone will quite literally leave his old life behind. He and his wife Cindi had planned to sell their home and move to Plymouth after the season, but when a house they liked on a golf course went on the market, they pounced, making a successful offer and selling their Sunderland house in short order.

Stone rented an apartment in Hadley for the season, while Cindi began getting themselves settled in their new place. After Friday’s game they’ll get in the car and drive east.

Stone knows he’s going to golf a lot more and spend time at the ocean a little more. He might do some private baseball lessons, or personal training, or something he hasn’t thought of yet.

Stone has always been active so he’ll do something. He just doesn’t know what that is yet.

He likes not knowing. After 30 years of routine, uncertainty is liberating. Stone likes the idea of it. But not until Friday night. He’s got a game to win first.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage