John Habib's City Sports: For retiring coach Eddie Poisson, the friendships always last
Eddie Poisson has always called the New Hampshire Union Leader to report the results of his games. Win or lose, whether he was the head baseball coach of Trinity High, Post 79 or the girls’ basketball coach at Manchester West, Poisson always called, home or away.
Last Monday, Poisson called in a Post 79 American Legion game, but the phone call lasted an hour and ended on an emotional note.
“It’s true. I’m done,” said Poisson, who has stepped down as the head coach of the Trinity baseball program after 27 seasons. Add another 14 seasons he spent serving as an assistant coach under Bob Kerrigan at Manchester West and Poisson walks away with memories of 41 high school baseball seasons.
“It’s a good time to walk away,” said the 61-year-old coach, his voice at times reaching an emotional pitch. “I have a 7-year-old grandson (Lucas) who I want to see play baseball and a 9-year-old granddaughter who loves to swim. It’s hard to leave something I love to do, but I have no regrets about anything. For 41 years, I’ve had a wonderful career.”
Names kept surfacing during the hour over the phone. When coaching with Kerrigan, Poisson spoke in high praise of former West players Gary Nutter, Mike Croteau, Steve Veilleux, Paul Bergeron, John Tippett, Greg Larocca and the LaRose boys, Steve, Greg and Chris.
“I played for Bob Kerrigan and I was fortunate to coach with him for 14 seasons,’ said Poisson, who took over the Trinity program in 1988 after Paul Lemire resigned from the post. Poisson coached Trinity to three Class L championship game appearances, losing to Nashua (1991) and Merrimack (2007) and beating the Purple Panthers in 1992 behind the one-two pitching punch of Chris Carpenter and Peter Foye.
“That ’92 team was the best I’ve coached,” said Poisson. “You’ve got those two (Foye and Carpenter) and Brian Larochelle, Peter McCarthy, Dan Van Mullen, Steve Sewell, Ricky Sewell, Seth Reynolds, Keith Bergeron and Shane Laporte. Foye threw a no-hitter in the quarters (against Pinkerton of Derry) and a three-hitter in the finals (against Nashua). Carpenter had a one-hitter in the prelims (against Winnacunnet of Hampton) and a one-hitter in the semis (against Dover). We gave up five hits in four tournament games. We finished 20-2 overall that season.”
Poisson will admit not everything was rosy during his coaching career. He had his share of grief and frustration from umpires and parents alike, but he said he did things his way in the best interest of the kids.
“My goal was never to hurt anyone,” he said. “I am a demanding coach and I always believed the way you practiced was the way you were going to play in a game. Practices were my classroom and that’s where I demanded effort. Some kids responded well to it and others not so well. But I have had people who I coached 20 years ago come back and tell me they had fun playing for me.”
Poisson said he was fortunate to coach against some of the very best, like the late Warren Doane of Concord, Tom Fowler of Keene, Hugo Bolin of Spaulding, Ron Manseau of Pinkerton, Mike Lee of Alvirne, Bill Dod (formerly at Bishop Guertin of Nashua, now at Souhegan of Amherst), Wayne Sanderson at Manchester Central and Jim Morgan at Manchester Memorial.
While John Robinson, Lemire, Keith McDonald and Moe Bilodeau drew high praise from Poisson, he said “the best assistant coach I had was Kenny McDonald for 22 seasons. He loves baseball as much as I do and I enjoyed every moment with him.”
Poisson coached two players, both pitchers, who made it to the major leagues. Carpenter and Jeff Fulchino.
“The Fulchinos invited me to Houston for a three-game series to see Jeff play a few years back and it happened to be when Carpenter was in town with St. Louis,” said Poisson. “I saw Jeff pitch one scoreless inning in relief. I saw Chris pitch eight innings and not get the decision when the closer blew the save in the ninth. After the final game of the series, I saw both players outside the locker room and each of them gave me a hug. It was a special moment I will never forget.”
Poisson leaves Trinity with great respect for principal Denis Mailloux and recalled his football coaching days with Nick Vailas, Dick Powers, Peter Bergeron and Pat O’Neil at Trinity. He also coached with Paul Lavigne and Kerrigan at West.
Poisson also mentioned the Trinity High Jayvee Baseball Tournament he organized for 18 straight seasons, working with the New Hampshire Baseball Umpires Association led by Tom Fischer, Bob Skinner and Jim Walsh.
As Poisson reflected on his 41 years of baseball, which will officially end with Post 79 this season as an assistant coach (he coached the program previously as head coach for two seasons), he returned to his roots, his family.
“My father died in a Connecticut hospital the day I coached my first varsity game with Trinity,” he said. “My mom saw me coach at Trinity for one year before she turned blind and died five years later. My wife of 36 years, Pat, has stood by me every step of the way, even though she never liked baseball. I’m also blessed to have two sons (Kyle and Zach).”
When talking about Zach, Poisson’s voice cracked with emotion when he said “he played for me and I was probably more demanding of him than anyone I ever coached. I was tough on him because I didn’t want anyone to say he was getting a free ride to play at Trinity. I made him earn it. And I hope all the players, past and present, know I always considered them family. A baseball family near and dear to my heart.”
“City Sports” is published Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff sports reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.