KEENE, N.H. 5/19/11 – Bobby Doyon was destined to play baseball. “He was into the sport since he could walk,” said his mother, Michelle. “Wherever Bobby went, he always had his baseball and glove.”
Early on, wiffle ball was the sport of choice in the Doyon household. “We started playing when Bobby was three,” said his dad, Marc. “He’d play all night long if I pitched to him.”
Growing up in Keene, Doyon took full advantage of the many available leagues for him to improve his baseball skills. But there was something special about Doyon. Even at an early age, he demonstrated a gift for the game beyond his years. As a T-ball player, they had to use a special ball so he didn’t hurt the other kids.
Big for his age, he was also given the largest jersey, with the number 13 on the back. “I was a big kid and it was the biggest jersey they had,” said Doyon.
Although Doyon has continued to wear number 13, there was nothing unlucky about the numbers he put up during his recently completed Keene State College career. Keene State baseball Coach Ken Howe used the word “staggering” when talking about Doyon's stats.
Doyon, who was named KSC's co-male athlete of the year, not only rewrote the Keene State baseball record book, but set the standard by which future Owls will be judged. Following his last at-bat, a single against Eastern Conn. in the Little East tournament, Doyon now holds KSC season and career records for home runs (13 tie, 39), RBIs (72, 215), runs (57 tie, 211), and doubles (22, 62), and career marks for hits (280) and stolen bases (62). He was one percentage point shy of tying John Luopa for the highest career average, settling for a .401 mark.
The only two-time All-American in the program’s history, Doyon said that his success came from an inner drive to be the best. “I've always taken that stuff personally,” said Doyon, referring to his ability to produce at the plate. “There was a hunger inside me. I wanted to be the best hitter.”
At times, Doyon had a hard time feeding that hunger. “He was incredibly hard on himself,” said Marc Doyon. “If Bobby didn’t go 4-for-4 growing up, he thought he was horrible. He would go off and hit until his hands bled.”
“Bobby is a very intense player on the field,” said Howe. “He played the game with his heart on his sleeve and took things personally … sometimes too personally. I’d have to remind him that baseball teaches you an important lesson about life – you’re not going to succeed all of the time.”
Baseball also taught Doyon how to cope with other issues in his life. “He had his share of hard knocks along the way," said the senior Doyon. His father tells the story when Bobby was playing in a tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., and tore the growth plate of his elbow. He not only had to leave the tournament, but he missed an opportunity to play in the Cal Ripken League World Series a few days later in Vincennes, Indiana. “He couldn’t play, but they let him run the bases,” said Marc Doyon.
At the event bearing his name, Cal Ripken took interest in the young Doyon, who came to the tournament despite having a cast on his arm. “Cal put his arm around Bobby and talked to him about getting over the injury,” said Marc Doyon. “He told him it wasn’t going to be the end of the world.”
Playing with an aspiring group of local players that included future KSC teammates Keith Patnode and Ryan Boden, Peter Wilbur (now playing at Franklin Pierce), Jarrod Perrot, and Nick Secore, the young Doyon barnstormed around New Hampshire, becoming the team to beat at many youth baseball district and state championships. Doyon credits coaches Harold Secore and Greg Parrott for teaching him the nuances about the game and his father for keeping him motivated and positive. “He didn’t let me pout much,” said Doyon. “He was always preaching to be positive.”
Like a batter adapting from a flame-thrower to a knuckle-ball pitcher, Doyon battled through an adjustment period in high school. “It was a time in my life where I was trying to figure things out,” he said.
After playing on the Keene High School JV team as a freshman and splitting his time between JV and varsity as a sophomore, Doyon decided to take his junior year off and concentrate on his studies. Returning to the diamond with a renewed love for the game as a senior, Doyon, who earned All-State honors and was named the team's offensive player of the year, help lead Keene High to the semifinals of the State (Class L) tournament. Doyon kept his eye on the ball and his nose in the books. If he strayed from the latter, KHS Coach Tom Fowler was always there to check up on him. “I’d see Coach Fowler walking down the hall and he always made sure you were getting your school work done,” said Doyon. “That was important because you didn’t want to answer to him.”
Although Franklin Pierce made a mild pitch for him, Doyon had set his sights on attending Keene State, where his father worked. As good as he was on the field, Doyon readily acknowledged his shortcomings in the classroom. Ineligible to play, Doyon won’t soon forget one of the toughest moments in his early life, when he watched his teammates load the bus and leave for its spring week trip to Phoenix. “I knew I wanted to be on the baseball field, but it wasn’t an option for me at that point,” said Doyon.
“Bobby would be the first to tell you that he made some poor choices through high school and his first year of college," said Marc Doyon. “He was devastated when he couldn’t play his first year at Keene State and promised me that he was going to turn it around.”
“My dad didn’t sugar-coat the situation,” said Doyon. “He put the responsibility on my shoulders. He made me realize it wasn’t a direction I wanted to go in and really woke me up.”
“Bobby has always been able to play baseball, but the biggest change in Bobby the man has come the last four years,” said Marc Doyon. “Keene State was a great fit for him. It allowed him to make a couple of mistakes and turn it around and give him the opportunity to play the game he loved.”
And make no mistake about it, Bobby Doyon could play baseball. Joining a Keene State team that was on its way to capturing the program’s first-ever LEC championship and second straight NCAA berth in 2008, Doyon delivered, leading the Owls in hitting and RBIs while being named to All-New England, All-ECAC, and All-LEC teams and being selected ECAC and LEC rookie of the year. “It was surreal joining a team like that. One through nine were all great players,” said Doyon. “I never had to worry about carrying the load. You knew someone was always going to step up.”
Doyon was just getting started. As a sophomore he continued his offensive assault, gaining national recognition as a D3Baseball.com and ABCA Division III All-American. One his many highlight reel games came that season against rival Plymouth State when he went 3-4 with a home run and six RBIs. Just for good measure, he swiped a base.
His junior season was just as impressive. Living up to his billing as a D3baseball.com preseason All-American, Doyon batted .399 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs. Named LEC player of the year, he led Keene State to its third NCAA appearance in four years. “Bobby was pretty advanced and strong for our level, so he was able to overmatch some of the pitchers,” said KSC assistant coach Dan Moylan. “I didn’t do much with his mechanics. He had a good eye and knew what he was doing at the plate.”
“As much as people knew who Bobby Doyon was and tried to pitch around him, he always found a way to produce,” said Howe. “As Bobby grew older and learned the strike zone, he became a better hitter.”
Following his junior season, Doyon got an opportunity to play summer ball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). Although Doyon had a difficult time adjusting to hitting with a wooden bat and facing higher-caliber pitching, he called it a great experience. “It was something I’ve been waiting for all along,” he said. “I wanted a challenge so I could see where I stood.”
Doyon also faced some adversity during his senior season at Keene State, moving over to centerfield for a time and moved into the second hole in the line-up. “I just wanted to leave it on the field and give it everything I had,” said Doyon about his last season wearing the red and white Keene State uniform. “I thought this team had a good shot of going to the NCAAs. We gave our best shot.”
Although his numbers were slightly down from his previous seasons, Doyon walked off the field with no regrets. While his coaches and teammates appreciated his talents, the biggest tribute one can pay to his outstanding career comes from the teams he faced in the past four years. “Bobby Doyon has been an outstanding college baseball player the last four years,” said Brendan Eygabroat, the head baseball coach at UMass-Boston. “Not many college players have one year with those kinds of numbers and he had four. You always knew as an opposing coach when his spot in the order was coming because he was one player who could change a game with every at-bat. I enjoyed watching him play, but I won’t miss trying to get him out.”
Bobby’s baseball future is up in the air. Realistic that his name won’t be called during next month’s major league draft, Doyon, who recently earned his degree in saftey studies, will give the independent league a shot, heading to New York for a tryout on June 3. Moylan, who played in the St. Louis Cardinal farm system before joining the KSC staff, feels Doyon has a chance to play after college. “It’s all going to come down to how he adapts to hitting with a wood bat and going up against better pitching,” said Moylan. “I hope he does well. If he makes the proper adjustments, he has a chance to make it.”
Doyon knows it all about chances. “I’m going to remember all the good times and all the great players I got to meet,” said Doyon, reflecting on his Keene State career. “I had a lot of opportunities. If I had gone somewhere else, I might not have been given the chances I was given here.”