Lebanon’s Jim Broughton retires from Colby-Sawyer baseball after 26 seasons

  • Jim Broughton

  • Jim Broughton, a three-sport star at Lebanon High in the late 1980s, has retired after 27 years as head coach of the Colby-Sawyer College baseball program. Courtesy Colby-Sawyer College—

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/3/2021 10:42:24 PM
Modified: 2/3/2021 10:42:20 PM

NEW LONDON — The baseball diamond has been Jim Broughton’s classroom the last 25-plus years. Class is no longer in session.

The former three-sport star at Lebanon High School and NCAA Division III national baseball champion at Southern Maine called an end to his career as Colby-Sawyer College’s baseball coach on Friday. Broughton started the program and stuck with it through good years and bad, taking joy in being around his favorite sport and preparing his players as much for life as the game.

In a Tuesday phone interview, Broughton attributed burnout and impending changes in his wife Andrea’s medical sales career for his retirement. His duties with the Chargers have also made it impossible to see his son, Caleb, play baseball at Bucknell University, where he’s a senior infielder, and he’d like to do that before an expected move out of the Upper Valley.

Colby-Sawyer named two-year assistant Tom White, a Charger baseball and soccer alumnus, as Broughton’s successor on Wednesday.

“It’s been a stressful month or two just having this thought in mind,” Broughton said. “It’s the only thing I’ve done in my life. It’s been a very difficult decision. … What the hell am I going to do? The rest of it was being worried about the 26 guys on the team. It made me feel a lot better that they’re going to hire (White), and he’s more than capable. The program’s in good hands. That’s always a big relief.”

Broughton, 50, amassed a 349-519-1 record over 26 seasons in New London. The Chargers won back-to-back Commonwealth Coast Conference titles in 1998-99 and were runners-up in the CCC in 2000 and the North Eastern Athletic Conference East in 2012, his last squad with a winning record in overall play.

“Coach Broughton was definitely dedicated to Colby-Sawyer and the program he started,” said senior catcher Danny McCrystal, an Alvirne High graduate who is expected to co-captain this year’s Chargers. “The fact that’s been able to continuously make us be in games and get new talent coming in each year says a lot to the guy he is and the coach he was.”

Broughton starred on three Lebanon programs in high school. He was a sophomore infielder on the Raiders’ 1986 NHIAA Class I baseball champions, played halfback and defensive back on the school’s undefeated Connecticut Valley League football squad in 1987 and made back-to-back runs to the Class I boys basketball finals in his final two years.

His success continued at Southern Maine, as the Huskies made the NCAA Division III College World Series three times, winning the whole thing in 1991. A two-time All-American, Broughton remains in the program’s top 25 in career runs (152), triples (10), walks (89), sacrifice flies (14), stolen bases (43) and assists (433, ranks seventh).

When hopes for a professional playing career didn’t materialize, Broughton returned to Southern Maine as an assistant coach. The opportunity to start Colby-Sawyer’s new baseball program in 1995, even with part-time pay, brought Broughton home.

“It was not a well-paying job back then, and it was difficult for older guys that had more experience to be able to accept the job for small pay and make it work,” Broughton said. “I moved back home from Portland to my parents’ house with my wife and daughter (Emily) and made it work by finding multiple different jobs. It was part-time for the first seven years or so.”

Broughton faced challenges both organizational and meteorological. At around 850 students, Colby-Sawyer’s enrollment is smaller than more than 20 Granite State high schools, and — as McCrystal noted — it’s only about 30% male, leaving limited openings for baseball recruits. Adding a sports management program, a rarity for the mid-’90s, helped deliver talent.

“Drawing in male athletes is not an easy task,” McCrystal added. “Coach Broughton has done a great job working with guys and coming through with different ways to make the school appealing and make it feel like home.”

Broughton once hosted a postseason game at Hopkinton High School because his New London home field still hadn’t thawed out from winter. His final campaign ended in Florida last March, canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic 11 games into an early-season trip.

“Whether it was indoors or not,” Broughton said, “going to practice every day made it a heck of a lot easier.”

There will be no more of that; Broughton doesn’t plan on pursuing coaching opportunities on any level once he and his wife determine their next hometown. That could be in Pennsylvania within range of Caleb, who has two seasons of college playing eligibility remaining.

“I just made some really good friendships; being a mentor to them meant a lot,” Broughton said. “It’s just a special place to work and a special group of kids. … I really enjoyed it there. That’s the reason why I never looked to leave.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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