Sabean happy for NH return as Merrimack’s AD

Timing is everything in athletics and for new Merrimack High School athletic director Eric Sabean, the opening of the position this summer couldn’t have come at a better time.

Sabean, who grew up in Candia and attended Manchester West High School and Keene State College, was hoping to move back to the area, but only if he could land the right position.

For the last two years he’s been the athletic director at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine. He loved the job, the area and the people he worked with, but there was one big problem: he was a 4½ hour drive from his two teenage children in Bedford and family and friends in the Manchester area.

In two years of commuting between Castine and his son’s football games or his daughter’s soccer games he put over 50,000 miles on his car.

So when the Merrimack job opened, Sabean applied, along with about 50 others. He passed the initial phase of interviews and was one of three finalists before being offered the job.

“I had been thinking about returning to the high school level for a number of years,” Sabean said. “I’ve spent my entire professional career and my educational background developing a resume that would afford opportunities like this.

“When this became open, given its location, size, success of programs, it seemed like an ideal fit. When I got a chance to sit down with the committee, I was thoroughly impressed by their knowledge, their passion and dedication.”

If that didn’t clinch it, a 90-minute conversation with Merrimack High School Principal Ken Johnson did.

“Great leader, great vision,” Sabean said. “So once the position was offered to me it made it easy to accept.”

Merrimack’s previous athletic director, Andy Krahling, resigned amid controversy in June along with the school’s baseball coach, Ryan Anderson.

Anderson was ejected from a tournament game against Alvirne on May 30 and was barred, by New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association rules, from the next two scheduled games.

When Anderson was on hand for the team’s next tournament game against Exeter to lead pre-game drills, in violation of NHIAA by laws, Merrimack faced a possible forfeit.

The team was allowed to continue once the resignations of both Krahling and Anderson were announced and went on the lose in the Division I championship game to Concord.

Sabean played soccer and baseball at West, attending the school from Candia because his mother taught there. She was a biology teacher at West for 35 years.

He excelled at baseball, playing collegiately at St. Leo’s in Florida before transferring to Keene State. He landed his first job at Newport Middle School, working under current Winnacunnet Athletic Director Carol Dozibrin.

Sabean returned to West to teach and coach until 1998, when he joined the staff at Saint Anselm College, first as director of intramurals and later as an assistant athletic director, working under three athletic directors, Ted Paulauskas, Ed Cannon and JoAnn Nestor.

“It was a great opportunity because I learned something from all of them,” Sabean said. “The opportunity at Maine Maritime came along and I had the chance to work with some phenomenal student athletes.”

On Wednesday, Day 3 of his tenure at Merrimack, Sabean was scheduling meetings with his entire coaching staff. At the moment, his one varsity opening is baseball, but there are sub-varsity positions to fill in the next few weeks, including boys and girls junior varsity soccer.

Sabean said his general philosophy about athletes is the same for high school athletes as it was with college athletes.

“It’s all about providing students with opportunities,” Sabean said, “and making sure they have the best possible experience.

“That involves communication, facilities and equipment and treating every sport as an equal to each other, just making them feel important and part of something bigger.”

Speaking of facilities, Sabean was at Saint Anselm when they installed a turf football field. He could see where it would be a big help at Merrimack, where a number of sports share Student Memorial Field.

“In today’s day and age, adding a turf field is important,” Sabean said. “We have so many teams playing all over Merrimack. If we had a turf field we could play more games on campus.

“It would help the MYA programs as well and be good for the entire town. There are a lot of positives, not to mention the safety factor. Playing on the turf field is much more conducive to a better flow of the game and to reduce injuries than a field that has been beaten up by overuse.”

Sabean’s second cousin, Brian Sabean, is the longtime general manager of the San Francisco Giants. But the Concord native probably won’t play a role in helping Merrimack in its search for a new baseball coach. And no, Eric Sabean can’t help you get tickets to Giants games.