Documentary on Pittsfield legend Mark Belanger in the works

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A Pittsfield native is looking to immortalize one of the city's best-ever athletes in a documentary.

Dominic Dastoli, a features producer in the news department of the Golf Channel in Orlando, Fla., has begun work on a documentary about Mark Belanger.

"Pittsfield is a baseball town and [Berkshire County] is a baseball community. I think the Mark Belanger story has a natural interest for a lot of people out there," said Dastoli. "With the help of Mark's brother Al, Mark's two sons and some close friends ... we're in the early stages of producing this film on Mark's life.

"Really, the basis of the film is to explore the connection between Mark's big league career with the [Baltimore] Orioles and the small town he grew up in."

Belanger graduated from Pittsfield High School and signed with the Orioles as an amateur free agent in 1962. He spent most of four seasons in the minor leagues, including a 1965 stint in Elmira, N.Y., where his team would come to Wahconah Park to play the Pittsfield Red Sox of the Eastern League.

Belanger played in 11 games with Baltmore in 1965 and eight more in 1966, before sticking with the Orioles for keeps in 1967.

He spent 18 seasons in the majors, 17 with Baltimore and one with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played in four World Series with the Orioles, getting a ring when Baltimore beat Cincinnati in 1970.

After retiring as a player, Belanger spent many years working with the Major League Baseball Players Association. He passed away on Oct. 6, 1998, almost 16 years to the day (Oct. 2, 1982) that he retired as a big league player.

As well known as Belanger was as an Oriole, many in Pittsfield remember him as a member of a legendary 1960 Pittsfield Post 68 American Legion baseball team.

"We're trying to draw that connection between that great 1960 Legion team that finished third in the country out in Hastings, Neb., and try to plot how Mark got to the big leagues, who helped him along the way," said Dastoli, "and really dig into the question of what motivated Mark."

The plan is to have the documentary ready for a premiere in the fall of 2018, which will be 20 years since Mark Belanger passed away.

"In that time, over the course of the next year, I'll travel up to Pittsfield, travel to Baltimore and hopefully get out to Nebraska to film in Hastings," said Dastoli. "We'll edit the film in 2017, and have it ready for 2018."

In addition to his work with the Golf Channel, Dastoli has been working for 10 months on background, information and trying to locate old video and films of Belanger.

"We've been in the research phase, just doing a lot of interviews over the phone, to get a sense of who Mark was. Our next phase, which we've just started, is a fund raising phase," said Dastoli, "hoping to make this project come to life."

Dastoli said that the web site www.belangerfilm.com will allow anyone to donate money to help finance the making of the documentary. The site also has a brief trailer for the project.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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