Premiere of documentary on Berkshires native, MLB great Belanger airs Saturday

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This story has been corrected to state that Mark Belanger earned eight Gold Gloves while with the Orioles.

PITTSFIELD — Three and a half years after the process first started, the documentary film on Berkshires native and Major League Baseball standout Mark Belanger is finally ready for its first screening.

The premiere performance of "Belanger: Big League Ballplayer. Small Town Story" will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday at Berkshire Community College's William Boland Theatre. All 495 seats have been sold out, according to the movie's creator and director, Pittsfield native Dominic Dastoli, a features producer at the Golf Channel in Orlando, Fla.

"We sold the final tickets this week," Dastoli said via email. "I expected it to sell out. Mark is still a larger than life figure to so many people in the Berkshires and beyond."

To be placed on standby for tickets if they do become available, go to Belangerfilm.com, click on the tickets tab and fill out the form.

After Saturday's performance, DVDs of the hourlong film will be available for order by the end of this year at Belangerfilm.com. The film might air locally elsewhere in the Berkshires, but the details haven't been worked out yet.

"I'm still working out the distribution plan," Dastoli said.

Pittsfield Community Television also has committed to running the film, according to Dastoli and PCTV's Public Access Coordinator Matt Tucker. A specific date to run the film on PCTV has yet to be set, but it is expected to initially air around spring training 2019, Tucker said.

Belanger, a standout in baseball and basketball at Pittsfield High School from 1959 to 1962, is considered one of Major League Baseball's greatest shortstops. He spent 17 of his 18 big-league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, played in four World Series with the club, and was a member of the Orioles' World Series championship team in 1970. He died in 1998.

Saturday's screening will include 13 guests and more than 30 people from the families and extended families of Belanger's brother, Al, and sister, Linda. Belanger's son, Rich, also will be in attendance, along with the widow and two daughters of his other son, Rob, who died in 2016.

The baseball world will be represented by former Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr, and another former MLBPA member, former Montreal Expos All-Star pitcher Steve Rogers.

Belanger, who had been the Orioles' player representative, worked for the MLBPA after his playing career ended in 1982 and served as a special assistant to Fehr, who was the organization's executive director from 1985 to 2009. Fehr attended Belanger's funeral in Pittsfield 20 years ago.

Former Expos, Boston Red Sox and Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, a Dalton native, also will be in attendance, according to Dastoli.

Dastoli, who began working on the project in 2015, after a conversation with Al Belanger, said working on the project has been "the privilege of my professional life."

"This process has been daunting, humbling and inspiring," he said. "I'm grateful that Mark's family and friends trusted me to tell his story. At 3 a.m. on Tuesday, I watched the final version of the film at my kitchen table. It was a surreal feeling to have finally finished.

"None of this would have been possible without the support of the 120-plus people who believed in and funded the project," he said. "In a large sense, this story was told for them and by them. When I edited the first video trailer 3 1/2 years ago, I ended it by saying, 'Let's tell Mark's story, together. And we did."

The film touches on several aspects of Belanger's life: Growing up in the Berkshires, his baseball career as one of the best fielding shortstops in major league history — he received eight Gold Gloves while with the Orioles — and his work with the MLBPA after his retirement.

"The film has a lot of layers to it," Dastoli told The Eagle this year. "I'm really focused on the big league ballplayer and the small town story."

It includes material on Belanger's experience in Baltimore as an athlete celebrity, with his coming home to Pittsfield in the winter to work at a men's clothing store and officiate basketball games at the Catholic Youth Center.

Belanger also was a member of Pittsfield's legendary Post 68 American Legion baseball team, and in 1962 helped Pittsfield High's basketball team win its first Western Mass. title in 44 years.

Last year, Belanger was selected as the top choice on a list of Berkshire County's 50 greatest athletes that was compiled by The Berkshire Eagle. The late Derek Gentile, a former Eagle reporter and unofficial Berkshire County baseball historian who helped compile the top 50 list and selected Belanger for the top spot, is interviewed in the film.

Contact Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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