Toffey is happy to come home
Mark Belanger Field is literally a field of dreams this weekend, as four Little League teams will battle here for the right to take the next step toward the Little League World Series next month in Williamsport, Pa.
For the Pittsfield South All-Stars, the dream is playing before the home fans. For Jack Toffey, it's the chance to bring his team back to where he grew up.
Toffey, 49, is the manager of the Barnstable Tom Wallace American All-Stars, and is part of this weekend's festivities along with Walpole American and Peabody Western. But for Berkshire County baseball fans with longer memories, the former South Berkshire resident made a name for himself on the baseball fields of Berkshire County, playing for the South Berkshire Legion baseball team and Berkshire School.
"It's a dream to come back here and play where I learned the game of baseball," said Toffey. "It's a wonderful opportunity. It's a dream to come back here and bring youngsters to play the game here in Pittsfield."
Toffey's team was the 2006 Little League age 10-11 state champion, and his group moved up practically en masse. It could be one of the favorites in this four-team field. But for many in Berkshire County, Toffey is probably known for his recent off-the-field endeavors as his on-the-field ones from 30 years ago.
Known now as a youth league manager, Toffey used to be an agent for athletes, having worked for legendary Boston sports agent Bob Woolf. Toffey was the agent for Dalton native and former major-leaguer Turk Wendell.
"Jack was dominant," recalled Gary Bianchi, president of the Pittsfield South Little League. "He was a big left-hander who was intimidating as heck. I'm not sure he would admit to it, but because I was as loud as I've been known to be, I'm not sure he didn't dust me a couple of times whether by mistake or on purpose.
"Jack was a very good baseball player. South Berkshire was always a fun team to play against," added Bianchi, whose son Jon is a player on the Pittsfield South team.
Toffey isn't the only athlete in his family. Oldest son John played baseball and hockey at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in baseball and the Tampa Bay Lightning in hockey. John Toffey signed with Tampa Bay, but is now a free agent and looking for another organization. Another son, Will, is Barnstable's catcher.
While the state Final Four is a goal for any Little League player, Toffey said that he began thinking about coming home last year, while his Barnstable squad was winning the age 11 tourney.
"We were out in Oxford where the age 12 state championships were, and I was fortunate enough to be coaching the 11-year-olds," he recalled. "I ran into the District 1 (Berkshire County) president Mr. (Don) Gleason, and he told me that (Pittsfield) was going to be hosting the state tournament. I thought from that point in time, 'Wouldn't it be terrific to get the opportunity to come here?' I haven't been involved in baseball there since I last played for Berkshire School and the Southern Berkshire Legion team in 1979."
Toffey said he remembers watching former Pittsfield High and University of Maine baseball standout Russ Quetti play. Toffey also played against good players like Mark Ringie and Dan Sheran, and played against Milwaukee Brewers scout Tom Mooney when Mooney coached Legion baseball here. By the way, Dan Sheran's brother Matt a former UMass player and Taconic High standout is a coach in Toffey's Barnstable Little League.
Now Jack Toffey gets one more chance to have a team shine on the big stage in the Birthplace of Baseball.
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