American Legion Baseball Provides Community with Team to Rally Around 

Above: Joe Russell hitting for American Legion’s Northborough team last summer. (contributed photo)

For generations, the American Legion baseball team Northborough Post 234 has been woven into the fabric of Southborough, a cherished tradition that brings the community together. Mark your calendars because the excitement kicks off at 5:30 pm on Friday, June 7th at the iconic Memorial Field in Northborough.*

The organization provides players from Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, and a few other towns that fulfill the regional requirement with the opportunity to play for their community. This year, the program includes both junior and senior teams made up of kids under the age of 19. Tony D’Angelo, who manages much of the organization and the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the team going, emphasized the deep community ties that are embedded into the program’s foundation.

“On any given roster, you’re gonna see at least a handful, five to eight kids probably, that played Southborough Little League and that grew up in Southborough,” D’Angelo said.

This strong connection to the local area is one of the organization’s biggest strengths.

“If you like baseball, and you believe that it’s something that would be interesting for the community to rally around, we have, for lack of a better word, a product that’s good,” D’Angelo said. “If you want to sit down and watch a baseball game on a summer night, you’re going to see kids that you know or have heard of playing baseball and executing an advanced level of the sport.”

The team faces an intense schedule, typically playing around 30 games from early June to late July. Their schedule can be found here. Last season, under the leadership of general manager and coach of 11 years, Ken MacDonald, the team achieved considerable success.

“Last year we were in the final three so the goal is to hopefully be able to win the division and get to the state tournament,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald also has strong ties to the players as the head coach of Algonquin’s varsity baseball team and the leader in recruitment and fundraising for Northborough Post 234. In his opinion, the team shines due to its relationship with the community as well as to the American Legion.

“I think it’s a great responsibility for the kids to be able to play for their towns with Northborough, Southborough, and Westborough and to also be able to play for their families and friends,” MacDonald said. “It’s more of a community team and it’s represented by the American Legion.”

The roster for the 2024 senior team was recently announced:

#1 Nicholas Bellofatto — Third Base
#2 Jameson Logan — Center Field
#3 Cameron Citro — Catcher
#4 Jackson Redfern — Pitcher
#5 Joseph Russell — Shortstop
#8 Zachary Meehl — Third Base
#9 Nolan Whelan — Pitcher
#10 Sawyer Kittredge — Center Field
#11 Michael Chiocco — Pitcher
#12 Cole Jones — Second Base
#14 William Mahoney — Pitcher
#16 Anthony D’Angelo — Third Base
#17 Conor Secrist — Shortstop
#18 Ethan Cox — Center Field
#20 Quincy Salvi — Pitcher
#22 Joseph Hayes — Right Field
#30 Charlie Shifrin — Third Base
#34 Emilio Manz — First Base
 

The American Legion is a nonprofit organization created for veterans to raise spirits post World War I. D’Angelo reflected on the personal relationship that he has with the program stemming from his father who was a veteran.

“When he learned that my son had made the American Legion baseball team – I’ve never seen him so happy about a sport that my kids were playing,” D’Angelo said. “That was an achievement to him; it meant something to him. I remember he would always talk about how in the summers people would come from around the community and watch American Legion baseball games. They’d be well attended in the towns across Massachusetts and they were the best players under 19 years old playing.”

This concept passed down by his father is a vision that D’Angelo carries with him. From this sentiment came his favorite memory from his time with the American Legion.

“The very first game that I attended on this team as just a spectator was at Fitton Field at Holy Cross,” D’Angelo said. “It was under the lights, it’s a beautiful field, it’s where the Worcester Bravehearts play.”

To him, that experience demonstrated the real beauty of the team, and the potential. During the game, a player was pitching a shutout against Shrewsbury, successfully holding them back until the seventh inning. After he reached the maximum amount of throws he was allotted, he came off the field and the team lost 2-1. What could have been perceived as a disappointing loss was something different to D’Angelo.

“It was a great game on this amazing field and it was just like, ‘Wow this feels like you’re watching a pro baseball player,’” D’Angelo said. “It showed that it’s a substantial thing, it’s a substantial enterprise. But these things need to have people bought into it, it needs to have fundraising, it needs to have commitment.”

The dedication that D’Angelo gives to the team also stems from its coach, Ken MacDonald.

“I saw that [MacDonald] was one guy trying to manage this stuff, and there’s a lot of it,” D’Angelo said. “The guy puts in so much time, on any day if you went down to Memorial Field at 3:45 in the afternoon, he’s there. The game starts at 5:30 and then he’s cleaning up and getting it going, until 8:30/9:00. I mean, he’s not making a lot of money to do this; it’s a labor of love. I thought, ‘How many more people can help this guy out?’”

What they realized was that kids were being more drawn to club baseball so they made an effort to formalize the program and provide more opportunities. Now, in addition to the summer season, the program boasts winter training sessions in top notch facilities that accommodate busy schedules, a nine-week fall season, and a professional coaching staff that is available for private and semi-private lessons. So far, D’Angelo is pleased to see the reception from players.

“Three years ago we had three kids working with [our coaches] in the winters…this past year, 35 kids participated in it,” D’Angelo said.

One of the primary advantages for families, along with the plethora of opportunities, is the cost benefit.

“With us, our total fees to play are $750 to do winter training and play in the summer and if you just want to pay in the summer it’s about $400,” D’Angelo said. “If you want to do some pitching work, we had kids doing six hitting sessions and six pitching sessions and they were paying another $300. For roughly $1000, if you stack it up to an AAU program, it exceeds it for about 25% of the cost. It just exposes how much money is being made.”

He elaborated on the overall benefit.

“The smart money is none of them are going to play much baseball after they’re 18-22 years old,” D’Angelo said. “So make the experience in their high school age the best it can be within this town.”

MacDonald echoes that sentiment.

“It’s such a great program and Northborough Post 234 means a lot to myself and the players,” Ken MacDonald said. “We do the national anthem before each game and [we] have the American Legion flag on our jerseys and hats. I think it’s really important for [the players] to understand what they’re playing for.”

Remember to swing by Memorial Field to catch the first game on Friday, June 7 at 5:30 against Leominster.

*The team’s home field is Memorial Field, 61 E Main St, Northborough. (To check for any schedule updates, including a TBD tournament the post-season playoffs, click here.)

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