NAUGATUCK — The Borough of Naugatuck is rich in tradition with historical landmarks that formed its foundation along the banks of the Naugatuck River. The landscape is marked by a Victorian era that is well established in the Historic Hillside District.
One of Naugatuck’s most treasured landmarks sits on the west side of town off of Scott Street, a diamond in the rough, the Peter J. Foley Little League Complex.
The complex is billed as the “Oldest Little League Stadium in New England.” It was established in 1949, 10 years after the birth of Little League Baseball in Williamsport, Pa. This summer marked the 65th year of Peter J. Foley Little League baseball.
The start of Little League Baseball in Williamsport is 1939 and the Peter J. Foley Little League 10 years later share a family connection.
Carl Stotz created Little League Baseball while playing the game with his nephews in the back yard. In the summer of 1939 three teams established the foundation of a league that has grown in the past 75 years to include the most renowned World Series played every August with teams coming from all over the globe to participate.
Carl’s brother, Ralph Stotz, moved his family to Naugatuck in 1949 to find work at the rubber shop. During his first summer in the borough, Ralph Stotz built the Little League Complex on Scott Street.
The site was named after legendary Naugatuck High School coach Peter J. Foley, who coached baseball, basketball and football. Foley’s teams won state championships in all three sports and three times placed in the New England basketball finals, winning it in 1943. Foley was named to the first Naugatuck Hall of Fame class in 1972.
Foley passed away in 1946, three years before the Little League complex was established. But his name lives on today with the oldest Little League stadium in New England.
“Carl, was my great-uncle,” Joe Stotz said. “My grandfather, Ralph, built the complex and my father, Ralph Jr., was one of the first players that summer. There is a picture in the clubhouse of Carl Stotz, the man who created Little League baseball. So yes, there is a real connection between Peter J. Foley Little League and Williamsport.”
Throughout the years it has been a volunteer system built on the love of the game that has helped this league thrive. The league won the Connecticut District 3 Championship in 1964, and again more recently in 1992 and 1993.
“We have had quite a few good teams over the years,” Peter J. Foley President Rob Dibble said. “That 1964 team was the guys who went on to the high school and began the 65 game win streak.”
Dibble said the league wouldn’t be where it is today without the tireless effort of volunteers.
“It takes a lot of people pitching in to make this work,” Dibble said. “Over the past 20 years or so it’s been guys like Rich Neary, Mike Falcha, Paul D’Agnone, Joe Magnamo and myself who have been here day in and day out.”
New volunteers continue to step forward.
“Now we are getting a new group of guys who are committed to the league and the kids. Ken Stone, Chip Delaney, Rich Kilmer and Chris Main have given so much time and effort to make sure these kids have a place to play,” Dibble said.
The Peter J. Foley Little League holds an annual Tom Doran Memorial Tournament, which is named after the former vice president and longtime volunteer who passed away in 2002. The tournament draws teams from all across the state to participate in the three-week event and Main serves as the tournament’s director.
“It’s guys like Tom Doran whose volunteerism kept this league growing,” said Joe Magnamo, who just completed his 40th season as coach of the Giants. “It takes a lot of people who are committed to the kids, and we have an outstanding group of volunteers. We have people who played in the league who come back and want to give back to the league.”
Magnamo pointed to 15-year-old Zack Mason, who did his Eagle Scout project at the complex and was recognized during opening ceremonies this year.
“Zach took it upon himself to get some much needed work done around the complex,” Magnamo said. “The bank in the outfield was reinforced and a new picnic area was put in and that is just some of what he got done. He went out and got the funding and got contractors to donate their time and equipment to get the job done.”
The list of players who have grown up to return as volunteers is a long one.
“We have guys who are now serving the town as policemen and firemen who have played in this league and come back to volunteer,” Magnamo said. “Firemen Mike Chatfield came back and serves as one of the league directors. It’s all about giving back to the league and in turn serves our kids and lets this league thrive.”