After taking role he never wanted, manager enjoys record-breaking success at East Prospect
- Mark Toomey recently broke the East Prospect record for managerial wins.
- With a win over Felton, Toomey picked up his 172nd regular-season victory.
- Toomey broke the record previously held by Mark "Buck" Keller.
- Toomey and the Pistons have won three straight Susquehanna League crowns.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the East Prospect baseball organization was on the brink of collapse back in early 2013.
After years of losing, times were rough for the Pistons in the Susquehanna League. Players were jumping ship to find new opportunities where they could "win now."
When former manager Tim Poff stepped down after the 2012 campaign to become the president of the Susquehanna League, East Prospect could very well have folded operations.
Mark Toomey wasn't about to let that happen.
As one of the guys that played with East Prospect since 1988, Toomey never gave a thought to running the team. He enjoyed playing and being around the field, but with two young daughters his priorities were elsewhere.
But the bleak situation forced Toomey’s hand. He felt he had to do something.
And so he did.
“I’ve been there so long that I just couldn’t stand to see it fall apart like that,” Toomey said. “It would have just bothered the living heck out of me.”
Reversal of fortune: Fast-forward to today and things couldn’t be much better in East Prospect. Toomey, now in his eighth season skippering the Pistons, recently broke the all-time record for career managing victories in EP history after his team knocked off Felton.
That was regular-season victory No. 172 for Toomey, breaking the previous mark set by Mark "Buck" Keller.
For a veteran of the team, such as Ryky Smith, the recent success of the organization has everything to do with the man on top of it.
“I’ve played with and under him for 13 years,” Smith said. “And believe me when I say this — we would not have a team if it were not for Mark Toomey.”
Key period in turnaround: Smith, who starred in high school at Eastern York as well as collegiately at Penn State, was one of the guys who was fed up with the lack of success back in 2013. Another organization offered Smith a chance to come aboard with the promise of winning titles.
For Smith, hearing such a pitch was music to his ears.
“East Prospect was just bad,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t seem to get it going and another team called me and said ‘come on over.’ And I’m sitting there thinking to myself that I’ve had just about enough of losing.”
So, too, was Toomey.
Before Smith could even make his decision on the offer, Toomey and Smith had a brief conversation.
“Toomey caught wind of it, (that) I was seriously thinking about (leaving),” Smith said. “And Toomey called me up and said, ‘look, just give me some time and trust me.'”
The timing, as it turned out, was nearly perfect. The organization in Columbia at the time was also on the brink of collapse, which made for a history-changing solution.
“Columbia was already in the process at that time of folding,” Smith said. “So I gave Mark a couple of days before I made my decision.”
Toomey pitched a number of offers to former Columbia players to join the EP organization. When guys such as Mark Schauren, Gordie Eck, Seth Lefever, D.J. Ream and others took Toomey up on it, Smith decided to stick around as well.
“He told me he was getting a good team together,” Smith said. “And I was like, ‘I’m in.'”
That was the moment that Smith knew things were going to change for the better with the team. Sure enough, things turned around. It wasn’t instantaneous, but within a few years the Pistons went from laughingstocks to the Susquehanna League team to beat.
“I think that’s when the culture changed,” Smith said. “We have a very tight-knit group, and Toomey telling us that he would put a winning team together was the start.”
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Right circumstances: If circumstances were different back in 2012, who knows what Toomey would be doing today.
One thing, for sure, he probably would not be managing one of the most dominant organizations in the area.
“I don’t think that Toomey really wanted to manage,” Smith said. “But he just took the responsibility because we really needed him to do it.”
“I just liked being around the field,” Toomey said. “At that time I wasn’t playing anymore but I really liked being around all of the guys. And, to this day, I never planned on being in it this long. My first year was 1988, so what is that … 33 years? That’s a long time.”
A long time, yes, but the recent string of success — three-straight Susquehanna League and York County titles — has made it all worthwhile.
And in just eight years to boot, which begs the question — could Toomey foresee himself challenging the all-time Susquehanna League wins record held by Brad Chambers of 392?
“That’ll never happen,” Toomey said with a laugh.
Perhaps not, but eight years ago the same could have been said of Toomey’s recent achievement.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.