During the Trumbull-Westport Senior American Legion game Saturday morning, a groundball in foul territory rolled to Jack McFarland, who was coaching third base for Trumbull.
He threw the ball back to the Westport pitcher who responded, “thanks, coach,” before pausing, smiling and saying, “you know what I mean.”
The confusion for the Westport pitcher was easy to understand.
All spring, McFarland was the coach at Staples, but now he was wearing Trumbull colors and actively trying to beat some of the same players he helped guide to the CIAC Class LL state championship.
For the past four seasons, McFarland has been leading the Trumbull Senior American Legion team.
He took over the program from Warde coach Brett Conners after the birth of Conners child.
McFarland was already coaching in the summer in Trumbull for Babe Ruth. CIAC rules do not allow him to coach his own Staples players on the Westport team.
This year, Staples played in and won the state championship game, meaning Legion had already begun its season as Staples was making its run.
It also meant McFarland had little time to savor the title with a Legion game the morning after winning the state championship.
McFarland barely had enough time to switch hats.
“I didn’t even know we had a game Sunday. I had a text the next morning saying to be at the field at 10,” McFarland said. “I have been back and forth this summer with celebrations with (the Staples players) as we wait for our rings to come in. There are really only five or six of my Staples players out there, but they understand since I have been doing it for so long.”
Coincidentally, Staples knocked Trumbull out of the CIAC Class LL tournament in the quarterfinals
Saturday, the entire Westport infield was comprised of players who recently graduated from Staples.
Harry Azadian was at first, Chris Veneruso was at second, Andrew Moy was playing shortstop and Drew Rogers was manning third base.
Rogers proximity to McFarland at third base gave the pair plenty of time to chat during the game.
“It’s a little different, but it’s great to see him,” Rogers said. “I talked to him yesterday. He always stays in touch and really cares about his players. We were joking around at third, I don’t think that would happen in the spring. This is a more relaxed environment. We don’t talk about him coaching Trumbull Legion during the season, I think he’s a little too competitive for that.”
McFarland may be slightly more relaxed coaching in the summer, but his ultra-competitive streak still shows.
With Trumbull up 10-1 in the fifth inning, Kevin Bruggeman was on second base when a line drive was ripped to left, just out of the reach of the Westport shortstop.
Bruggeman held up for a moment to ensure the ball was through.
When he got to third, McFarland gave him grief for not scoring and ending the game via the 10-run rule.
Bruggeman, a veteran player who is off to Hofstra to play next season, just laughed and shook his head as McFarland paced away from him.
McFarland quickly returned to talk to Bruggeman who explained why he held up, giving McFarland a response, which made the coach crack a smile.
“(McFarland) brings a competitiveness to this team. You want to win for him,” Bruggeman said. “He wants to win more than anybody on this field, as you can probably tell. He’s giving me a hard time about not scoring in a 10-run game. I like that, it’s fun. He brings that competitiveness and we thrive off that.”
Bruggeman said it was a bit strange at first being coached by McFarland less than two weeks after Staples ended Trumbull’s season in the Class LL quarterfinals.
“It is a little weird. It’s kind of like a love-hate relationship,” he said. “He’s a great dude and great coach and he makes us win which is awesome.”
McFarland said players like Bruggeman, Chris Brown and others made the transition from coaching Staples to Trumbull seamless.
“These Trumbull kids are all business and great baseball kids,” McFarland said “They understand I can’t coach in Westport. I have been in Trumbull for about 11 years with Babe Ruth teams and Legion, now.”
The regular season is ending this week for Trumbull, but the team is currently 18-5 with one game left.
The team won the Southeast Division of Zone 4 and will enter the state tournament as the 1b seed in the Southern Division Sectional Tournament.
The team advanced to the state semifinals last season.
However, after a full spring and summer schedule, McFarland is looking forward to some time off in August.
“I’m going to Cape Cod,” he said. “I don’t care who comes with me, but I’m going.”