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Jack Feltovic ‘irreplaceable’ for Hopkins Academy baseball team

  • Hopkins pitcher Jack Feltovic throws against Abington in the top of first the inning Saturday during the MIAA Div. 4 State Championship game at Springfield College. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

  • Hopkins’ Jack Feltovic, right, celebrates scoring against Abington in the bottom of third the inning Saturday during the MIAA Division 4 state championship game at Springfield College. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

  • Hopkins Academy pitcher Jack Feltovic throws against Abington in the top of third the inning Saturday during the MIAA Division 4 state championship game at Springfield College. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

  • Hopkins Academy’s Jack Feltovic singles against Abington in the bottom of third the inning Saturday during the MIAA Division 4 State Championship game at Springfield College. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

  • Hopkins pitcher Jack Feltovic throws against Abington in the top of second the inning Saturday during the MIAA Div. 4 State Championship game at Springfield College. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

  • Hopkins pitcher Jack Feltovic throws against Abington in the top of third the inning Saturday during the MIAA Div. 4 State Championship game at Springfield College. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE



Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2021

SPRINGFIELD – Hopkins Academy had its choice where to host Tahanto in the Division 4 baseball state semifinals. The Golden Hawks could bring the Stags to UMass’ Earl Lorden Field and play on a big stage, or they could host another game at their home field in Hadley between the corn field and the basketball gym.

Golden Hawks coach Dan Vreeland would have preferred the home field advantage. There’s a weird hill in the outfield that no one else knows how to play. But when he presented the options to the team, senior Jack Feltovic campaigned for UMass. He said he wanted his last memories of that field to be winning the team’s third straight Western Massachusetts title.

“I have a lot of memories on that field. I wanted the last one to be something sweet like that,” Feltovic said. “Most teams never get the opportunity to win a Western Mass. championship at their own field, much less a field that has that much history like ours does. That was really important to me.”

Vreeland listened, competitive advantages waved aside. When Feltovic, affectionately known as ‘Felty,’ speaks, it carries that kind of weight. He’s played varsity baseball at Hopkins Academy since he was an eighth grader. Vreeland put him on the mound for the past two sectional finals and the state finals. Feltovic is ‘that guy’ for Hopkins – the captain, the best player, a mentor, a motivator.

“There’s never been anybody that bleeds baseball like he does, that cares like he does, that has everything.” Vreeland said. “He does it all in a quiet, reserved, put together way where he leads both by example and he’s not afraid to get excited when the team needs to. I’m seven years into my coaching career, and if I ever coach another kid like him, I’ll be truly, truly lucky.”

Feltovic first drew Vreeland’s eye as a seventh grader at a middle school practice. Vreeland and his assistant annually scout the middle school to see if there are any players to bring up to the junior varsity level. It’s usually just for JV. That year, they needed to fill one spot and it came down to Feltovic and another eighth grader.

“If that kid was three inches taller, I’d go with the seventh grader right now,” Vreeland recalled telling his assistant. “And I’ll tell you one more, if he was three inches taller he’d be on varsity.”

They brought Feltovic onto the junior varsity team that season. Vreeland saw him take two ground balls and thought, “it’s there.”

“His hands are as fast as you can imagine. The release looks perfect. The transfer from his glove to his hands made him look like a major leaguer in seventh grade,” Vreeland said. “I knew it was all there. The size needed to come.”

Vreeland saw Feltovic walking through the halls at Hopkins in September of his eighth grade year. He’d grown six inches since the spring.

“There it is, there’s your starting shortstop,” Vreeland said.

Feltovic appeared in every game except one that season. He was sick when the Golden Hawks played South Hadley but still showed up and sat on the bench “looking green,” Vreeland said.

That team featured established veterans like pitcher Jon Morrison, John Earle and Nate Kelly. Feltovic learned how to lead from them and took up the mantle immediately after they graduated.

“He’s no question the leader of our team. He’s the guy on our team,” Hopkins senior Braeden Tudryn said. “When he comes out there, we know he’s going to give us a chance, two chances to win every game. He’s lights out.”

He’s played shortstop or pitched for the Golden Hawks for a half decade, and all the while he’s brought along the next generations of Hopkins baseball. During the COVID-19-extended offseason, Vreeland texted Feltovic to ask if he was hitting.

Of course he was hitting. Pitching, too. Feltovic was working out at various indoor facilities around Western Massachusetts when he could. He hit at a local cage with fellow seniors, but he also told Vreeland he was bringing Cooper Beckwith. Beckwith was a freshman this season that received a little playing time but mostly served as a courtesy runner.

“It’s about not just incorporating the kids he’s always been there with and the kids we know are going to be huge contributors but about the kids he knows maybe are not even going to help him this year but help the program in two, three years,” Vreeland said. “He’s a real leader because he believes in what Hopkins does and what Hopkins entails. That’s what sets him apart. He helps exemplify that program and carries it through.”

Feltovic carried the Golden Hawks to their first state title since 1985 on Saturday, tossing a two-hit shutout against Abington in a 3-0 victory at Springfield College.

“I’ve dreamed of winning a state championship for Hopkins since my grandfather (Bill Mahoney) was principal in 2007,” he said. “This has been a long time coming.”

And now it’s over. Jack Feltovic played his final game for the Golden Hawks on Saturday. It probably won’t hit Vreeland until he turns in his jersey or isn’t at tryouts next spring.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever coached. I don’t mean to disparage other kids, because I’ve coached amazing kids,” Vreeland said. “I’m gonna miss him. He’s irreplaceable.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.