The first Loudoun County athlete to make it in the big leagues was honored Saturday with the dedication of Toby Atwell Field in Leesburg.
Maurice Dailey “Toby” Atwell Jr. graduated from Leesburg High School in 1942 and played for many years on the field along Old Waterford Road. He went on to become Loudoun’s first Division 1 athlete to play at Virginia Tech and served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
The catcher signed as an amateur free agent with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 before hitting the Major League with the Chicago Cubs in 1952.
“He was the only rookie selected to the 1952 All Star game,” recalled Garland Cooper, who helped lead the field dedication effort. “He had the second highest batting average behind hall of famer Stan Musial in the American and National leagues, with a .324 at the All Star break.”
He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953 and ended his career with the Milwaukee Braves in 1956.
He returned to Loudoun and lived in Purcellville where he mentored generations of players until his death in 2003 at the age of 78.
“Toby made sure that any kid who wanted knowledge, he gave it to them,” Cooper said.
The effort to rename the field in Atwell’s honor began with the South Riding All Stars team’s run in the Little League World Series in 2019. Danny Ford, a 1975 graduate of Broad Run High School, wanted to highlight Atwell’s trailblazing path to inspire other ballplayers. He reached out to Atwell’s family members with the idea. Cooper, Atwell’s cousin Joann Pearson and niece Cindy Atwell joined the effort.
They first approached the Leesburg Town Council, but learned that the field was owned by the school division. Last August, the School Board approved the name change. The county’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Service jumped in to support the effort as well.
“This was a real example of all these different localities working together. This is a really great celebration,” Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk said during the dedication ceremony.
The first pitch on the newly dedicated field was thrown by another Loudoun standout, Tommy Heflin, a 1956 Loudoun County High School graduate who played in AA in the Senators organization, and a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame.