Young baseball players’ dreams are often realized when they are drafted by a Major League Baseball team. But for Stony Brook Baseball senior centerfielder Toby Handley, that dream is being put on hold.
“As soon as I made the decision [to come back], I wanted to embrace it but not dwell on it,” Handley said. “I felt secure with my decision and I didn’t need to think twice.”
Handley declined an offer from the Houston Astros who drafted him in the 33rd round following his junior season in 2016. Despite the excitement of being drafted by an MLB team, his commitment to the Seawolves took priority.
“I didn’t want to hear what they wanted to offer,” Handley said of the Astros. “Guys on my team and in my class, who I have been with since freshman year… I felt like I was abandoning them. I want to go out with them and I want to go out in a better way.”
Handley is one of three seniors in this year’s class. Outfielder Casey Baker and shortstop Jeremy Giles have played alongside Handley since they were freshmen.
“Having him back is huge as well as all of the position players we have back, a lot of our pitchers are coming back,” Baker, a suitemate of Handley, said. “We wanna make sure he made the right choice by helping him win another one.”
The senior class has, as Handley put it, “unfinished business” this season, referencing the team’s defeat to Binghamton in the America East Championship in 2014 and 2016. He admitted the rivalry was a major factor in his return.
“The rivalry is building. Revenge is a good theme for the season,” Handley said about Binghamton. “We aren’t going to take anyone lightly this season and hopefully we will get right back to ‘Brookball’,” a name the team has coined for its scrappy, small-ball style.
Handley garnered interest from MLB teams after three strong seasons as a Seawolf. He has a .297 batting average, 69 RBIs and 36 stolen bases across those three seasons, while displaying defensive mastery in centerfield. However, Handley’s numbers dipped somewhat last season, including a batting average drop from .330 in 2015 to .297 in 2016.
“I don’t know how to put it, but I lost a lot [of weight] during the season and I kind of fell off,” Handley said. “This offseason I knew I had to get my weight up and my strength up so I could carry throughout the whole season. Speed I am always focusing on. When I’m getting stronger I am also getting faster.”
Handley was not satisfied with his play in 2016 and his return was also motivated by his belief that he can improve, helping not only himself but also his team, while hopefully increasing his draft stock.
“Every single one of these guys thinks that getting the opportunity to get drafted and have the opportunity to play in the big leagues is a dream,” head coach Matt Senk said. “We were going to be happy for him if he signed but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was happy to hear he came back.”