There's a new sheriff in town for Wildwood Catholic baseball.
Actually, Bill Toland is the Stone Harbor chief of police.
Toland, 44, is a baseball lifer who still straps on shin guards each Sunday morning as a member of the Lower Township Marlins Over-30 Baseball Club.
A former District 16 Little League Championship coach for Greater Wildwood, Toland takes over the Crusader diamond program from the beloved Tom Ottaviano.
Toland, a Wildwood Crest resident, has succeeded as a leader and teacher at all levels of youth baseball. This summer Toland's Wildwood team won the southern Cape May County Senior Little League title. His 2005 Crest Memorial team won the CAL Junior High baseball crown.
His timing is excellent, since he will inherit nearly a dozen of his former little leaguers now enrolled at Wildwood Catholic.
"Some of the players already know me, but they also know it'll be open competition and year-round hard work that will make us successful," said Toland. "They'll need to know that they can't just show up in March. It's a commitment to training that will make us better."
Baseball is fun and serious business for Toland. He learned a lot about the game from former Atlantic Cape Community College coach Bobby Woods and played on a nationally ranked Cumberland County College team in 1981.
While playing fall baseball at ACCC, Toland had the opportunity to catch current Philadelphia Phillie Jamie Moyer when the lefthander was throwing for St. Joseph's College of Philadelphia.
"You see the difference when you catch a guy like that," said Toland. "It was all I could do just to catch his pitches. The guy can really hit spots with velocity."
Toland's coaching odyssey began as a 22-year-old Crusader assistant, who, after two games, was asked to assume the head coaching role. After that 0-2 start, the team rallied for four straight wins under their new leader.
"Then came the dreaded Easter break," joked Toland, whose team would end up his inaugural campaign at 10-10. The 10 wins established a Crusader baseball record. The following season brought a 7-7 mark amid a Catholic schoolteachers' work stoppage in 1985.
Keeping the team together was no easy task and Toland earned recognition for his work during that turbulent time.
The 1986 Wildwood Catholic squad was expected to be a special team with talent and experience, but injuries and academic casualties brought a below .500 mark. The highlight of the season was a 2-1 victory over previously unbeaten Buena Regional with both runs hustling home on a double suicide squeeze bunt.
Toland himself became a casualty as he was forced to choose his fledgling career as a police officer over his time-consuming passion for coaching baseball which had landed him the head baseball coaching job at ACCC in fall 1987.
His goal is to teach Wildwood Catholic players "how to prepare to play baseball." Toland says his first objective is to instill discipline, structure and organization into a baseball team which has always played second fiddle to the consistently solid Crusader basketball program.
"There are a lot of distractions when you're a high school kid," said Toland. "We need to work on maintaining discipline on and off the field. We have to be prepared to play."
Energy jumps from Toland's tone of voice as he talks about mini-camps, drills, off-season work outs, and the creation of a regional baseball program to mirror that of powerhouse St. Augus-tine.
"Our school is open to anyone in the region," said Toland. "There's no reason kids from Dennis Township can't come here. We want them here."
Toland says he'll have a meeting before school starts with Crusader players. He said he'll tell them what it means to give their best efforts. He'll explain what it means to "leave everything on the field."
The new headman is firm in his belief that teams should practice like they play. He expects full effort, including running on and off of the field and conducting crisp between innings rituals.
Long-time sidekick George Greenland will most likely assist Toland.
"We want to see progress," said Toland of his expectations. "We want to get better as a baseball team. If I see progression from game to game, from beginning to end, I'll know we've had a good year."