Antoine Tolton was introduced to Maine as a youth involved in the Fresh Air Fund. He coaches the Maine Wolfpack Softball for those 12 years old and younger in the Turner, Greene, Leeds and surrounding areas. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Antoine Tolton founded the Maine Wolfpack softball team in 2021 for girls in Turner, Greene, Leeds and surrounding areas ages 12 and younger. He brings his life lessons, taught to him by his grandmother in Harlem, New York, onto the softball field to empower his players to show them that with enough confidence, they can do anything.

“I wasn’t a typical New York kid,” Tolton explained. “While my mom and my sister were outside, I would spend my days inside, at my grandmother’s apartment.”

“She was a big baseball fan,” he said. “She introduced me to the sport and that’s where my love of the game came from.”

Tolton grew up in the inner city, and at a young age he recognized that he didn’t enjoy his life in the city. “New York is a big and busy city, and I felt like I was missing the feeling of family,” he said.

At age 5, he joined the Fresh Air Fund, a program that gives inner city kids the opportunity to spend part of their summer in Maine. He stayed with the Weatherbee family.

“I don’t remember my early years with them,” Tolton said, “but I do remember that I never wanted to leave when it was time to go home.”


He continued to participate in the program into his teenage years, until he was offered the opportunity to stay in Maine for a full year to finish high school. After turning down the option, for the first time he began to rethink his choice.

“In December of 2000, something in me told me it was time for me to go, and that there was nothing holding me in New York,” Tolton said. “I talked to my mom and she agreed, so I called Ms. Weatherbee and asked her if the offer was still good for me to finish high school in Maine, and it was. I moved to Maine at the end of August 2001, one and a half weeks before the 9/11 attack.”

He attended Lisbon Falls High School where he met his future wife, Amber, before graduating. “Coming to Maine and going to a smaller school made me feel noticed instead of just feeling like a number. Being a small and close-knit school, it made me feel more comfortable,” he said.

It wasn’t until 2020, when he created the Maine Wolfpack softball team. “The thought came to me at the end of 2020 and it really started from my daughter’s love of softball,” Tolton said. Yet, when they were left disappointed by the experiences of other travel softball teams, he decided to create his own travel team for the Turner/Greene area.

“We started with my daughter and six of her friends, and it’s been a process to find girls for a youth program,” Tolton said. “By March of this year we finally had enough players for a full team, so this is our first official year.”

Antoine Tolton was introduced to Maine as a youth involved in the Fresh Air Fund. He now coaches the Maine Wolfpack Softball team in Turner. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Despite his love of the sport, Tolton said he looks at his position as coach very differently. “A lot of travel programs out there think that it’s all about getting that best player and winning the tournament,” he said. “I, on the other hand, want that girl who’s played, she might not be great yet, because she’s lacking a little bit of confidence”


He said his goal is to empower each of his players, by teaching them the confidence they need to succeed. “That’s the philosophy we have on this team, we build stronger women on and off the field,” he said.

Tolton shared the story of one of his players, who was lacking confidence until she began to practice with the team.

“On the team we have now, I have a player who came into the program late and it seemed like she was lacking a little bit of confidence,” the coach said. “She played softball for a few years but it seemed like she didn’t get the right encouragement from other coaches.”

“When she started, she wasn’t the greatest catcher, so maybe she’d miss a ball and her old coaches would probably just stick her in the outfield,” Tolton said. “When I first met her, she told me about her history playing and I told her that she will play first, and I’m not gonna move her from that position.”

He recounted his player’s change, saying, “I could tell after a few practices with her that she was an infielder, after she got the confidence that I wouldn’t move her from first she turned into a great infielder.”

Tolton said his approach to coaching is different from others. He said he is often called the ‘goofy coach’ because of his laid-back attitude. He said his philosophy of coaching is very team oriented, and that if his players are doing something on the field then he is right there with them. “If they’re stretching, I’m stretching, if they’re running, I’m running,” he said.

Implementing the lessons he learned from his grandmother into his coaching on the field, Tolton can empower each of his players to build their confidence to achieve their goals. “My grandmother taught me about patience and how to be humble,” he said. “The lessons that she taught me, I try and bring to the field to teach my players.”

Tolton also said he hopes to expand his program to 10U  and 14U teams, which would need more players. He said they hold tryouts in August and those interested can be contacted via their Facebook page @The Maine Wolfpack.

Antoine Tolton runs drills Monday with Maine Wolfpack Softball, the girls softball team he coaches in Turner. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Comments are no longer available on this story