Former Mohawks player returns as a musician

A fan signs along with former Amsterdam Mohawks player Dan Zlotnick before Wednesday night's game.
A fan signs along with former Amsterdam Mohawks player Dan Zlotnick before Wednesday night's game.

AMSTERDAM — Some fans stopped to listen, some walked by without a glance. 

Regardless, Dan Zlotnick kept strumming his guitar and singing along at Shuttleworth Park, a confident player.

Zlotnick was that for two summer tours with the Amsterdam Mohawks — whose baseball game he played sets before and after Wednesday night — plus in his career as a collegiate and professional pitcher. Now 25 years old, Zlotnick made his latest stop at Shuttleworth Park two years after retiring from baseball to chase a career as a musician.

“And I have good nights and bad nights, just like I did on the mound,” said Zlotnick, a Somers native who has released a pair of albums. “You hope there are more of the good nights, but — at the root of it — you realize you’re just trying to make somebody’s night a little bit better. You don’t have to be perfect to do that, either. With baseball, [mistakes] show up more because you have the stats to look at, but in music I don’t have a missed-note counter or anything on my guitar I can look at after a show. It’s more subjective and I like that.”  

Zlotnick helped the Mohawks win championships in 2010 and 2012, summers in which he was a favorite of both fans and teammates. He was a key player during the team’s run to a 2010 New York Collegiate Baseball League title, offering a 4-0 record and 1.57 ERA in 46 innings. Two years later, Zlotnick went 1-1 with a 5.76 ERA in 29 2-3 innings as the Mohawks won a Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League title.

“He was a very good player for us and a great teammate,” Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin said. “He did a really good job for us.” 

Some of Zlotnick’s best baseball moments came with the Mohawks, for whom he pitched seven shutout innings in the team’s championship-clinching win in 2010. Collegiately, he had an up-and-down three seasons for Marist before finishing off his amateur career with a strong season pitching for Tampa, a Division II powerhouse. Later, he played for two seasons in the Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs and another season in Canada’s Intercounty Baseball League.

Zlotnick’s season in Canada was his final one. He’d played the guitar since he was 11 years old and started finding sporadic paying gigs as a college student, but gave up baseball after his 2015 campaign to focus on seeing if he could turn his love for music into a career as a folk-rock musician. As he finds his way in his new career, Zlotnick also works as a substitute teacher and gives pitching lessons.

“I combine all three to make a pretty decent living right now,” Zlotnick said.

Zlotnick sees parallels between being a pitcher and a guitarist. There’s the constant travel, the need to rely on one’s self. He embraces the differences, too.

“With baseball, the biggest difference from music is there’s someone out there trying to prevent you from doing your job well,” Zlotnick said. “With music, you play the same stuff you’ve played in your bedroom at night. Regardless of how many people are there — or aren’t there — listening to you, there’s nobody actively trying to stop you from doing your job, which I appreciate.”

His time in baseball helped him, too, when it comes to chasing his music dreams. While he mostly plays shows in New York, he’s able to keep his expenses down when he makes longer trips to play.

“I have ex-teammates everywhere,” Zlotnick said. “I can always find a couch to sleep on when I travel.”

Baseball directly inspired one of his songs from his first album. Titled “Not Yet,” that song describes the realization his pitching career was winding down.   

“I wrote it as a love song,” Zlotnick said. “There’s really no difference between that kind of relationship and one with a person. You have your good days and bad days, just the same.”

In his new life, the good days outweigh the bad ones — and Wednesday was one of the good ones for Zlotnick. Rather than making the drive home to Somers, he stayed the night in Amsterdam at the residence of Bob Nichols, Zlotnick’s host father from his summers with the Mohawks. He saw some old friends, and played a collection of his own songs and covers. More than a few fans stopped to chat with him, while several bought the “Bumpers” album he released in June.

“I knew I wanted to get back here again,” Zlotnick said of Shuttleworth Park, where he also performed in 2016. “This place is always fun for me.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. 

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