Summer collegiate baseball still has a place in the Capital Region this year, and the Amsterdam Mohawks will be part of the festivities.
The Mohawks, it was announced Thursday, will be part of the four-team Independent Collegiate Baseball League. The group of four teams, which also includes the Albany Athletics, Albany Dutch and Glens Falls Independents, are forming together as a one-season league consisting of players from the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley that will start play July 6 and run through Aug. 13, with games to be held at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam and East Field in Glens Falls.
“It’s going to be a little bit different of a scene, but at least it’s baseball and at least it’s something to do for the community,” Mohawks team president and general manager Brian Spagnola said in a phone interview Thursday.
“This is an exciting opportunity to play baseball this summer considering the circumstances COVID-19 has presented to all of us,” Albany Athletics general manager and coach Joe Altieri said in a news release announcing the league’s formation. “None of us were sure we would have baseball at all but thanks to the collaborative thinking, efforts and many conference calls between our four teams, we’re glad we can provide baseball to over 100 players this summer.”
The new entity came together after the cancellation of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League and Albany Twilight League seasons due to the pandemic.
The league, Spagnola emphasized, has no affiliation with Perfect Game USA.
“We’re clear that we’re independent and we’re playing the schedule on our own,” he said. “We’ve had to distance ourselves from Perfect Game.”
While the full schedule will be ironed out this weekend, teams will play three doubleheaders per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays.
Putting the plan together was an effort that focused primarily on player safety. Spagnola said he worked closely with both the city of Amsterdam and Montgomery County as protocols were put in place.
Each player will have hand sanitizer in their back pocket at all times, and will be required to utilize it after every time they touch the baseball — with an exception for pitchers and catchers. Gloves will be sanitized between each inning, and there will be no shared equipment, nor will there be drink coolers in the dugouts.
Players not in the game will be divided between the dugouts, bullpens and a reserved section of bleachers to ensure proper distancing. There are also rules against spitting and high-fiving, and there will be only one umpire per game, stationed behind the pitcher’s mound.
“We think our safety protocols are second-to-none,” Spagnola said.
The plans were originally made to accommodate games with no fans, but on Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw a curveball when he announced that regions in Phase 3 of reopening will be able to host “low-risk” sporting events like baseball with two spectators per player.
With rosters of 28 players per team, plus two coaches, that means 120 fans per game. Those seats will be limited to two family members per player, and will not be available to the general public.
“We’ve already gone up and mapped which seats will be available and put caution tape around seats that aren’t available, so they’re spaced out,” Spagnola said. “We’re really being thorough and making sure that safety is number one.”
However, there will be a limited opportunity for some fans to attend games at Shuttleworth Park.
Through consultation with Montgomery County, Spagnola said the decks at the stadium would be able to be treated as outdoor restaurants. A limited number of spots will be available, with reservations strongly encouraged. Patrons will be required to wear masks upon entering the ballpark and while walking around the stadium, but will be permitted to remove them once seated at their tables.
“We’ll be limited in what we can have,” Spagnola said, “but we’ve got a plan.”
A similar set-up will be offered for games at East Field.
As far as the on-field product, instead of players from throughout the country, all four teams in the ICBL will consist of locally-based talent.
Among those set to play for the Mohawks are former Amsterdam High School standouts Dale Stanavich (Herkimer CC), Ben Rhodes (SUNY Cortland) and Jeffrey Brennan (WPI); former Saratoga Springs High stars Brian Hart (Marist) and Nick Kondo (UAlbany); former Albany Academy stars Brooks and Carter Knapek (VCU); former Fort Plain standout Drew Fureno (Le Moyne); and former Scotia-Glenville pitcher Matt Gonzales (Barton).
Stanavich, who will head to Rutgers University in the fall, was a part of Amsterdam’s original 2020 roster.
“Half the league will be guys that were going to be in the league anyway,” Spagnola said. “And there’s a lot of kids who were planning to go to other leagues who are from our area.”
Keith Griffin, who has coached the Mohawks since 2009 and won seven league titles in that time, will be coming up from Florida to coach the team again this summer.
“He’s coming up,” Spagnola said. “He’ll be flying up here July 4.”
Altieri will coach the Athletics, Nick Davey will coach the Albany Dutch and Steve St. Claire will coach the Glens Falls Independents.
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.