AMSTERDAM — Bob Adamson was sitting in his usual front-row spot on the first base line, just a few feet away from the Amsterdam Mohawks dugout. Unlike last summer, the Amsterdam resident, who has been housing Mohawk players since 2006, had company milling all around him.
“To see it like this, it’s spectacular,” Adamson said.
The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League returned to Rao Family Stadium at Shuttleworth Park Friday evening with the Mohawks hosting the Albany Dutchmen in their 2021 season debut.
“To be around a crowd and getting back on the microphone, it’s a thrill,” Mohawks PA announcer Brian Cady said. “This is a big part of what I do. Not having basketball and baseball was a little bit of a downer, so this is great.”
Before the Mohawks and Dutchmen took their cuts in what was a 2-1 Amsterdam win, a bunch of 4- and 5-year-olds from the Amsterdam Little League put on their own T-ball hitting exhibition.
That couldn’t have happen last summer when a modified version of the Amsterdam Mohawks, with a roster heavy on Capital Region talent and led by Shenendehowa High School coach Greg Christodulu, competed in the four-team Independent Collegiate Baseball League that followed all of the safety measures on the field and off, which included only two fans per player, social distancing and a mask-wearing mandate.
On Friday afternoon — and the timing could not have been better — Montgomery County lifted all mask requirements for outdoor venues.
“It’s a lot different this year with the expanded capacity and no masks,” said college student Chris Luft, who, with his dad Rodney, sat in the almost-full bleacher section behind home plate. “That’s the best part of it.”
The Lufts had sat through many of the Mohawks games in 2020, games where winning was secondary to reps after so many players had their spring college seasons cut short and canceled.
“The mind-set is still to get work in,” said Scotia-Glenville High School graduate and returning Mohawks pitcher Matt Gonzales. “The goal is still to get better, and in doing so, try to win games and give Amsterdam a good showing.”
Fans young and old occupied every part of the stadium by the game’s first pitch.
“It’s opening night,” Mohawks president and general manager Brian Spagnola said. “People are excited to get out. I couldn’t be happier.”
“This year is definitely going to be a lot different,” Gonzales said. “It’s great to have the fans back.”
Keith Griffin is also back to lead the Mohawks. The Florida resident opted not to coach the Mohawks in 2020 for what would have been his 12th year due to a COVID-19 restriction that called for two-week quarantine for many of those entering New York.
“It’s good to be back. I’m looking forward to it,” Griffin said. “It’s like riding a bike. It’s the same game I’ve coached for 44 years.”
In 2019, Griffin guided Amsterdam to its fifth PGCBL championship. Before Friday, the last PGCBL game the Mohawks played was at home on Aug. 7 of that year, when they clinched the league title with a 10-4 win over the Adirondack Trail Blazers.
Thursday’s scheduled season opener at Mohawk Valley was postponed due to rain, which gave the Mohawks the opportunity to debut on their home turf.
“I hope they come out and watch,” Griffin said. “We tend to play well in front of big crowds.”
The did Friday, with Brent Coker’s RBI double breaking a 1-1 tie in the home sixth inning, and five Mohawk pitchers combining to shut down Albany.
Nick Schwartz gave Albany a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a RBI single, and Carter Frederick homered to pull Amsterdam even in the bottom half.
“When we get all of our guys, I think we’ll be a pretty good team,” Griffin said.
Amsterdam will host the Glens Falls Dragons Saturday and play at the Saugerties Stallions on Sunday.