GLENS FALLS — The first thing Amsterdam Mohawks infielder Matt Shaw did when he learned just how many games Amsterdam coach Keith Griffin has won during his career was shake his head.
Shaw spoke minutes after Griffin won the 1,099th game of a career that spans more than 40 years, with No. 1,100 coming just a couple hours later as Amsterdam finished off a doubleheader sweep of the Glens Falls Dragons at East Field in Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League play by scores of 9-3 and 8-4.
“That’s crazy,” Shaw said . “That’s pretty absurd.”
It’s a number that begs disbelief — sometimes even for the man who reached that milestone.
“It’s a lot a wins,” Griffin said. “A lot of really good players. We’ve had some really good ones, I’ll tell you what. Here, and everywhere I’ve gone to coach, we’ve had great players.”
Griffin’s 1,100 wins have come at the high school and collegiate levels, in addition to his 426 wins with the Mohawks since taking over the team in 2009. He first became a head coach at Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Florida, in 1980, spending a decade at that program. Griffin then spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at the collegiate level before 13 seasons as a head coach at the junior level, split between Jefferson Davis Community College — where he won an NJCAA Division II national championship in 1998 — and Okaloosa-Walton College.
Griffin coached nine future major leaguers at Okaloosa-Walton College — now called Northwest Florida State College — including one who has been in the news recently. Seattle Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago, who played at Okaloosa-Walton in 2006, on June 27 became the first MLB hurler to be ejected from a game for use of foreign substances.
“I think he had a little grease or something on him, didn’t he?” Griffin said. “I saw him pitch the other night [Tuesday against the New York Yankees], and I thought he pitched pretty well.”
Griffin keeps in touch with scores of his former players, and expressed pride in one of his former Mohawks — 2013 PGCBL Player of the Year John Nogowski — who made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this week after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals.
But for Griffin, the connections run even deeper than that. The veteran coach said Wednesday that the son of a player he coached in high school more than 30 years ago is set to head up to Amsterdam next week to join the Mohawks for the remainder of the summer.
“I’ve got a bunch of good players and a lot of great friends from this thing,” Griffin said.
In Amsterdam, Griffin’s legacy has already been cemented. The native Floridian has led the franchise since 2009 — with the exception of 2020, when travel restrictions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic prohibited him from coming to New York to coach the Mohawks in the Independent Collegiate Baseball League — racking up a 426-158 record and league championships in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019.
But all that success doesn’t stop Griffin from embracing the everyday grind of baseball, nor with venting his frustration when something goes wrong.
Though Amsterdam has raced to the top of the PGCBL East Division this summer, sitting at 22-6 after Wednesday’s doubleheader, the skipper still sees some maddening inconsistencies in his ballclub.
In the first game of Wednesday’s twinbill, when two Amsterdam pitchers combined to surrender four walks that allowed Glens Falls to plate a run without putting the ball in play, Griffin slumped in his chair outside the third-base dugout and shouted at his team — “They did nothing, and they scored!” — to hammer his point home.
“We haven’t been good enough. That’s the problem,” Griffin said. “No momentum, no energy. . . . You’ve got to play with energy, bring energy all of the time.”
The Mohawks settled the ship and proceeded to bust open the game in the seventh inning to put No. 1,099 in the record books by a comfortable margin.
Sometimes, it pays to listen to experience.
“He’s definitely been coaching a lot longer than I’ve been alive,” said Shaw, who homered twice in the first game and added another to lead off the nightcap. “There’s a lot of knowledge in that.”
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