Along the first-base line of the Amsterdam Mohawks’ baseball field, Andrew Georgia, 6, of Amsterdam, shoveled ice cream into his mouth as quickly as possible and threw his hands up to indicate he was finished long before the two others he was competing against.
The crowd went crazy.
It’s a common occurrence at Mohawks baseball games for fans to cheer as loudly for an ice cream-eating contest as when the home team makes a double play.
“Everyone is having an amazing time, and oh, by the way, there is a game going on,” Mohawks co-owner David Dittmann said.
The franchise is about to complete its fifth summer at Shuttleworth Park, and residents have embraced the team as their own, showing up night after night for baseball and accompanying entertainment.
Dittmann said the franchise has almost tripled its attendance in the past two years. Co-owner Brian Spagnola said he and Dittmann hope to double the current game average attendance to 2,500-3,000 people in the next two years. Some promotional nights have demonstrated that is possible, Spagnola said, attracting more than 4,000.
“There’s just not much else to do in Amsterdam,” Amy Liverio said.
Liverio and Kathy Carbone, both of Amsterdam, enjoyed a beer on the new party deck at a recent Mohawks game against the Saratoga Phillies.
Carbone said the games are a social activity.
“You come enjoy a beer and catch up with people,” she said.
Tom Georgia, of Amsterdam, who was having a beer with his buddies at a recent game, said he comes to the ball park with his sons about three times a week.
“We come for the atmosphere,” he said. “It’s good for the family, the kids love it and it’s inexpensive.”
A family pass into the park costs $8 and includes two adults and up to four children.
“Where else is there to go in Amsterdam where you can bring you kids?” asked Matt Calkins of Tribes Hill.
Dittmann said people like the games because they are entertaining. Children are allowed on the field between innings, where they participate in contests and games, women and girls perform the Cha Cha Slide on the first baseline, there are ice cream-eating contests, Frisbee tossing contests, races and more. There is even a fireworks display following games on three nights, the last of which will be July 29.
The atmosphere is more like a carnival than a baseball game, with the smell of fried dough contributing to the ambiance.
Besides the entertainment, the Mohawks play competitive baseball. The players are members of national college baseball teams such as LSU, Duke and Stanford. Dittmann said one of the squad’s current pitchers routinely throws over 90 miles per hour.
“These are big-time players and the kids get to see them,” Jim Cranker of Randall said.
Rosemary Smith of Florida has helped the league for five summers place players with families who have a spare bedroom. In that time she has taken in 14 players herself.
Smith said the games are a great hangout for teenagers and for little children who like to go on the field.
“The beer license has also been a real draw because this is such a social event,” Smith said.
Ditmann said the location of the ball park, in Shuttleworth Park, adds to attendance. By the seventh inning, the park fills with teenagers and children in uniforms who gravitate to the ball park after playing their own games.
“We have a policy to let anyone in a uniform in for free to encourage kids to come,” Dittmann said.
Mayor Ann Thane said she is thrilled with the job the Mohawks are doing, and she is looking for other venues within the city to use in the same way, such as the Olympic-size swimming pool at Veteran’s Park.
“[The Mohawks] are proof positive that tourism is an industry and it brings people into the community,” Thane said.
Deborah Auspelmyer director of the county Chamber of Commerce said the Mohawks have also done a “tremendous” job renovating the ball park and their efforts have brought people back to Shuttleworth Park as well.
“The Mohawks are good old fashion fun, all around family entertainment for the young and young at heart,” Auspelmyer said.