College athletes from across the country have moved to Amsterdam for the summer, lugging with them gloves, jerseys, bats and balls.
Summer baseball season has begun.
The first practice session of the Amsterdam Mohawks was held Wednesday as eight of the 25 team members marched onto the Shuttleworth Park baseball field for batting practice and other drills.
Coming off their championship season, the expectations of this bunch of Mohawks is high.
Eric Luksis, 19, a sophomore pitcher at Manhattan College, is not new to the area — the Wappingers Falls native has family in Amsterdam. He said he is looking forward to the experience he will get by playing baseball all summer.
“I hear the baseball is really good here, so hopefully I’ll get a lot of exposure,” he said.
Baseball IS good in Amsterdam. The Mohawks won the New York Collegiate League Championships last summer and 10 players from the championship team were drafted into the major leagues.
Last year’s Mohawks didn’t start off great, however. President Brian Spagnola said the team was 10-8 at the start of the season, but went on to win 26 of the last 29 games.
“It was a special team,” he said.
Spagnola is hopeful for this year.
“You never know how things will work out until they get here and see how they blend together,” he said.
Players sat in the dugout Wednesday afternoon, quietly waiting for practice to begin. For many, this is their first experience in Amsterdam, and most were meeting each other for the first time.
Kyle Koenerman, 21, of Tennessee, a senior at Louisiana State University, said he missed a lot of the season this year because of a knee injury. The first baseman said he is looking forward to getting back onto the field and potentially being noticed by some pro scouts.
The atmosphere isn’t new for Matt Colantonio, 21, of Long Island, a senior at Brown, who was a member of last year’s team. He said it is nice to be back on the same team after winning the championship last year.
“You want to see if you can do it again.”
Not only does the team have new talent on the field, it has new talent behind the scenes, too.
The recent success of the Amsterdam Mohawk’s attracted Bill Terlecky, who has 32 years of experience in professional minor league baseball and will be the team’s new general manager this year. Terlecky is used to running ball parks that can accommodate upward of 11,000 people. Shuttleworth Park can comfortably accommodate a little over 3,000.
Terlecky said Mohawks fans can expect to see their “old favorites” at home games, but also new gimmicks and events.
This year the team is hosting a High School Rivalry Night, which will bring the top athletes from various local high school to compete in different events on the ball field between innings. The season will also include four nights of fireworks, traditionally a big draw.
The Mohawks open their season at home Saturday with a game against the Glens Falls Golden Eagles, who finished second in the league last year. The game begins at 7:05 p.m. and will end with post-game fireworks.