Since moving from Schenectady in 2003, the Amsterdam Mohawks have consistently packed Shuttleworth Park and provided a beloved community gathering spot during the summer months.
Wednesday afternoon, it was confirmed that the boys of summer won’t be coming to Shuttleworth Park in 2020.
Citing health and safety concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League announced Wednesday that cancellation of its 2020 season. The defending PGCBL champion Mohawks were scheduled to open their season May 29.
In a statement released by the league, PGCBL President Robert Julian said, “It is with sadness, but a recognition of the health reality we face as a state and a nation, that the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League will not commence or play its 2020 season. We recognize this is a great disappointment to our collegiate players, to our fans, our host communities, and the dedicated staff and owners who have spent so much of their lives making the league a vibrant part of collegiate baseball and the American baseball fabric. The dynamic of this crisis requires cancellation.”
Mohawks team president and general manager Brian Spagnola called the cancellation “disappointing,” but said in a phone interview Wednesday that the decision became inevitable over the past several days.
“We held out for as long as you could,” Spagnola said, “hoping some things would change, but I just think the sentiment was that there were too many obstacles to overcome.”
Those obstacles included the phased reopening of the state from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “NY State on PAUSE” order, which currently runs through May 15. Reopening will be done on a regional basis and in increments throughout the private and public sector, leaving plenty of questions about how the league could operate up in the air.
Also a concern was hosting players from throughout the colleges at the homes of local families — especially given uncertainties regarding the availability of widespread testing.
“What if somebody tested positive, and they’re here from a different part of the country and they have to go into quarantine when they’re at somebody else’s house?” Spagnola said. “I just think there were so many different obstacles from having something like that at a national level. It made it tough.”
“As things are getting closer, they’re getting kind of clearer that it could be more and more difficult.”
In the league’s official release, Julian said that multiple options were considered, including the postponement of the start of the season.
“We have engaged in watchful waiting in the hope we could commence play on either May 29 or on a later date, but we are now persuaded that the likelihood and probability of either option is low to non-existent,” Julian said. “We understand that the issues faced by our state and local governments create insurmountable hurdles that prevent us from safely playing.”
In addition to Amsterdam, the PGCBL has franchises in Albany, Glens Falls, Little Falls, Saugerties, Oneonta, Utica, Boonville, Elmira, Jamestown, Watertown, Newark and Geneva.
As recently as last week, Spagnola said the PGCBL had no intention of canceling the season. However, prevailing sentiment swayed in recent days, especially considering that other summer college leagues in the region, including the Cape Cod League, New England Collegiate Baseball League and New York Collegiate Baseball League, have already canceled their seasons.
By the time the decision was arrived at between the league, its 13 teams and Perfect Game USA, Spagnola said, “once it was put out there and the recommendations came out, it rolled unanimously.”
In the league’s release, Perfect Game USA founder and president Jerry Ford said, “The primary importance is for the health and safety of all concerned in this geographic area. As the naming sponsor of the PGCBL, we support Mr. Julian’s and the owners’ decision to cancel play for the 2020 season. While disappointed that baseball won’t be played in the PGCBL this summer, we recognize the significant barriers with housing, player travel to Upstate New York and between cities, and other factors the league faces that Perfect Game doesn’t face, as other areas of the country reopen for play later this spring and summer.”
The decision also came down as there was uncertainty over when and if any crowds would be allowed to attend games.
The Mohawks did not release attendance data in 2019, but averaged 1,201 fans per game in 2018 and have averaged more than 1,100 fans per game in every season going back to 2015, with crowds typically peaking beyond 2,000 for weekend fireworks games.
“If you had a clear picture of what it would be like July 1 [we could move forward],” Spagnola said, “but I think nobody really knows what’s going to be available for testing or what you can do for crowds at that point. It just made it difficult to keep going.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.