The Mets left in 1986, and there has been a succession of teams since, playing in college summer leagues. The current team is the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs of the Eastern Collegiate Baseball League, now in the middle of their third season. The fans seem to like then just fine.
“I’ve been coming all three years,” Tim Pryor, of Herkimer, said. “I think it is good baseball. People don’t know what they are missing. I’ve seen some outstanding plays. And everything is well-run.”
Pryor goes back to the days of the Mets. He ranks the level of play as perhaps a class below the Single-A Penn League, but that’s OK with him.
“It is a good substitute,” he said. “Really.”
Friday, the DiamondDawgs defeated the Oneonta Outlaws 6-5, coming back from a 5-3 deficit in the eighth inning on an infield error, Sharad Johnson’s double, a two-run single by Sean Saverio and Jason Simone’s two-out RBI single. Ryan Kemp, who relieved starter Dustin Stanton in the ninth, put the Outlaws down one-two-three to close out the game.
There were plenty of fans in the stands – the official count was 868 – and in the picnic area up along the third base line, where Lori and Chad Malanoski, of Frankfort, were riding herd on a group of 10 youngsters who were celebrating their son Landon’s 11th birthday. The team offers a birthday party plan that includes tickets, hot dogs, drinks, a T-shirt for the guest of honor and more for $10 a head.
“He loves baseball,” Lori Malanoski said of her son, who, along with his friends, just completed the Little League season. “He heard about it from his friends.”
The Malanoskis were very pleased with the production.
“He got to throw out the first pitch,” Lori Malanoski said. “And the kids got to run out on the field with the players.”
They also spent a lot of time lined up over the fence rail, trying to pick up foul balls, and were so interested in that they had to be persuaded to come and get their hot dogs.
The DiamondDawgs also are a hit with Deb and Kent Dawley, who were collecting the $3 fee from fans parking at the Gorge View Lanes, across Burwell Street from the ballpark.
“I think they’re great,” Deb Dawley said. “I think they all have potential. I enjoy their games.”
The DiamondDawgs players seem fan-friendly, and the organization, which has plenty of sponsor support, judging by the signage and program, certainly is. There is plenty of music, and some kind of contest, game, or give-away every half inning.
“You can’t sell just baseball,” said Travis Heiser, the DiamondDawgs’ general manager. “We try to put a good team on the field, but it is all about family entertainment and safety. We always have something for the kids to do.”
The DiamondDawgs play the Amsterdam Mohawks at 7 p.m. today at Veterans Memorial Park. It will be Dunkin’ Donuts night to benefit the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.