By RON MOSHIER
Observer-Dispatch

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The DiamondDawgs open their 42-game regular season with a bang. Mohawk Valley will host Oneonta at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at Veterans Memorial Park in Little Falls, and the game will be followed by fireworks.

“It’s not just because they’re local kids,” Heiser said of the team’s signing of Simone, Richardson and Baker. “These three can play, too. They’ve all shown that.

“These are three quality guys we’re getting.”

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Simone is a left-handed hitter who leads perennial NCAA Division III power Cortland State with a .466 average. He has 10 doubles, two homers, 43 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts for the Red Dragons, 31-8-1 and ranked No. 10 in the country.

Simone also is one of the most difficult Division III hitters to strike out — he has fanned only four times in 157 plate appearances – and he is batting .509 (28-for-55) during a current 13-game hitting streak. He has scored 16 runs and has 18 RBIs in those 13 games.

“Jason can really swing it,” Heiser said. “We’ve been looking at him for a few years and he’s definitely ready for this league. He can run, he can throw. … He’s an all-around player who is definitely getting some looks from a lot of scouts, and now they will get to see what he can do with a wooden bat.

“This should be a good fit for Jason. Hopefully, this will help get him drafted.”

Simone was named New York state’s Class AA Player of the Year and Observer-Dispatch All-Mohawk Valley Player of the Year after leading Thomas R. Proctor High School to a state championship. Last spring, he was the SUNY Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a Cortland sophomore. He is finishing up his junior year, meaning he will be eligible for next month’s Major League Baseball draft.

The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Richardson is a former Rome Free Academy and Smith Post American Legion star who has accepted a Division I scholarship offer from St. John’s University. Oneida County’s only three-time American Legion Baseball Player of the Year, Richardson batted .416 with 16 doubles, five triples and 30 RBIs in 35 games with MVCC’s Hawks.

“Kyle’s got a work ethic that is second to nobody,” Heiser said. “With his speed, there’s no question he can get to a lot of balls hit to the outfielder. He’s very disciplined at the plate, too.”

Baker, who played with Richardson at RFA and with Smith Post, is a 6-foot-5, 210-pound left-hander who pitched for Division I Western Carolina University last year. He has since transferred to Florida’s Chipola Junior College, an NJCAA Division I powerhouse that won a national title in 2007.

“Baker definitely has the tools and the skills, plus he’s a lefty,” Heiser said. “We’re expecting good things from him.”

Baker, a sophomore at Chipola, has pitched 53 innings and has a 4-2 record, one save and a 5.26 ERA. He has struck out 39 and walked 21. According to Heiser, the big lefty is being recruited by the University of Maryland and the University of Central Florida.

Last year, Baker made one start – he was 0-0 with an 8.04 ERA — and appeared in 10 games with Western Carolina.

The DiamondDawgs’ 2010 roster also includes Herkimer County Community College sophomore pitcher Kris Barone, of Gloversville.