Mohawk Valley DiamondDawg Brett Hauber, a recent Herkimer County Community College graduate, signs autographs in the runway behind home plate prior to the start of Thursday’s “Pink Game” at Veterans Memorial Park.
By Jon Rathbun
It happened to be the hospital’s night which worked out real well,” general manager Travis Heiser said.
Heiser and the team’s staff had discussed a similar promotion last summer but were unable to get it off the ground before the season ended.“We wanted to do it last year but things got so busy we didn’t get a chance,” Heiser said.
Like so many people connected with the team and in the stands, breast cancer has hit close to Heiser’s home. Chris Smith, Heiser’s best friend who is now a teacher and coach at Sharon Springs High School, lost his sister to the disease in May of 2009. “It’s awesome,” said Smith, who interned and coached the bases for the Little Falls Miners two years ago. “It’s great to see my best friend keeping her name alive.” K.C. Smith had a special place in Thursday’s activities. Her name appears where the ribbon crosses itself on the T-shirts worn by the DiamondDawgs and sold to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Many of the players have their own personal connection with breast and other forms of cancer. Several sported the initials of family members or friends on their wristbands during the game. Most members of the team also wear blue bracelets with the name “Will” on them for Will Schrader, an 18-month-old Ilion boy who has battled leukemia and threw out the first pitch at a DiamondDawgs game in June.
“When it comes to a cause like this, the guys love it,” manager Troy Gerlach said. “We couldn’t get enough pink wristbands. The guys wanted to wear two or three of them.“There’s no balking when it comes to a cause like this.” “It’s pretty much a chance to do something good for charity,” said relief pitcher Brett Hauber who recently completed his studies at Herkimer County Community College and will play at Felician College next spring. “It’s definitely nice to give back to the community.”Hauber, like his teammates, took well to the switch from black jerseys to pink.
“I don’t think it looks too bad,” he said. A sweltering day turned more comfortable as the sun went down and the weather proved conducive to playing, unlike last summer when Amsterdam was rained out of a similar promotion while Grlach was an assistant coach with the Mohawks. Amsterdam took another stab at its own 2010 “Pink Game” Friday night. “It’s a great cause,” said Gerlach whose aunt battled breast cancer about a decade ago but is in good health today. “Everybody’s been affected by it.” The jerseys worn by the Mohawk Valley players were auctioned off after the game and raised $432. Chris Smith said that funds are also being raised for a scholarship in his sister’s memory at Canajoharie Central School. A bowling tournament was held during the winter and a golf tournament is planned for later in the summer. K.C. Smith worked for Trustco Bank and her former employer made its contribution by donating the shirts worn as jerseys by the DiamondDawgs.The fight against the disease and the terminology connected with it weaves its way though the game and its own jargon. St. John’s University-bound outfielder Kyle Richardson, who played for two years at Mohawk Valley Community College, leads the NYCBL in batting average and summed up his success on the field in terms that work just as well for cancer patients. “I keep coming out every day,” said the native Roman whose mother has been treated for cancer-related health issues, “and just try to get better.”