Story & Photos by Dave Warner
After another successful season for the Diamond Dawgs, it seemed fitting to ask owner Travis Heiser how he felt about the just completed year, and what he thought was going to happen in 2019.
Eleven years ago, Heiser was a high school baseball coach at St. Johnsville when he got a call from Justin Gordon who was the pitching coach at Temple University. He asked Heiser if he was interested in volunteering to help with the new team.
A year later, Heiser was named the Assistant GM for the team, and then became GM, staying on with the team in the same position when the ownership changed. During that changeover, the team was re-vamped into the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs to help with marketing and draw from a wider fan base.
Four years ago, Heiser bought the team. According to him “the reason I bought it was that I wanted to keep it in the City of Little Falls and the Mohawk Valley. If the team had sold, it could have been moved anywhere. I just felt that the people of the Mohawk Valley and Little Falls loved baseball so much that I was going to do what I could to keep the tradition alive and in the area.”
Heiser is a baseball guy first and didn’t get into it initially for the business side of things. In the beginning, he had to do all the recruiting, get the coaches and staff lined up and “all of that,” he said. “It’s been a great experience and I’ve been lucky enough in 2015 and 2017 to win a league championship.”
The season that just ended was a good one according to Heiser. “When we go into a season, our expectations are that we are going to win the championship, and after 2015 and 2017, we had that same feeling this year.”
According to Heiser “we feel the pressure to do that for our fans, sponsors and host families who have become accustomed to that. We had a new coach this year, Cory Haggerty, and I thought he did a nice job for us, and even though we didn’t get the championship, it was a great season.”
This year, Heiser thought it was one of the best teams they’ve had from an offensive standpoint. The fact that they had a lot of potential draft picks on this team, was one thing, but “having four team members named ‘best of the best’ was an accomplishment as well,” he said.
Heiser believes the team as a whole is getting better every year. “We just want to continue to work hard and get better. Off the field, our fans, supporters, advertisers, host families and sponsors every year continue to grow and get better as well.”
Heiser wants to continue to grow fan support for the team too. “This year our attendance was more even across the season, but hopefully we can continue to grow,” stated Heiser.
“The challenge from a management standpoint is to always put a good product on the field. A lot of people think that the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs is just a baseball team, but we’re much more than that. We’re about putting on a good community event that the average family and kid can go out and participate in,” said Heiser.
It’s good quality entertainment and baseball and Heiser stated “a safe environment for families, so I think we attract all kinds of different people and fans in that regard.”
Heiser keeps his eye on a lot of other collegiate and pro level teams to see what they are offering their fans. “We’re always learning and trying to do the cool and different things to keep our fans engaged,” he said.
The team showcased a new scoreboard this year and safety lighting. Heiser said “We really want to fix up the third base area and give it a little TLC over the next two years…that’s the goal – that’s the plan – to try and liven that area up. We might get on social media and ask fans what they think we should do and get their input.”
“We are very very fortunate that the City of Little Falls has been so supportive of us, Mayor Blask and all. The fans, my family, and everyone has just been so supportive, otherwise the team would just not exist. I think our fan base is getting pretty strong and will continue to grow and maybe we can bring them another championship and continue to provide that family fun that people have come to expect from us,” stated Heiser.
“My staff is amazing, they’ve been with me from day one, and this year was a highlight year for them as well,” finished Heiser.