Wood or metal, Dawgs’ Simone can hit the ball

Simone is proving that right now with the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Through 12 games in the wooden bat league, he’s hitting a team-best .365 with three doubles, nine RBIs and 10 runs scored.

Teammate Kyle Richardson, the former Rome Free Academy and Mohawk Valley Community College star who is headed to St. John’s University in the fall, isn’t doing badly, either. He’s hitting .323 with five RBIs and 10 runs.

Simone, Richardson and the rest of the DiamondDawgs return to action when they face the Oneonta Outlaws at 7 tonight. The DiamondDawgs (5-8) lost 17-1 on Thursday to the Amsterdam Mohawks. On Wednesday, they beat the Watertown Wizards 11-6. They face the Mohawks again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park.

Simone, who will be a senior at Cortland, didn’t play a lot of baseball last summer after having elbow surgery. He did get in some games at the end of last season with the Utica Brewers of the Eastern Collegiate Baseball League, then helped the Red Dragons climb to within a game of winning the NCAA Division III World Series this spring.

The center fielder’s shoulder isn’t quite 100 percent, but it hasn’t affected his swing. He hit .437 with 56 RBIs for Cortland, and ended the season with a 24-game hitting streak.

Wooden bats can drop averages more than 80 points. A 1999 study by former Amherst College baseball coach Bill Thurston that the averages of 96 Division I players fell 82, 86 and 107 points in three different seasons when they played in the Cape Cod League following their spring metal bat seasons.

Right now Simone is 68 points under his spring average. He still prefers wood.

“They feel more solid,” he said. “I get the sweet spot on the ball better with a wooden bat. It’s smaller, but I seem to hit the ball better. I don’t know how to explain it, but that’s how it works for me.”

Simone uses a DiMarini Voodoo metal alloy bat, 33 inches long and 30 ounces, in college play. His wooden bats, made by Max Bat, are 33 inches and weigh 31 ounces. A good wooden bat costs about $90, he said. A really good metal alloy bat can go for $300.

Lower average or not, Simone obviously can hit a baseball. That’s partly the result of natural ability, and partly due to years of work hitting soft toss throws, off tees, and with his father, J.R., throwing hard to him from Little League distances.

“My uncle, Angelo (Simoone) threw to me, too,” he said. “It’s good to see (pitches from) different people.”

The DiamondDawgs also are getting good work from former Rome Free Academy pitcher Garrett Baker of Chipola Junior College. Baker won the league’s Eastern Division Player of the Week award – Simone won it the week before – after going 1-0 with a save and a 1.86 earned run average last week. He is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three appearances. Kris Barone, a MVCC pitcher from Gloversville, is 1-0 with 2.20 ERA.

Saturday’s game will include a host of giveaways by Dunkin’ Donuts, and a portion of ticket sales will go to the Golisano’s Children’s Hospital Oncology Wing in Syracuse. The first pitch of the game will be thrown out by Will Schrader, a former patient at the hospital. Fans who bring an unopened toy to the ballpark to be given to a child fighting cancer at the hospital will receive a coupon for a free pound of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a free family ticket to a future DiamondDawgs game.