By Dean Russin
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — The Outlaws finally belong to Oneonta.
Local businessman Gary Laing announced Sunday night to The Daily Star that he has purchased the brand of the summer college baseball team that has played at Damaschke Field the last three seasons and will operate a franchise under a non-profit organization known as the Oneonta Outlaws Baseball Club, Inc.
“We’re looking forward to many, many years of great baseball and family fun at Damaschke Field,” said Oneonta native Laing, a 1975 Oneonta High graduate who owns The Shipping Room on Chestnut Street.
Laing, 55, said the 2013 Oneonta Outlaws will be a new franchise that will compete in the New York Collegiate Baseball League this summer, adding that he bought the Outlaws’ brand and not the actual franchise that played in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League under co-owners Keith Rogers and Dan Scaring last season.
Rogers and Scaring turned the Saratoga Phillies into the Oneonta Outlaws in February of 2010, moving into Damaschke Field months after the Oneonta Tigers left to play Single-A New York-Penn League baseball in Norwich, Conn.
The Outlaws played their first two seasons in the NYCBL, winning the championship in 2011, before switching to the PGCBL last season. Laing said his franchise will move back to the NYCBL to cut travel costs.
Rogers and Scaring still own the franchise that went 25-22 in the PGCBL last season, Laing said. The PGCBL announced via email Tuesday that Rogers and Scaring requested a voluntary suspension of their franchise while they look to relocate to the Saratoga area.
“The ownership has been looking to sell the teams (sic) for almost a year,” PGCBL President Jeff Kunion states in the release. “They wanted to sell the team name and other assets, but not their PGCBL franchise.”
Laing said the deal to purchase the Outlaws’ brand was finalized Thursday, almost three months after confirming his plans to buy the franchise from Rogers and Scaring. Laing told The Daily Star of his intentions Sept. 18, less than an hour after the Oneonta Common Council approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Dick Miller to change the owner’s name on the Outlaws’ contract with the city to rent Damaschke Field.
Laing said the deal took months to complete because various things “kept popping up,” although he would not specify the obstacles. He added the sale became final Thursday, when his corporation was approved as a non-profit by New York state. Laing said his attorney, Michael Getman of Oneonta, filed the appropriate papers requesting non-profit status, which is required for all NYCBL franchises.
Laing’s franchise likely will play in the Eastern Division of the NYCBL, which features the Geneva Red Wings, Sherrill and two Syracuse teams. The Geneva Twins, Hornell, Niagara and Olean competed in the Western Division last season.
In addition to the suspended franchise owned by Rogers and Scaring, the PGCBL’s affiliates are Adirondack, Albany, Amsterdam, Elmira, Glens Falls, Mohawk Valley, Newark, Utica, Watertown and the Cooperstown Hawkeyes. The PGCBL announced earlier this month that Adirondack and Utica, which both played in the NYCBL last summer, will join its league this season.
The NYCBL and the PGCBL are wood-bat leagues featuring some of the country’s top college baseball prospects.
Outlaws President of Operations Steve Pindar said Sunday that Laing’s franchise already has reached out to Hawkeyes owner Tom Hickey in an attempt to maintain the Mayor’s Cup series that started last season, when both area teams played in the PGCBL. The Outlaws won the inaugural 11-game series in 2012. Should the series continue, Pindar said, the teams will play fewer games and they will be exhibitions.
Laing also announced Sunday the first two signings by the Outlaws for the 2013 season. Oneonta High athletic director Joe Hughes will manage the Outlaws, whose roster will feature Getman’s son, 2012 OHS graduate Sean Getman.
“I’ll be responsible or partly responsible for getting players, which is all new to me,” said former minor-league baseball player Hughes, an Outlaws assistant the last two seasons who coached OHS to the Class B state championship this past spring. “I don’t have to do that in high school. Whoever shows up in town is who you get.
“I have a network of coaches I can talk to, so there’s a snowball or spider-web effect and the next thing you know, you’re talking with whoever,” Hughes continued. “We’re a little behind in that part of it because the sale took so long, but we’ve got some good leads.”
Hughes, 55, said he has inquired about signing Mike Calkins, a Division II pitcher for the University of Tampa who joined Sean Getman on Hughes’ state-championship team last season. Getman is playing baseball for Bridgeton Academy, a prep school in Maine. Both earned Daily Star First Team All-Star accolades for baseball last season.
“No one’s committed yet (besides Getman),” said Hughes, who graduated from OHS one year after Laing did. “If we think they can play at this level, whether it’s an Oneonta kid or a D-I, a D-II or a good D-III kid, we’ll take them. We’re looking for good people, good citizens and good ballplayers.”
After playing professional baseball, including a stint in Venezuela, Hughes served his alma mater Florida International University as an assistant coach. He also assisted former Oneonta Yankees manager Bill Livesey during the 1983 and 1984 NY-Penn seasons and has been the head coach of the Yellowjackets for 28 years.
Laing said the Outlaws will continue to sell beer at Damaschke Field and ticket prices will remain the same for the 2013 season, which will begin in early June.
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.