We in The Daily Star’s sports department do not have the luxury of rooting for the home team when, say, the Dragons come over from Glens Falls or the Blue Sox drive south from Utica to play the Outlaws.
Still, I can’t think of a good reason not to root for the team to have a nice, long stay at Damaschke Field.
In a short mental audit of other entities that may stand to suffer from the existence of Neahwa Park’s orange and black occupants, I came up with nothing. Pair that with significant reasons to go to a game, and yeah, I guess I am rooting for the home team (and the rest of the PGCBL.)
If you haven’t been to a game, go. Go even if you don’t like baseball. In a part of the world where winter seems to last longer than even a MLB season, few things are more pleasant than feeling the temperature dip right into the comfort zone as the game progresses toward the seventh-inning stretch.
You’ll see some pretty good baseball. Naysayers will comment that the level of play isn’t high enough, and summer baseball does have a way of reminding us that there’s never enough pitching; it’s just an incredibly difficult thing.
But there is no shortage of talent on the field. Kentucky freshman John Rhodes spent last summer in Oneonta, and started his first season with the Wildcats with a bang, hitting .426 with 12 extra-base hits in 16 games before the remainder of the season was canceled. There is plenty of talent on display when the Outlaws take the field.
And you’ll see some local talent, too. Oneonta High School graduates Ryan Packard and Tanner Beang were both slated for the Outlaws’ 2020 roster, and Cooperstown grad Reilly Hall figured prominently during the 2019 season. I expect local ballplayers will continue to feature on future rosters.
The entire experience is pure Americana. The trains can be heard rushing past the park on the nearby tracks. Beyond the outfield fence, the evening sun lights up the north face of Franklin Mountain, a sight that always draws comments of envy from visiting players in the first-base dugout. The smell of hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill waft over the bleachers. The chatter of fielders and the pop of the catcher’s mitt provide the expected soundtrack; it’s enough to make Norman Rockwell’s mouth water.
The old ballpark, first opened in 1906, is getting a facelift. A 1939 Works Progress Association project generated the old grandstand, and at the end of another period of national struggle there will again be a renovated structure, originally slated to be ready for the 2021 season.
Here’s hoping that even after this difficult period of history, summer baseball at Damaschke will be a tradition, rather than a memory.