2011, seven teams from the New York Collegiate Baseball League and
one expansion team united to form the Perfect Game Collegiate
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Amsterdam Mohawks took the field on August 11,
2011 one win away from the inaugural Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship. They would have two chances to take the title: The
first a late-afternoon matchup, the next a nightcap—if necessary.
They lost both games. The Newark Pilots—not Amsterdam—were
crowned 2011 PGCBL champs.
10 months. After games played Thursday night, Amsterdam is 16-3, five
games ahead of second place Oneonta and Newark. The Mohawks’
impressive play has earned them the No. 11 spot on PG’s latest
Summer Collegiate Team Rankings.
excited about this year’s team,” Amsterdam President and GM,
Brian Spagnola said. “We have really, really good starting pitching
and we’re very balanced. I think right now we’re leading the
league in defense, hitting and ERA.”
ranks second in team batting average (.275), first in fielding
percentage (.970) and team ERA (2.60).
Shepherd (Kentucky) has been one of the biggest contributors to
Amsterdam’s league-leading ERA. In fact, his two starts last week
earned him co-pitcher of the week honors. Through his first three
starts (20 innings), Shepherd has allowed just one earned run on
eight hits and three walks. His 0.45 ERA and .121 opponent’s
batting average rank first and second in the league, respectively.
a guy we’re excited about,” Spagnola said of Shepherd. “He had
a really good freshman year at Kentucky. He throws in the low-90s and
has multiple pitches that he can throw for strikes. Everything is
effortless, he’s very composed. He’s done a good job so far.”
is one of four Kentucky freshmen on the Amsterdam roster. Taylor
Martin, Jeff Boehm and Thomas Bernal are also playing for the Mohawks
after their first season at Kentucky. Martin only pitched four
innings for the Wildcats last season, but has a 3.86 ERA in three
starts with the Mohawks. Jeff Boehm hit .357 in limited playing time
with Kentucky, and has carried that success to Amsterdam: Through 43
at-bats, he’s hitting .349/.417/.488. Thomas Bernal posted a .469
on-base percentage as a freshman, but has struggled at the plate as a
have a great relationship with (Kentucky Head Coach) Gary Henderson,”
Spagnola said. “We’ve had guys from Kentucky for a bunch of years
of those guys was Logan Darnell. In 2008, PG Crosschecker named
Darnell the best prospect in the New York Collegiate Baseball League.
Two years later, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Minnesota
Kapteyn is another former Wildcat and Mohawk. He was drafted in the
39th round out of high school. After three years at
Kentucky and one decorated summer with Amsterdam in 2010 (he was
named MVP of the Championship Series and was voted NYCBL Player of
the Year), Kapteyn was drafted in the 15th round by the
Boston Red Sox.
season, Luke Maile—also a Kentucky Wildcat—dominated the PGCBL to
the tune of .378/.509/.722 with seven doubles and eight home runs.
His performance with the Mohawks earned him the No. 3 overall prospect ranking
in the league.
returned to Kentucky in the spring as one of the top collegiate
players in the nation; he was drafted in the eighth round by the
Tampa Bay Rays earlier this month. Maile attributes this improvement
to his summer with Amsterdam and Head Coach Keith Griffin.
some fun baseball up there,” Maile told PG’s Jeff Dahn in April. “I was lucky enough to play for the same manager (Griffin) two
years in a row, which always helps—it gives you a little bit of
consistency. When you first come in as a freshman you don’t know
what to expect when you go play summer ball, and Keith Griffin is a
guy I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of his coaching style and
the way he operates.”
many current and former Mohawks, Griffin also came from Kentucky.
got “Griffin’s name from Gary Henderson,” Spagnola said. “Back
after the 2008 season I was looking for a coach. I was talking to
Gary and he suggested Keith. Pretty much everybody knows Griffin;
he’s been around for a while.”
the connection between Kentucky and Amsterdam has been vital to the
Mohawks’ ascent, there are others who’ve contributed to their
early season success.
McCord (Auburn) has been nearly as good as Shepherd. Through four
starts (22.1 innings), McCord ranks fifth among PGCBL pitchers with
28 strikeouts. His 1.61 ERA and .147 batting average against rank
fifth and third in the league, respectively.
McCord is a good player and a guy we’re really excited to have,”
Spagnola said. “He didn’t throw a whole lot of innings at Auburn
but Monday night he was 90-92 mph with an 85 mph slider, throwing
everything for strikes, just dominant.”
Matt Gage (Siena) has been very good on the mound as well. In six
appearances (one start), Gage boasts a league-leading 32-to-3
strikeout-to-walk ratio and a miniscule 1.81 ERA.
if their pitching wasn’t already strong enough, Mark Leiter Jr.
(New Jersey Tech) recently re-joined the team after posting a 2.67
ERA and 74 strikeouts in 54 innings with the Mohawks last season.
Leiter Jr. is the son of Mark Leiter, who pitched 11 seasons in the
majors, and nephew of Al Leiter, a 19-year major league vet.
Amsterdam’s strength is their pitching, Spagnola emphasizes the
importance of being balanced as a team.
pretty balanced, we’ve got great defense up the middle,” Spagnola
said. “We have Giuseppe Papaccio, he’s having a good year. We
also have Chase Green from Southern Illinois Edwardsville who
defensively is phenomenal.
then there’s Nathan Gomez from Marshall. He’s a big first baseman
who is one of the best, if not the best pure hitter in the league.”
Stephens (Wake Forest), Ed Charlton (New Jersey Institute of
Technology) and Chase Green lead the team in batting with averages of
.447, .358 and .362, respectively.
a roster as good as Amsterdam’s, Spagnola has established himself
as one of the top talent evaluators in the league. And the fans are
just loves the Mohawks; it’s really just the community’s team,”
Spagnola said. “There’s not a whole lot of stuff to do (in
Amsterdam), so we try to make it attractive. We have a kids zone and
we get kids on the field all night doing things with the players
between innings. And if the kids enjoy it, the parents are going to
bring them out. We just try to entertain, there’s always something
going on. There’s never a second that goes unoccupied at our park.”
a small, cozy place,” Spagnola said of Shuttleworth Park. “If we
bring in 1,000-1,200 the place is really rocking and when we have
1,500 or more, it’s a zoo—in a good way.”
park will be a zoo on July 24 when Amsterdam hosts the league’s
2012 All-Star Game. Shuttleworth Park has undergone more than
$500,000 in renovations in recent years, and Spagnola is eager to
show it off.
building the stadium up little by little,” Spagnola said. “There
were six metal bleachers when we took over. We’ve since added party
decks and box seats in and we’ve built a big grandstand and this
year we put a kids zone in. Every year there’s something new, so
every year the fans have to come out and see it. We can fit about
1,500 but we have a lot of standing room so when we put 1,700 in
there, we have a high school football atmosphere in there.”
Spagnola admits the Mohawks are Amsterdam’s team, the players are
the league’s greatest beneficiaries.
Rocky McCord,” Spagnola said. “He threw 20 innings at Auburn and
has the ability to play in the Cape (Cod League). But he might be a
reliever there, an inning or two here or there. But here, he gets six
or seven innings every fifth day. So he’s getting back into his
routine, because when he goes back to Auburn that’s what he’s
going to have to do. We take pride in that.
thing happened with Logan Darnell a few years ago. I saw him the
spring of his freshman year pitching at Kentucky. He was a 6-foot-3
lefty and throwing 93 mph. But he was all over the place. He only
threw 11 innings as a freshman. And then he came here and by the end
of the summer, he was the man. And then he went back to school and he
ended up being Kentucky’s Friday night guy. So the growth with some
of the younger guys is very satisfying.”
Darnell and Maile are just a few names on a long list of Mohawks to
be drafted. And then there’s a much smaller list, one that includes
Hunter Pence and Brendan Harris—former Mohawks turned major leaguers.
kids that go onto play pro ball, they always remember the summer that
put them over the top and got them where they are,” Spagnola said.
“That’s the satisfying part for us.”