Summer Collegiate : : Story
Doubleday overcomes obstacles
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013
Field Both A Blessing
Curse For Cooperstown Team
N.Y.—In many respects, the surge in popularity of baseball at the
summer-league level in recent years parallels the spike in popularity
of the game in the minor leagues a quarter century ago.
community in America, it seems, wants a baseball team to call its
own—even one as historically relevant as the Village of
Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Cooperstown
Hawkeyes, are currently in their fourth year of operation, and third
as members of the 10-team, New York-based Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
the number of teams that fall under the jurisdiction of the National
Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (i.e., Minor League
Baseball) is limited because of the number of affiliates each
major-league team chooses to have, and numbers roughly 180 in all,
the growth in summer-college teams has no limiting factor, and the
number of leagues and teams throughout the country (and Canada) has
grown exponentially in recent years. Today there are some 35
recognized summer leagues, with upwards of 300 teams.
no national organization exists to monitor the wave of unchecked
expansion and impart minimum ballpark standards, such as exist at
the professional level, summer-league teams are occupying facilities
of all shapes and sizes—some old, some new, some just plain unique.
Many of the facilities are inadequate by professional baseball’s
strict stadium standards, or by any ballpark standard.
Doubleday Field is historic by any measure, from its old-time
construction dating to the 1920s, to its location in the heart of
Cooperstown (just a block and a half from the Hall of Fame), to its
cozy home run dimensions.
the home base of the annual Hall of Fame game matching two big-league
teams that was a staple of the Hall of Fame ceremonies for years
until the contest was recently abandoned, the near 10,000-seat
facility lives on as the home of the Hawkeyes, instantly making it
one of the more famous summer league fields in use around the
contrast to having the largest facility in the PGCBL, the Hawkeyes
have the smallest population base in the league to draw from as the
Village of Cooperstown numbers less than 2,000 residents, and the
Hawkeyes are further hampered in their bid to draw crowds that are
representative of the rest of the league, and summer teams with a
similar population base, as they are the only club in the PGCBL with
no lights, forcing them to start home games at 5 p.m.
Tom Hickey, owner of the Hawkeyes, is determined to make summer
baseball work in Cooperstown, and recognizes the benefits that both
his franchise and PGCBL overall gain by having a team in famed
Cooperstown, and playing games at historic Doubleday Field.
a team in Cooperstown, and playing our games at historic Doubleday
Field, gives our league some national identity,” Hickey said.
“Nobody else has that. And it’s beneficial to us because many of
the fans we draw to our games are true baseball fans, in town to see
the Hall of Fame. I would estimate that about half the fans we
attract are from out of town.
name Cooperstown is also beneficial with our ability to recruit
players. When you consider that about 95 percent of the players here
won’t make it (to the major leagues), what better remembrance of
their career will they have other than to say they played baseball in
not to say that Hickey is enthralled with playing his home games at
old, outdated Doubleday Field, where his summer rental fee of some
$17,000 is considered excessive—especially for a facility without
lights and few modern amenities. Hickey openly questions the
commitment of the town’s administration towards having a
summer-league team in Cooperstown—or a primary tenant for Doubleday
Field, if you will—but is quick to praise the Hall of Fame itself
for the support it has shown his franchise.
administrators several years ago rejected an offer to add lights to
Doubleday Field when a set became available from Boston’s Fenway
to Hickey, “It would be like night and day the difference it would
make to our operation by having lights here.”
has even hinted at exploring other options in the immediate vicinity
for his Cooperstown-based team—enabling the Hawkeyes to still
capitalize on the magic name of Cooperstown—to make his franchise
more viable financially in the future, particularly when he looks no
further than just down the road at the unqualified financial success
that the Cooperstown DreamsPark youth-baseball program is enjoying
with its expansive, 24-field location about five miles south of
as Hickey agonizes over the viability of his team from a business
standpoint, he is otherwise encouraged by the inspired play of his
team on the field this season. The Hawkeyes are 9-6 to date, good
enough for the second-best record overall in the PGCBL and a marked
improvement over the team’s first three years of existence.
is quick to credit the turnaround to veteran first-year field manager
Dan Shwam, who coached in the league at Elmira the last two years and
holds the distinction of being the second-winningest manager in
independent league history.
the credit with how we’ve played so far goes to him,” Hickey
said. “I gave him the full authority to recruit all the players for
this year’s team, and not only did he do a good job of that but his
veteran leadership on the field has been integral to our success."
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