By DOUG SMITH
Niagara Gazette — The future is clear for Batavia baseball. Not bright, but clear. When the Muckdogs open at home Tuesday night vs. Auburn, they’re certain they won’t be howling the first notes of their swan song. Presence through 2014 seems assured.
Thereafter, the road may well take them home to West Virginia. The New York-Pennsylvania League itself has announced that it will place a franchise in Morgantown, home of West Virginia University just south of Pittsburgh, in 2015. It’s a done deal. The league says it selected the franchise for the move. They’ve got a secret.
Batavia, last in the league in attendance, seems the likeliest candidate. Some say Jamestown. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the Jammers’ new affiliation with Pittsburgh sets that franchise up for a move into Pirate-infested waters, and Rich Baseball, which operates Jamestown, did move its Class AA operation from Wichita to Arkansas some years ago. This year those Arkansas “Naturals” will play host to the Texas League All-Star Game.
Speaking of Class AA, there’s the matter of the Class AA Eastern League, on the verge of granting a franchise to Ottawa for 2015, with either Erie or Binghamton moving in. Both cities lie well within the NY-P’s sasquatch-sized footprint and it’s generally felt that one of its less robust franchises would move there. Both cities have NY-P histories.
But for now, all is secure at Batavia, which rolled out the red carpet, however muddy, for the Niagara Power last Monday. In a week when virtually every other New York State Collegiate League game suffered a postponement, Muckdog management took off the tarp and bade the game so on. “What we had there,” said Power President Cal Kern, “was a crew determined to see that the game was played. They just plain made it happen.”
In the pressbox, Base Paths heard one Hornell team official tell a cell caller from elsewhere in the league, “You won’t believe it, but we’re playing.”
For the Power, a semi-home game at Dwyer Stadium last Monday was necessitated because Sal Maglie Stadium had a semi-commitment as a high school “rain date.” Kern decided months ago to forego all risk and simply book Dwyer.
“We’d play here again in an instant,” he said, and in fact considered trying a last-second re-book as the June deluge continued. Look for Batavia to not miss a beat in sliding over to the NYCBL when professional ball departs. That’s “when,” not “if.” But the present is now and the ‘Dogs offer 38 chances to reconnect with this most fundamental and joyous sort of play-for-pay.Doug Smith offers his personal commentary on local baseball every Monday with Base Paths. Contact him at email@example.com.