NIAGARA FALLS — The Niagara Power have been even hotter than the July weather. Due to a game delay from an electrical fire, Wednesday night’s matchup with the Hornell Dodgers resumed and ended too late to be logged. The Power, however, have been on tear, winners in 15 of the last 17 outings entering Wednesday.
The malleability of the team has been on full display, with wins coming in a multitude of ways. Some games being as gaudy as two 14-0 wins over Olean, to single run wins over Olean, Hornell and Rome.
Head coach Arthur Stenberg has tried to keep a narrow focus on the task at hand this season, but he was able to take a step back briefly on Wednesday. Five Power players were selected to play next Monday in the New York Collegiate Baseball League vs. Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game, which will be held at Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, NJ.
The list includes outfielders Eric Wentz and Adam Purdy, infielder Noah Almond and pitchers Joe Barberio and Erik Johnson. Entering Wednesday, Wentz had the seventh highest batting average in the NYCBL and Barberio had the second lowest ERA in the league.
Stenberg did not want to take full ownership of the All-Stars' and team's success, stressing just how important his coaching staff of Ben Ascher, Charles Bernert, Brett Picaro and Colton Taylor are.
"I think it has to start with the coaching staff," Stenberg said. "The coaching staff that's here helping me out, they come everyday to the ballpark wanting to work hard and continuing to help these players grow. If you don't have hard working assistants that want to push these guys a little bit, it's very difficult to deal with what we've been doing. For me it's somewhat unexplainable, to be honest with you, the run we're on."
Credit is in order to general manager Jeff Ziemecki and Stenberg, who had their hands all over the roster construction for this season's team. Stenberg does not want to try to boil this recent stretch down to any specific factors, so he says he is "just sitting back and enjoying it."
"I think that's the special thing about this group of guys. They show up everyday, they want to get better and continue to work to get better to go back to their schools in the fall. I think all of them have something to prove, no matter what their level. And I think that's what draws them to come here and work hard everyday. I think I've made it a point to, I guess, ask all of them to ask themselves 'What do you want six months from now? What do you want two years from now?' Let's not waste today and let's take advantage of what we have today. Continue to work hard. Good things happen to those who will."
It has not been formally announced yet, but all signs are pointing towards Stenberg and his staff to be the coaches of the NYCBL roster in Monday night's showcase. Stenberg is humbled by the possibility of the opportunity and feels that he was put in this position by how his players have taken to his message for the season.
"I did not set out to achieve that. I think it's just a testament to the players we've got here," Stenberg said.
"They've bought into what I've asked them since day one. I have not put any expectations on them. ... These young men that are here busting their butt(s), (and) having one heck of a summer, that's all I came here for. So for us to be in this position is definitely humbling. ... As you can tell, I'm somewhat speechless. I came to Niagara to make 35 guys buy into two simple things — come to the ballpark with energy and be coachable."
If selected, Stenberg says he has a surprise planned for the All-Stars and knows that the big piece of the game is to "show off each individual players talents and abilities," especially if there are major league and collegiate scouts in attendance. His hope is to get these players recognized and enlighten the scouts to how good the NYCBL really is.
The Power have three home games left before the All-Star break, including a 6 p.m. Independence Day matchup with Mansfield at Sal Maglie stadium, that will end with a firework celebration. They will also have a doubleheader with Olean on Saturday, the first game being played at Niagara University's John P. Bobo field at 3 p.m. and will be followed by a return to Sal Maglie at 7 p.m.
Despite the team's success, it has still been a struggle to fill up the seats at the "Barber Shop." With the season down to its final 15 games, Stenberg hopes that the Niagara County community takes note of these "hidden gems" on his roster. He knows how passionate the community is and hopes that they are not forgetting about his team in the midst of the summer's dog days.
"This community loves sports. I've realized that," Stenberg said.
"There is definitely something special taking place here. ... For the community, come on out. You may be watching the next major leaguer, whether it's on the mound, whether it's in the outfield, or third base or wherever. These guys can play some baseball and it's a beautiful thing to watch when we click the way we have. ... It would be pretty cool if we could pack this place with 4,000 fans and really make it a home-field advantage. I would love to see what these players would do in front of 4,000 people."