The words "Play Ball" held extra meaning Monday at Sal Maglie Stadium.
A group of Niagara University dignitaries, staff and students took the field, along with other interested parties, for a press conference officially reintroducing the Niagara Power to the Cataract City.
Six officials, including the Rev. James J. Maher, Niagara's president, through out ceremonial first pitches.
Niagara is the first institution of higher education to own a collegiate league baseball franchise, something Maher said will be a boon to students in its sports management program.
“In addition to the wonderful academic and practical experience that this program offers our students, we see it as another way for Niagara University to build bridges to the community," Maher said. "Bringing this community experience back to Niagara Falls will be extremely beneficial to the young people and families who live, work and play in Western New York.”
Three faculty members in Niagara's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Patrick Tutka, Cheryl Rode and Michael Gentile, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Power, while a NU colleague, Joel Reynolds, will manage concessions. They'll be aided by Niagara students, who'll work for internship credit and experience over the summer.
The Power ended their first run in Niagara Falls after drawing around 6,000 fans in 2015. Tutka said NU is hoping to put 10,000 fans in the seats in the summer of 2018.
"We can engage further into the community with the number of student we have," Tutka explained, adding that the Power's original owner, Cal Kern, was working with a limited staff of volunteers and interns.
Tutka also said programs at NU, like the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, can help with strategies to reach out to the many visitors the area has every summer.
Kern remains involved in an advisory capacity and will also handle the bulk of player recruitment. So is Neal Turvey, whose company, Niagara International Sports and Entertainment, runs Sal Maglie Stadium.
The Power will return to the New York Collegiate Baseball League, which opens play June 1. They'll play 42 regular season games, and a playoff run could push the season until the end of July.
They'll play in the NYCBL’s Western Division against the Genesse Rapids, Olean Oilers, Hornell Dodgers, Rochester Ridgemen and Wellsville Nitros.
Follow sports editor Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.