The “Dirty Birds” get the wins. For Peyton Siegmann and the 2019 Niagara Wheatfield Falcons, this statement could not have been more true.
When initially finding out about being named the Gazette Baseball Player of the Year, Siegmann asked if he could wear his “Dirty Birds” t-shirt for the photo shoot. He explained why it was such a pressing need to rock the long sleeve tee and the story that came along with it.
“So we came up with this nickname because we all thought we were “dirty-good at baseball,” Siegmann explained through text message. “So we called ourselves the ‘Dirty Birds’ and it was a joke at first, but it created a brotherhood and honestly helped us get as far as we did.”
All-Area pitcher and Falcons teammate Ryan Mellerski shared how this mantra was more than just a phrase, really carrying over to the team’s mentality on the field.
“That’s just (us saying) we’re not afraid to get dirty,” Mellerski said. “We’re gonna battle out every game, we’re gonna play hard and that just means we’re going in and we’re gonna play hard all game.”
Siegmann and NW were able to put together a memorable run this past season — they would eventually end the year playing in the Section VI Class A-1 championship. With such success, the Falcons could have had several names picked as Player of the Year.
The pitchers were phenomenal, with Mellerski’s 0.70 ERA on the mound and Tom Peltier’s 71 strikeouts. Chris Cacciatore was a fellow honorable mention on the All-Western New York team with Siegmann, recording a .358 batting average, 13 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
But one thing that stood out when talking to head coach Jim Hagerty was that he really vouched for Siegmann, the team’s first baseman and rotational pitcher. It was not just about his numbers, it was about the intangibles and leadership qualities that really trumped all in Hagerty’s eyes.
“It was a fun year with Peyton. He did a nice job of growing into a leadership role and he seemed to give us a spark when we needed, it a good number of times,” Hagerty said through text last week.
“He matured as a kid and as a player. ... “He went from a kid who thought he had enough raw ability to get away with things, to a player who realized his own strengths and his opponents’ weaknesses and took advantage.”
He also talked about just how highly regarded Siegmann was, even if he was not necessarily asked to be in a leadership position.
“He is a gamer. He actually was not a captain,” Hagerty said. “Which, in my opinion, made his leadership more subtle and more effective.”
Siegmann was great at the plate this year, leading the team with a .389 batting average, 22 RBIs on 21 hits and four stolen bases. He could have been most school’s ace too (3-0 record, 14 K’s, 1.00 ERA, 18 IP), but he had the luxury of playing behind two All-Niagara Frontier League pitchers.
“He actually didn’t pitch enough innings to be nominated for All-League, but he was very effective on the mound,” Hagerty said. “I honestly think he may have made All-League there also.”
Mellerski had a ton of assurance having a guy like Siegmann behind him at first base. He talked about what helped make Siegmann a difference maker for the Falcons.
“He’s a competitive player. He always plays with a chip on his shoulder and every game he went out there and did what he does best: have fun,” Mellerski said. “He plays (so) well. I’m very confident when he’s at first base.”
Being named the Gazette Baseball Player of the Year was a complete surprise for Siegmann, nearly leaving him speechless when asked about his thoughts on receiving the honor.
“I didn’t know I was gonna get it. It kind of shocked me,” Siegmann said. “I’m very thankful for it. I want to thank all of my coaches, everyone who brought me this far, all of my teammates who helped me out along the way. It’s an honor to represent all the people from the Niagara County district.
“I want to thank my parents too, they helped me throughout the way. They really helped me grow up and understand not only baseball, but life more and I think it really helped me along my journey.”
Siegmann also had a great appreciation for how highly his former coach spoke of him. He talked about the relationship that the two were able to forge, after what seemed to be a rocky start together.
“Coach (Hagerty) he actually really helped me along my way. He didn’t think we were gonna get along this year but I kind of surprised him on that,” Siegmann said.
“Right from the start, we created a special bond and it stuck with us throughout the season and he would give me little pointers and tips when I was doing some things wrong. It really helped me improve my game to the fullest potential I could. He really helped me out. That bond we created, that’ll last forever. ... We still keep in touch and I hope that bond lasts forever.”
What was so extraordinary about Siegmann’s senior season was that it had been such a long span of time since the Falcons even made a trip to the sectional finals. Siegmann was able to look back on this feat with great pride and just how meaningful it was for he and his teammates.
“It was actually a really special season for the guys, even though we ended up a little short,” he said.
“But everyone was proud of what we accomplished. Everyone. Like at the end of the season, we knew we gave it our all and knew there was nothing left in the tank. I mean that’s all you can ask for out of a good baseball season. Everyone was pleased with it.”
With his high school career behind him, Siegmann will be attending Niagara University this upcoming school year. At first he had the thought of maybe taking the year off from baseball, so he could “figure it out” and find his footing as a college freshman. He is now considering playing for the school’s club team or possibly even walking-on to the Division I roster. Before he makes a decision one way or another, Siegmann took a moment to share his thoughts and emotions about his high school tenure coming to an end.
“I had so much fun with it, especially this last year,” Siegmann said.
“This last year just blew my mind on how fun baseball could actually be. High school baseball is just a totally different atmosphere than any travel team I’ve ever played on. High school baseball, you’re with all your friends and you’re with each other everyday so it becomes your daily thing that you do with everybody else and you work hard everyday. So to just see it go at the end of the season and stop suddenly, it’s sad. And knowing you’ll never be able to play another high school sport again. ... You can’t even put a word on it, because it just hurts. You’re never gonna be with your best friends again out there playing baseball.”
Moving on from the high school ranks may be bitter sweet. But Siegmann will have stories to tell and memories to share about just how “dirty” he and his “birds” were in 2019.
For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos.