AMSTERDAM - The Amsterdam Mohawks' defense of their Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship began Monday night at Shuttleworth Park.
Veteran coach Keith Griffin, who has guided the Mohawks to five championship series appearances and won four titles, greeted members of the 2014 Mohawks and wasted no time getting down to business, as the squad took the field for practice on the new AstroTurf infield at Shuttleworth.
"I am just looking forward to our season and getting everybody here and seeing just how good we can be," Griffin said. "Helping these guys get better as players and people and seeing what happens. I don't know their faces yet, but I know stats. I know who pitched well and who hit well. I have an idea, but until you coach them and get a chance to see them, you just aren't sure."
Amsterdam Mohawks coach Keith Griffin talks to players on the 2014 roster at practice Monday night at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam. The season opener for the two-time defending Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League champions is Thursday against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth Park at 6:35 p.m. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Griffin is very familiar with the abilities of three players - Josh Gardiner (Radford/Culpepper, Va), Kevin Guthrie (Brown/Sarasota, Fla.) and Zach Breen (Barton/Watervliet) - who return to the roster from the 2013 championship team that finished third in the nation in the Perfect Game rankings.
"When we got Gardiner in the five hole last year, it was pretty smart," Griffin said. "I had him in a lot of different spots and when we put him in there, it solidified what we wanted to do with that spot and we took off. It takes time because you don't know where these guys hit best."
The Mohawks took off to finish 35-18 overall, including an 11-game win streak, and defeated Elmira 2-1 in the championship series.
Mohawks general manager Brian Spagnola has been busy working on the roster in the off season and continues to make adjustments as the college baseball season winds down and summer leagues fire up.
"We might be a little short handed for a couple of days, but we will be all right," he said. "We had a couple of guys from Auburn who got hurt, so we are looking for players to fill their spots on the roster."
Not having a full opening-day roster does not concern Griffin.
"They will trickle in," he said. "The kids from Kentucky probably won't be here until Monday. It is what it is. You play with the ones you have. Our team got better as the year progressed, which they typical have. Part of it is, until we get a full complement, the players need some time to learn their roles. It typically is a rough start. I wish it wasn't, but it is."
The Mohawks will be highly involved in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Shuttleworth Park with promotions scheduled throughout the season.
"We have plans to throw a birthday party where fans will get cupcakes, and there are events planned throughout the season," he said.
The Mohawks open their 2014 season Thursday night against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth Park. Game times have been moved up this season to 6:35 p.m.
Thursday's game is Amsterdam Night, sponsored by Mayor Ann Thane and the city of Amsterdam, and is Mug Night.
Fireworks will be part of the program on June 7 and 21 as well as July 3 and 25. Several promotional and give-away nights are scheduled throughout the season.
Notes: Mel Rojas Jr. (Mohawks 2009, 2010), the Pittsburgh Pirates' 2010 third-round draft pick, has been promoted to their Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.
University of Kentucky pitcher Logan Darnell called Amsterdam home in the summer of 2008 and is now a member of the Minnesota Twins. Darnell, a sixth-round pick of Minnesota in 2010 was called up to the Twins to add an arm to the bullpen.
Fort Plain High School standout Jabin Weaver (East Stroudsburg) is listed on the roster for the PGCBL's Adirondack Trail Blazers of Boonville. The Trail Blazers are scheduled to play at Shuttleworth Park on June 21 and the Little Falls DiamondDawgs on July 13.