Cooperstown Embraces PGCBL

NOTE: In early November, 2010, Perfect Game USA announced it would become more involved with summer collegiate baseball by partnering in the formation of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

The PGCBL will open its inaugural season with eight clubs located in upstate New York that were former members of the New York Collegiate League. The PGCBL will have teams in Albany, Amsterdam, Cooperstown, Elmira, Glen Falls, Mohawk Valley, Newark and Watertown, and Perfect Game will also use venues in those communities to stage regional showcase events and tournaments.

The league will be open to players already at a four-year college or a junior college as well as recent high school graduates. Its schedule will run from early June through early August.

A series of articles featuring the eight communities that will host PGCBL organizations will be posted at in the coming weeks.

The first article in the series features the Cooperstown Hawkeyes:

For much of the 20th century, legend had it that one day in 1839 Abner Doubleday sat down in a cow pasture within the Village of Cooperstown, N.Y., and wrote out the modern rules for the game of baseball.

It made for fantastic local lore, naming a man who went on to become a decorated Civil War veteran as the inventor of “America’s Pastime.” It’s just unfortunate the facts weren’t there to support the tale.

In reality, Doubleday was a cadet at West Point in 1839 and he never claimed to have invented or to have even played baseball in any of his writings. That didn’t keep the Village of Cooperstown from becoming synonymous with the sport, or from eventually becoming the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a historic ball yard called Doubleday Field.

The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League will call Doubleday Field one of its homes this summer when the league opens play in eight upstate New York communities, including Cooperstown.

Major League Baseball played a Hall of Fame Day exhibition game at Doubleday for many years until recently, and youth tournaments and other amateur games have always been played there during the summer months, but summer collegiate baseball is new to the historic field.

The Cooperstown Hawkeyes are entering their second year of existence, having spent their first year as a member of the New York Collegiate League. The club decided to pull out of the NYCL with seven other clubs at the conclusion of the 2010 season and join the newly established PGCBL.

Cooperstown hadn’t had a local team in many years before owner and president Tom Hickey brought the Hawkeyes to town last summer.

“It’s the perfect place,” Hawkeyes General Manager RC Reuteman said. “I mean, Cooperstown should have a club of some sort.”

It does make sense. The village is still referred to as the “Birthplace of Baseball” and the presence of the Hall of Fame makes it a natural destination for baseball fans from around the globe.

“When you think of baseball you think of Cooperstown,” Reuteman said. “We play at historic Doubleday Field and we’re two blocks away from the Hall of Fame. If there’s any disadvantage it’s that Cooperstown is a very small town. There are only 1,500 year-round residents, but then in the summertime it swells.”

Reuteman said the advantage the Hawkeyes can boast is affordability. The Hawkeyes’ high-end ticket will sell for $5.

“The challenge is marketing and I think if you look around the country at a lot of the tourist destinations, baseball hasn’t always really drawn that well,” Reuteman said. “The advantage that we have is all the tourists that come here, come because of baseball. It’s a built-in market for us.”

Another advantage is playing in Doubleday Field, where a few scenes from the movie “A League of Their Own” were filmed. Baseball has been played on the site since 1919 and a rudimentary grandstand was built in 1924. The current grandstand and bleachers, with seating for more than 9,000, were built in 1939.

In a post on the website, writer Eric J. Hurwitz had this to say about Doubleday Field:

“The charming 19th century-like entrance, the covered grandstand behind home plate, and bleachers encompassing the rest of the field resonate with baseball pride. The stands have interesting nooks and crannies, with the field being surrounded by beautifully mature trees, well maintained homes (sometimes the victim of home runs breaking windows) and a lovely church steeple.”

Reuteman and the rest of the Hawkeyes organization are thrilled to be a member of the PGCBL and look forward to presenting some of the best collegiate-level  talent to the patrons who turn out at Doubleday Field.

Everyone involved envisions the PGCBL growing into the top collegiate summer league in the nation.

“The high profile that Perfect Game has, not only nationally but internationally, and the instant credibility (it provides), it’s a logical extension … for (Perfect Game),” Reuteman said. “The great advantage is they have the relationships with the players and with the college coaches (and) what was really the key to the whole thing was that there was a common philosophy of wanting this new league to be absolutely the very best in the whole country in a very short period of time.”

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