Golden Eagles vie for attention

(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 fifth article in the series features the Glens Falls Golden Eagles:

The Glens Falls Golden Eagles face an ongoing battle for the attention of fans in their sports-crazy community of about 14,000 residents in eastern upstate New York. The Golden Eagles just may have found the attention-grabber they need by becoming a member of the upstart Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League which begins its inaugural season of play in early June.

The challenge facing Golden Eagles and owner/president Darin Williams is to somehow grab the local sports spotlight in a community that also boasts loyal legions of football, hockey and basketball fans.

Glens Falls was home to minor league professional baseball from 1980 through 1988 and again in 1993. The Golden Eagles joined the New York Collegiate Baseball League in 2004, but the townsfolk were slow to take to collegiate-level baseball. The truth is, they hadn’t been educated about the talent level.

“When I took over the team, the (previous) owner really didn’t promote the team the way he should have and there was this misconception that this would be just like an American Legion team,” Williams said in a recent telephone conversation with Perfect Game. “When I first met with the mayor of the town he asked me where I got my players from. Our local community college is Adirondack Community College, and he asked me, ‘Where do you get them from, ACC?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I do get them from the ACC – North Carolina, Duke and all the others.’

“His perception was that these were all just area high-schoolers that are playing out there, and that’s the misconception that we have here.”

To change that misconception, Williams had local newspaper articles written about how many former Golden Eagles had been drafted professionally and adopted the slogan, “Future Major Leaguers Playing in Your Backyard Today!”

The Golden Eagles play their home games at beautiful East Field, which opened in 1980. The stadium was home to the Glens Falls Glen Sox – a Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the Eastern League – from 1980-85, and then the Glens Falls Tigers – the Eastern League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers – from 1986-88. The Glen Falls Redbirds – a Single-A St. Louis Cardinals affiliate in the New York-Penn League – played at East Field in 1993.

The Adirondack Lumberjacks, an independent club, played in Glens Falls from 1995 through 2002.

But baseball has always faced stiff competition within the community.

In 1980, the same year East Field opened, Glens Falls city officials brought the Adirondack Phantoms to town. The Phantoms are a member of the American Hockey League – the highest level of minor league hockey, one step below the NHL – and play their games at the 4,800-seat Glens Falls Civic Center.

For the first 20 years of their existence, the Phantoms were AHL affiliate of Detroit Red Wings, and many of the players who were members of the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup championship teams in 1997, ’98, 2002 and ’08 played in Glens Falls before being promoted to Detroit. The Phantoms are now affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Those affiliations have naturally created a dominant hockey culture in the community

“This has been a hockey town. There are a lot of hockey fans here,” Williams said.

East Field is also the home of the Glens Falls Greenjackets, a professional football team that is a member of the North American Football League. The Greenjackets organization was formed in 1928 and has a long and storied history.

The Glen Falls Civic Center also hosts the New York boys’ and girls’ state high school basketball championships every March, attracting the state’s best prep players to town, even those from New York City. Jimmer Fredette, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball national scoring leader from Brigham Young University, is a Glens Falls native.

“It’s not like (the baseball team) is a big headliner, because we have other sports going on here too,” Williams said. “The community welcomes it; I’d like to see them welcome it more. But that’s part of my problem that I have to work out. I have to promote it a little bit better.”

Williams first joined the Golden Eagles as the scoreboard operator at East Field in 2004. He became the official scorer in 2005, and in 2006 was in charge of press box operations. By 2007 he was the team owner and president, and his wife, Sheri, is the club’s host-family coordinator.

The Golden Eagle’s biggest asset is probably their head coach, John Mayotte, who has coached on the collegiate level for 25 years and previously coached in the Cape Cod League and the NYCBL.

The PGCBL promises to bring a lot of talented players to Glens Falls in the coming years. They’re sure to be attention-grabbers.

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