Luke Maile of the Tampa Bay Rays was the keynote speaker at the 10th Annual Hot Stove and Hall of Fame dinner, held on Saturday night at St. Mary’s Institute in Amsterdam. At the event, the late Roger Bowman, an Amsterdam native who played in the major leagues, and Paul Mound, an Amsterdam High School alumni and current college coach, were inducted to the Amsterdam Baseball Hall of Fame. Abram Williams, a standout relief pitcher for the Amsterdam Mohawks from 2010-2011, and Keith Griffin, the current Mohawks head coach who has guided the franchise to six collegiate baseball league titles in eight seasons, were inducted into the Amsterdam Mohawks Hall of Fame.
Born in Amsterdam in 1927, Bowman graduated from Wilbur H. Lynch High School in 1945 and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before beginning his big league baseball career. Signed by the New York Giants in 1946, Bowman went on to play in parts of five Major League Baseball (MLB) seasons with the Giants in 1949, 1951, and 1952, and later with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953, and 1955 achieving a 2- 11 record. Bowman had a more successful minor league career stretching from 1946-1961 where he won 131 games. His best seasons came in 1950 pitching for the Jersey City Giants of the International League where he racked up a 16-11 record with 233 innings pitched, and 181 strikeouts, and 1954 with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League where he went 22-13 with 165 strikeouts and a 2.51 earned run average. Bowman also played professionally in Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela where he was named a ‘Star Player in 1955. A graduate from Colgate University and UCLA, Bowman was an educator, aviation instructor, and an accomplished jazz musician who entertained summers’ at Caroga Lake and even sat in with jazz greats including Tommy Dorsey. Bowman passed away in 1997 at age 69. Bowman’s daughter Jocelyn was present at the induction ceremony along with her husband Michael, who accepted the honor recognizing the Amsterdam baseball legend.
“I didn’t know Roger was a member of the 1951 NY Giants,” said Bowman’s son in law. “That was Willie Mays’ rookie year. I thought perhaps they could have had Mays come and accept the honor for Roger. Thank you for recognizing Roger’s achievements.”
Mound was a part of the outstanding Amsterdam high school baseball teams in the 1970’s that won a record 77 straight games. He began a successful coaching career with the Saratoga Stampede, an American Legion team where over a 12 year period won 483 games and led the American Legion team to a New York State title in 2010 completing a 35-8 record. Mound went on to coach Union College and over the last six seasons has compiled a 131-95-1 record and led the Dutchmen to three Liberty League regular season titles in the last four years, and two Liberty League championships. Union College teams have won 20 or more games with Mound at the helm four times, and have had three, 26 win seasons. The Union College baseball program has reached the NCAA Division 3 tournament twice during Mounds’ tenure, and has seen the programs first player drafted by an MLB team, and an All-American in Jacob Fishman. Union College baseball currently plays its home games at Shuttleworth Park in Amsterdam.
“When I was five years old I spent countless hours talking baseball with my father,” Mound said. “He taught me everything I know. Everything I heard about baseball in Amsterdam I heard from my dad. We talked about Roger Bowman and Costa Lazarou. I’m very blessed. I come from Amsterdam and I’m proud of it. Now, the best thing is I get to coach with my son. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Williams was a part of stellar Amsterdam Mohawks teams in 2010 and 2011. A graduate of Radford University, Williams went on to lead the Mohawks with a team record 21 saves during his two summers at Shuttleworth Park, a record that still stands to this day. The right-hander with a dominating slider pitched 23 plus innings in 2010 with 11 saves, struck out 30, and allowed only one run. Williams was on the mound in the deciding game of the New York Collegiate Baseball League championship (NYCBL)series in 2010 facing the Elmira Pioneers with the bases loaded an no one out in the eighth inning of a close game. Williams pitched the last six outs without allowing run earning the save in the Mohawks 4-0 title-clinching win. He followed that with 10 more saves in 2011, striking out 29 over 22 plus innings. Both Williams and Luke Maile played for Keith Griffin in the manager’s early seasons at he helm. Williams mentioned both Maile and Griffing when he thanked the Amsterdam baseball community for the honor.
“This is truly a great honor,” Williams said. “All good memories came back for me when I saw Shuttleworth Park. My college coach said to me that Amsterdam is was the best summer place for collegiate baseball. I remember in 2011 when things didn’t start out so good and Keith Griffin came up to me and said, ‘I haven’t told anyone this, but Luke Maile is coming back and we’re going to turn this season around.’ It’s an honor to play for Coach Griffin.”
Anyone who knows Mohawks baseball knows who Keith Griffin is. The current head coach of the Amsterdam Mohawks, Griffin assured the crowd he is returning for the 2017 season. Since taking the coaching reigns in 2009, Griffin has led the Mohawks to 296 wins and six league championships in eight seasons. Amsterdam won NYCBL titles in 2009 and 2010, and Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) titles in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Griffin also guided the 2015 Mohawks to a team record 41 wins, and holds an overall regular season managerial record with the team of 296-116.
Amsterdam Mohawks teams have also won 33 playoff games during Griffins’ tenure. Griffin began his coaching career in 1980 at Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Florida, and went on to coach at Jacksonville University, Okaloosa-Walton Junior College, and Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewerton, Alabama where in 1998 they won the NJCAA Division II National Championship, with Griffin named National Coach of the Year. Over 100 players that Griffin has coached have signed professional contracts, and more than a dozen have played in MLB.
“I took a summer off after retiring from college baseball when I got a phone call from Brian (Spagnola) about coaching the Mohawks,” Griffin said. “I had never coached summer league before. The coach of Kentucky University said Amsterdam is where you want to be. Nine years later, I’m coming back for one more year.”
Griffin then gave the crowd one more reason to cheer; “I’m going to win my one-thousandth game this year. I want to win for all of you, and make these young men better players.”
Following a dinner catered by 518 Grille of Amsterdam, and another round of auctioning some baseball memorabilia, keynote speaker Luke Maile addressed the audience that had filled the SMI gymnasium. Maile played for the Mohawks from 2010-2011 and was a collegiate league All-Star helping the Mohawks win the NYCBL title in 2010 and return to the title series in 2011 after starting that summer in the Cape Cod League. Maile was selected in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays and played in 400 minor league games before making his major league debut with the Rays on September 1, 2015. Maile is also in the Amsterdam Mohawks HOF, inducted in 2014.
Maile reflected on his two years in Amsterdam and made sure to thank the host parents, who since the Mohawks first arrived in Amsterdam over ten years ago, have provided a place to stay for more than 100 Mohawks players, and have been a significant part of the summer baseball experience.
“When I showed up in Amsterdam all I had was a credit card, a set of golf clubs in the trunk of my car, three baseball bats, and my catchers gear,” Maile said. “I didn’t know what to do. I heard from other players on other teams about their experiences and I can tell you that what you have here in Amsterdam is amazing. Thank you Rosemary (host family coordinator Rosemary Smith). In Amsterdam it’s different. Here, people want to meet you. They care about you. I had my own room and hot meals.”
Maile focused on the theme “From Mohawks to the Majors” and went on to talk about his playing days in the minor leagues. Maile also talked about his reasons for returning to Amsterdam for a second season with the Mohawks and playing for Keith Griffin. He remembered a game in Watertown where he didn’t have his best day, going 0 for 4 at the plate and Griffin challenged him saying “Your’e better than that.”
Maile remembered the day he was called up to the major leagues and said, “I was in Durham, North Carolina waiting to find out if my life was going to change.”
Maile said that Durham Bulls manager Jared Sandbergh appeared in the dugout after a game on August 31, 2015 and called him into his office to say he was a major leaguer. When Maile returned to the dugout the entire Durham Bulls pitching staff was there waiting to congratulate him. The pitching staff had waited over an hour for Maile’s name to be called. Headed to Tampa where he would begin his MLB career on the next day against the Baltimore Orioles, Maile remebered what his pitching coach Kyle Snyder had said to him;
“At the end of the day it’s not about winning or losing, or the stats on the back of a baseball card. It’s about the relationships you make along the way.”
Maile reflected on his playing days in Amsterdam by saying, “Two years out of twenty in a place I never imagined I’d be in. Thank you for having me here. Thank you all for your support.”
Members of the audience responded in kind and thanked Maile for being a part of Amsterdam baseball.
Hot Stove- HOF highlights
Congressmen George Amedore, Angelo Santabarbara, and Paul Tonko all took the podium to speak during the event. Santabarbara presented Mohawks general manager Broan Spagnola with a citation to recognize the ten years that Amsterdam baseball and the Mohnawks have hosted the event.
The Norbert Sherbunt Community Award was presented to Michael Chiara. Spagnola accepted on Chiara’s behalf noting that Chiara was instrumental in the Mohawks getting established during their early years in Amsterdam.
Sponsors for the event included Driscoll Foods, River Ridge Living Center LLC, The Recorder, CSEA, Amsterdam Printing and Litho, and Coca-Cola, who Spagnola mentioned would provide beverages for the Mohawks games in 2017.
The 2016 Amsterdam Mohawks ranked sixth out of 500 collegiate teams in the country.
The 2017 Amsterdam Mohawks will feature five players out of high school who were drafted by MLB teams in 2016, but chose to play college baseball.
As of the night of the event, there are only 119 days before opening day of the Mohawks 2017 season.