2019 Amsterdam baseball hall of fame ceremony

A former Amsterdam Mohawk, an Amsterdam High School graduate, a college baseball manager and a former ballplayer who became a well-respected judge were all formally inducted into the Amsterdam Baseball/Mohawks Hall of Fame at the annual ceremony and dinner on Saturday, February 9 at St. Mary’s Institute.

Former Mohawks pitcher Logan Darnell headlined this year’s class, along with 1997 Amsterdam High School graduate Chris Yager, Mississippi State coach Gary Henderson and the late Honorable Robert Sise. Darnell and Henderson were elected to the Mohawks’ wing, while Yager and Sise were chosen for the community baseball wing.

Darnell is currently a free agent after pitching last season with the Washington Nationals. He has compiled an 82-70 record with a 3.94 earned run average as a professional baseball player. In his one season with the Mohawks in 2008, Darnell posted a regular season record of 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA and split his two postseason starts as Amsterdam was eliminated in the New York Collegiate Baseball League semifinals.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Darnell said of his Hall of Fame selection. “A lot of credit goes to this organization and ‘Spags’ [team owner Brian Spagnola]. It was a great organization to play for.”

Darnell said the biggest benefit from his summer in Amsterdam was having a chance to play.

“I was a freshman in college when I played here,” said Darnell. “When I was at Kentucky, I didn’t play much, and I got to play a lot in Amsterdam.”

Yager played two seasons on the varsity baseball team at Amsterdam High School, where he compiled a 7-2 record with a 1.19 ERA as a pitcher and batted .281 as a shortstop. In his senior season, Yager helped the Rugged Rams win their first Section 2 title in 23 years and was an all-area player.

“It’s a great honor, and for me it’s more about my coaches in high school – coach [Brian] Mee and coach [Ken] Engel,” said Yager. “They’re the ones who helped me get where I am today.”

Yager played collegiate ball at Hudson Valley Community College and played in several independent baseball leagues before coming back to the Capital Region, where he works in his family’s funeral home business and as a firefighter. He also serves as an assistant coach with the Guilderland High School baseball program and coaches a team within the South Troy Dodgers organization, and he still plays baseball in the Albany Twilight League.

Henderson has been instrumental in the Mohawks’ success. As a coach at the University of Kentucky, Henderson sent 35 players to Amsterdam to play for the Mohawks from 2006 to 2016, including Darnell and current Toronto Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile. Henderson then moved on to Mississippi State, where he guided the Bulldogs to the 2018 College World Series’ Final Four. Henderson was also the person who recommended the 2009 hiring of Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin, who confirmed at the Hall of Fame Dinner that he will be returning in 2019.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Brian and the Mohawks. It’s great to be associated with this club. They’ve done a very good job of hosting our guys over the years,” said Henderson.

Sise, who passed away in 2016, played for the Gloversville-Johnstown Glovers in the Can-Am League in 1951, where he compiled a 7-10 record after winning six of his first 10 starts. A lawyer by day, Sise walked away from baseball after the Can-Am League dissolved following the 1951 season, and he was elected to his first judgeship in 1960. He spent the next three decades serving as a judge before retiring. His son, Joe Sise, spoke on his behalf.

Former Major League Baseball outfielder Jesse Barfield was the keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony. The former Toronto Blue Jay and New York Yankee regaled the crowd of 350 attendees with stories about his Major League debut in his hometown of Chicago, how he handled hecklers at road games and his relationships with his teammates over the years.

Barfield said the most important thing younger ballplayers should know is making the right decisions in life.

“Where they are now, they know about determination, dedication and sacrifice,” said Barfield. “But, the intangible is having that discipline.”

Barfield was the latest in a long line of retired Major Leaguers who have spoken at the ceremony in past years. That list includes the likes of Ed Kranepool, Tommy John, Howard Johnson, Ron Darling, Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson, Dwight Gooden and Bobby Valentine.

Besides the Hall of Fame festivities, the evening featured several important announcements regarding the 2019 Amsterdam Mohawks season. The biggest news of the evening was the revelation of more improvements coming to Shuttleworth Park’s ball field, including locker room facilities, updated bathrooms and new lights. It was also revealed that the Neena Rao Foundation made a significant donation to the Shuttleworth Park Foundation, and in exchange, the ball field will be renamed the Rao Family Stadium at Shuttleworth Park.

Rob Jonas

Rob Jonas writes about sports, arts, and culture for the Mohawk Valley
Compass. He has covered high school and community sports for more than 25