By Dave Warner
The Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs are ready to kick off their 2023 season, on June 1st, versus Utica, which means opening night is less than one month away.
Travis Heiser, owner of the team, said that once the season is done, he’s already getting ready for the next one in the middle of August. “We start signing guys for the upcoming season, so there’s really no ‘off’ days at all.”
He said that they first try to lock in players interested in coming back. “Some players tell us before they leave that they’d like to come back, so we try to get those kids signed up.”
Everything moves faster once fall starts because players are playing fall ball. “By October or November, we are done with the majority of our roster.”
One of the hot names in the Valley is Troy Butler, and Heiser says he’ll be returning in 2023. “Troy is coming back, and this is his third summer with us. He had a good year last year. He’s definitely the number one prospect in the league, and we’re excited to have him back.”
Heiser said, however, “How long he’s actually with us, we don’t know. He could be going back to the Cape after a couple of starts with us, or he could stay for the entire summer or get drafted by Major League Baseball in this year’s draft. Being local, it’s nice to have him back.”
“He’s throwing 96 mph now. I saw him pitch a couple of weeks ago, and the scouts are all over him. I think we’ll have him for two to three starts at least, but if he gets drafted like Jimmy Joyce, it would be nice to get that call with him wearing a Dawgs uniform,” he said.
Heiser said there are many other tasks to accomplish in the off-season, including lining up the advertisers and sponsors for the team, host families, and after-home game meals. “It’s a full-time job if you’re going to do it right. A lot of people think we just roll out the ball in June.”
“We really try to lock up all our advertisers and sponsors in the fall for the upcoming season. We’re really fortunate to have most of our sponsors back again from the previous season. The reality is, without them, the Diamond Dawgs would not exist,” he stated.
He also said that he really appreciates the team’s support from the community.
“We have players coming from all over the country, and some like to stay in the apartments, but again there are those individuals who like the host families.”
Heiser also works on what kind of entertainment will be provided during the games, including fireworks nights and giveaways. “It just never ends.”
There is still housing needed for two more players, and after-game meals are another hot-button item for Heiser. “I think we have four out of the twenty-five games taken care of, and that’s a big undertaking to get them fed.”
He said that the players appreciate something other than hotdogs or hamburgers when playing at home. “When we have a home game, we try and feed them with something that has a little more nutritional value than what they eat on the road.”
After the games, they eat at the picnic tables at the field.
Heiser said the coaching staff is set and the same as last year. “Coach Luby has been with me since 2014. He’s been in every role and is now our head coach. John Fureno, the local guy from Fort Plain, is coming back, and then we have Tyler Roper coming back for his second season.”
“It’s nice to have those three back. I think the biggest thing for us in any organization is consistency, and I think having consistent coaches and staff is what sets us apart from a lot of other summer collegiate teams,” stated Heiser.
On paper, he said the team looks good. “I think we have some guys that are really going to be able to swing it. Defensively, I think we are going to be good. The concern is always pitching. Do we have enough high-level players that can be consistent day in and day out and keep us in games,” he said.
Heiser said that several of the players are hitting well right now at college, several with multiple home runs. “I think we’re going to be quick as well. We’ve got guys who can steal bases, and we’ll have a pressure offense. We’re going to be able to bunt.”
He said they’re a little soft in the outfield but have some two-way players that can also play outfield because they’re that athletic. “We’re excited to see what we have, and again, it’s not always about the numbers, but putting the team together and having that chemistry.”
Heiser said that the Eastern Division they’re in is the toughest competition, with Utica sliding over into it.
“It’s always a battle, and it goes through Amsterdam. Unfortunately, we only play them two times. It’s a rivalry game, and from a scheduling standpoint, I don’t understand why we don’t play them more. It’s just the way it worked out.”
“Our players and our fans like that rivalry, and it’s no different than when we play Utica. There’s a respect issue between all of us, but when the time comes, we all want to beat each other,” he said.
Heiser said they expect to be competitive and end up in the playoffs. “We’re also here to help these players grow, not only on the field but off the field. We always say we’re in the man-making business. Whether we win a championship or not, we want to send our guys back to their schools as not only better baseball players but better people.”
He said that when it comes to the fan experience, they have a lot more groups booked and that they’re going back to giving a lot of tickets out in the community to drive more people to the games. “We’ve got some family reunions that we’re doing this year, and we will be announcing a fireworks show that I think is probably going to be the best show that we’ve ever had.”
Heiser also noted that the Thirsty Thursdays would be back. “It’s become a place to hang out with friends and socialize. It kind of breaks up the week.”
Another addition will be live multi-camera streaming of the games by The Creative Outpost, Inc., intern program. If you can’t make the game, you’ll be able to watch it at https://mvdiamonddawgs.com/livestream/
He ended, “There’s definitely more to come.”
For those who want to know, the baseball camp will be July 12-14, 2023. If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org