Jacob Wilkins, Mirabito’s Media Meaestro, is Getting Ready for Another Great Baseball Season!

Everyone in the Binghamton Baseball Booster Club (BBBC) knows Jacob from his role as Director of Media Relations for the Rumble Ponies, which includes lead broadcasting duties for the Ponies. Since he joined the Ponies in May 2019, he has been a featured speaker on a couple of occasions at our offseason membership meetings and has proven he can be an entertaining raconteur whether he is speaking into a microphone or standing in front of a live audience. Right now Jacob is starting to think of baseball again!

Since we last met with Jacob he has become increasingly active at Binghamton University, adding to his role as the broadcaster of women’s basketball. He now teaches a sports journalism course as an adjunct professor, writes for the alumni magazine, and also hosts and produces “Alumni Bearcat Chats,” a video series that highlights prominent Binghamton alumni.

His Director of Media Relations role includes far more than broadcasting each Rumble Pony game. His varied roles include coordinating all media requests for the team, conducting the pre- and post-game shows, writing press releases and game notes, and serving as an informal director of public relations for the team, collaborating with community organizations and the New York Mets’ organization for various promotional opportunities.

For those looking for extensive information on the Rumble Ponies, Jacob is your primary source. His game notes provide detailed information on each player suiting up for the Rumble Ponies and also alert the reader to important team and player trends.  The game notes are a wealth of information and will soon turn a casual observer into an informed fan. Want to know each transaction the Ponies have made during the season? You’ll find all transactions listed in the closing pages of the game notes. Want to get a thumbnail sketch on each player on the Ponies roster? You’ll find those in the game notes too! In addition to the game notes, another great source of information that Jacob provides is the online media guide, which provides historic and current information on the Binghamton franchise. (Both the game notes and media guide can be found on the web page of the Rumble Ponies.)   

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Binghamton University’s Baseball Facilities are Fantastic!  

By Jim Maggiore

Author’s Note: As Binghamton University gets ready to start its baseball season, I thought it would be a nice treat to revisit a November meeting with Coach Tim Sinicki…

The highlight of the November membership meeting of the Binghamton Baseball Booster Club (BBBC) included a tour of  Binghamton University’s baseball facility, which was hosted by head baseball coach Tim Sinicki and his assistant coach, Ryan Hurba. The tour completed with a question-and-answer session in an auditorium-like room, which provided a grand view of the playing field along the right-field line. During the question-and- answer session, booster club members peppered Sinicki with more than a handful of questions. (Ryan took over the question-and-answer session after Tim left at 6:45 so he and his wife could attend “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was playing at The Forum in downtown Binghamton. Following is a sampling of the questions asked, including my paraphrasing of Tim’s answers.)

What’s the seating capacity of the stadium?

Sinicki: There are 1200 regular seats, with another capacity of 700 in the left-field berm area. This gives us an approximate seating capacity of 1900. The berm area has proved to be a popular sport for families, as there is area there to walk around a bit and still have a great view of the game. It’s also proven to be a great place for other athletic teams of the university to gather and root on our players.

A View from the Concourse. (Photo courtesy of George Wilson.)

Is hosting a regional NCAA Tournament in Binghamton’s Future?

Sinicki: The building of this complex was done with that in mind. The field lighting meets the requirements to host an NCAA Regional.  To host a regional tournament, however, you have to be one of the  top 16 ranked teams in the country, so we have a way to go with our program to get there. But we did build the stadium to match  the requirements for hosting a regional tournament. As many of you know, we will be hosting the America East Tournament next year during the four days before Memorial Day.

How much does this facility help with recruiting?

Sinicki. A lot. It’s impressive. But finding the right mix of student athlete is always interesting. The university has strict academic guidelines, so we find ourselves communicating with athletes who are also being sought by some of the top schools in the Northeast.

Where do most of your players come from?

Sinicki: For the most part, our athletes also come from the Northeast—New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We’ll also get a player or two from much farther away, but the majority of our players clearly come from New York and its neighboring states.

How Many Players Are You Allowed to Carry? How Many Scholarships Do You Have to Give Out?

Sinicki: We have 32 players on our roster. That may seem like a lot, but it allows us to have a full roster when players get injured, etc. Although NCAA regulations allow us to dole out 11.7 full athletic scholarships, the university limits us to 7 scholarships. Very rarely do we provide full scholarships, we have a pool of money equivalent to those 7 scholarships and we tend to spread it out, often combining it with a financial assistance package.

Does having a Double-A Professional Team in the area help with recruiting?

Ryan: There’s a lot to love about this area. I’m originally from Marathon and love coming to work here. Coach Sinicki is from Johnson City and our two other assistants, Ed and Mike, are from Endicott. So obviously this area has a lot going for it. But there are no beaches here, the climate is cold, especially in March and April, so it is always a challenge to get 18-21 year-old student-athletes to come to this area. We’re in the conversation for some of the top talent, but these students are in high demand. We’re always competing with multiple schools that may have a better climate and have major league teams within their vicinity.    

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You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country, but You Can’t Take the Country Out of the Boy!

by Jim Maggiore

On December 22nd Jacob deGrom took out a full-page ad in the printed edition of the New York Post to thank Met fans and those who helped him become a star along the way. His message read as follows:

To the City of New York, the New York Mets Organization, and Mets Fans Everywhere

I can still remember the exact moment I stood on the Citi Field mound for the first time after getting called up in 2014. It was a moment filled with so many wonderful emotions that will forever be etched in my mind.

My family and I are forever grateful to the Mets for an incredible last 12 years and, most importantly, for believing in me. For giving me the opportunity to play the game I love at the highest level for all these years. There are so many people that I want to thank and recognize:

Steve Cohen, Billy Eppler, the entire front office, managers, players, coaches, both past and present, bullpen catchers, trainers, clubhouse personnel, security staff, family room workers, kitchen staff, PR staff, photographers, stadium personnel, New York City police officers, TV personalities, and journalists. Each and every one of you played such a vital role in our lives in New York. Beyond a working relationship, many of you became true, lifelong friends to Stacey and me.

To the New York Mets fans—your passion, devotion, and unwavering support for me from the very beginning, have been incredible. It is humbling and appreciated beyond words. Thank you for your dedication and for how kindly you embraced me and my family. It has been a true honor to wear a Mets uniform all these years. The New York Mets, the fans, and the city will always hold a special place in our hearts. 

     — Jacob deGrom and Family       

Many of us need not be reminded that deGrom pitched for the Binghamton Mets in 2013, but most of us have forgotten that his professional career was almost over before it even started as he had Tommy John surgery in October 2010. He didn’t make it back to the mound until 2012, but when he did his velocity had increased by 5-10 mph! 2012 saw him pitching in Low Class-A ball at Columbia, South Carolina, where his pitching coach was Frank Viola, who was known for having one of the best changeups in the game when he starred for the Twins and Mets. It was at Columbia that deGrom started to think like a professional pitcher. It’s not hard to imagine he and Viola having countless discussions about the effectiveness of a quality changeup.

One of the truisms of pitching is “You need to command your fastball enough to get to 0-2 on a hitter and, on those occasions when you fall behind a hitter, 2-0, you need another pitch to throw for a strike to get back in the count.” DeGrom was blessed, as his “other pitch” could be either his changeup or slider! Viola wound up becoming one of deGrom’s biggest supporters in the organization, admiring deGrom’s personal makeup and salivating over his mound presence.   

Jake deGrom at Citi Field on 8/7/2022

Disappointment filled deGrom’s mind when he learned at the end of spring training that he would start the 2013 season at Class-A ball. But he showed enough in two starts to earn a promotion to Binghamton in the middle of April. As a Binghamton Met he pitched 60 innings, gave up 69 hits, struck out 44 batters and walked almost half as many hitters as he struck out—20! His E.R.A. was 4.80 and his record was 2-5, giving no hint of stardom on the major league mound.

In June, when he was told of a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, he told his housemates in Port Dickinson that he didn’t need to pack, as he was only going to Vegas for a spot start. After throwing well in his first start for Vegas, however, the Mets decided to keep him at Triple-A. He tired at the end of the year, so his final Las Vegas statistics proved to be as pedestrian as his Binghamton numbers. He finished with a 4-2 record and a 4.52 E.R.A. So surprised was he that he remained at Vegas that he had to have his dad come up from Florida to get his car from Port Dickinson and drive it back to Florida. When his dad tried to start the car, it wouldn’t start—deGrom’s housemates had not even bothered to start it for him, as they too were expecting him to return any day from Vegas.

During that 2013 season deGrom was still recovering from Tommy John surgery and he was still fine-tuning his command, as during his collegiate days at Stetson he  spent most of his time as a shortstop. He didn’t start pitching in Stetson’s rotation until his junior season, after which the Mets took him in the 9th round of the 2010 draft and signed him to a $95,000 bonus because they liked his raw potential—his throwing motion was fluid and he had remarkably good control for someone so new to pitching. (On a side note, deGrom’s pitching coach at Stetson was Chris Roberts, a first-round selection of the Mets in 1992 and a stalwart on Binghamton’s Eastern League Championship team of 1994.)

As has been well-documented in the ensuing years, deGrom made his ML debut on May 25, 2014, just a few days more than a month short of his 26th birthday, throwing one-run baseball against the Yankees for seven innings, allowing only four hits.

He never looked back.

Now, even though Steve Cohen has gone on an unprecedented spending spree on behalf of Mets fans, there are some who wonder why deGrom is no longer a Met. Those are the fans who wanted deGrom to spend his entire year with the Mets, much the way Ed Kranepool and David Wright did before him. Some even envisioned a deGrom statue going up  a decade or so from now, right next to the Seaver statue that welcomes fans to Citi Field.

DeGrom has been silent about his real reasons leaving New York, remarking on how excited he is to join the Texas Rangers, and how committed he feels his new organization is committed to winning a World Series sometime during the next five years. Cynics scoff at deGrom’s remarks—after all, with Cohen spending approximately $450 million dollars on his payroll (at this writing—including tax penalties), what organization can be more committed to winning than the Mets?

What else could deGrom say? If he explained that he is a country kid at heart, that he is still that kid who grew up in Deleon Springs, Florida, who enjoyed hunting and fishing and riding a four-wheeler, it would come off as a diss on city life. One of the things that deGrom looks forward to during every offseason is to return to Florida and go to the local community park with his wife and young kids, to blend in the community like an average Joe. Whether he’s been a high school star at Calvary Christian Brothers Academy in Florida (class of ‘90), a light-hitting shortstop for neighboring Stetson University, or a big-league pitcher for the Mets, deGrom has always treasured his privacy and his unassuming approach to everyday living.

Perhaps the key to deGrom’s thinking can be found in a story related by then New York Mets beat writer Justin Toscano in northjersey.com on April 11, 2020. Toscano related that during deGrom’s rookie season his regular mode of transportation to Citi Field was taking public transportation. He was wearing a hoodie on this particular day, hiding his face as he usually did, sitting on a bench in a subway train headed to Citi Field.

Soon, a young boy walked up to him.

“Hey, excuse me sir,” the kid said. “Are you Jacob deGrom?”

“Listen,” deGrom replied. “If I say I am, can you not tell anyone?”

“Yeah, sure.” The kid said.

“I am,” deGrom said.

The kid went crazy.

“Oh my God! Jacob deGrom!”

According to Toscano, deGrom never rode the subway again.

This December, eight years after ending his subway gig,  deGrom ended his Mets gig. Baseball may be a religion in the big city, but deGrom wants no part of sainthood. At heart, he’s just an ordinary Jake—except that he deserves a standing ovation when he returns to Citi Field as a member of the Rangers in 2023.

Thanks for the memories Jake, and good luck to you, except for when you pitch against the Mets!  

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Bud Fowler: A Groundbreaker for Binghamton in 1887

Note: “Bud” Fowler was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by its Early Baseball Era Committee on Sunday, December 3rd. He became the fifth member of the Binghamton Baseball Shrine to also be enshrined in Cooperstown (previous four being John Montgomery Ward, “Wee Willie” Keeler, Lefty Gomez, and Whitey Ford). In honor of his induction, this page is happy to publish this  excerpt from the book Celebrating 100 Years of Baseball in Binghamton: Tales from the Binghamton Baseball Shrine,written by Michael J. McCann and Jim Maggiore.

John “Bud” Fowler’s election to the Binghamton Shrine stems from his playing for the Binghamton Bingos in 1887 and his efforts to integrate minor league baseball in the late nineteenth century. Through no fault of his own, his stay with the Bingos was a short one, but one that left an indelible and sad mark on Binghamton’s baseball history.

Fowler was the first African American in organized baseball, making his debut by playing for the Lynn/Worcester team in the International Association in 1878.

Fowler’s Plaque, which can be seen in the concourse of MIRBITO Stadium, home of Binghamton’s Double-A baseball team.

The International Alliance and the League Alliance were the first two defined minor leagues, as their mission was to work in cooperation with the National League, which was the only major league at the time. Before 1877 the non-major league baseball teams largely existed as independent semi-pro teams. By playing for Lynn/Worcester, Fowler held the distinction of being the first African American to integrate a team in minor league history, pre-dating Jackie Robinson’s 1946 stint with the Montreal Royals by 69 years.

The diminutive Fowler was skilled at multiple positions, playing catcher, second base, and pitcher in his minor league career. His primary position was second base, where he displayed a good arm, excellent defense and a sound bat. His career was a peripatetic

one, though not by choice. Throughout the 1880s his career followed the same cycle. Join a team, perform well, but move on once objections to his color started being bandied about; from 1878 to 1886 he played for eight teams. In November of 1886 he signed with the Binghamton and the color of his skin was addressed by Binghamton team officials before he even set foot on the diamond; in an article in The Sporting Life they stated:

“Fowler has not, and will not, be released for any consideration. Fowler is a dandy in every respect. Some say that Fowler is a colored man, but we account for his dark complexion by the fact that… in chasing after balls he has become tanned from constant and careless exposure to the sun.”

At first glance, the remarks are clearly a public vote of confidence for Fowler.  But upon a second reading, apparently officials were leaving themselves an out by not openly advocating the signing of an African American. Only a few months later the resolve of the Binghamton officials was tested when on June 27th, nine Binghamton players signed a petition saying they would not play if Fowler were to remain on the team.

Fowler, feeling betrayed by his teammates, was unwilling to fight; rather he asked for his release on June 30; it was granted provided that he didn’t sign with another International League club. Later that season the Boston Herald printed, “The players of the Binghamton club have each been fined $50 by the directors for having refused to go upon the field six weeks ago unless Fowler, the colored second baseman, was removed.”  The Binghamton club never recovered from the controversy, however, and by the middle of August, less than two months after the controversy started, the club disbanded for the 1887 season.

On July 14th, a scant two weeks after Fowler was granted his release, the International League formally banned any additional signings of African American players. On this same day, league officials were reacting to white players’ grumblings and derogatory comments by the press suggesting that the International League change its classification to “colored league.”  On the same day, the 14th, a protest took place in the major leagues. Chicago White Stockings team captain Cap Anson refused to take the field in an exhibition game against Newark of the International League unless African American pitcher George Stovey did not play. Stovey backed out of the game feigning illness. In late July, John Montgomery Ward of the New York Giants and a member of the Binghamton Shrine class of 2003, tried to sign Stovey to a National League contract, but Anson allegedly protested again. Rather than formally exclude African American players, organized baseball executives colluded on the topic, ensuring no African Americans played in the minors or majors.

60 years later, several Brooklyn Dodgers circulated a petition about not playing alongside Jackie Robinson. But when news of the petition reached Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey and manager Leo Durocher, they quickly stomped it out, fully supporting Robinson. In 1887, there was no similar support for Fowler. Binghamton officials accepted Fowler’s resignation and the National League gave credibility to Anson. Organized baseball, by not standing up to its protesting players, would wait until Jackie Robinson played for the Montreal Royals in 1946.

An ironic postscript to this story is that in 1999, before the ceremony inducting Al Downing to the Binghamton Shrine, Downing was strolling the concourse and paused longer than expected at the plaque of Bud Fowler. With a bemused look on his face, he stated.

“That’s not Bud Fowler.”

In looking at the plaque for John W. “Bud” Fowler, Downing pointed out that the picture they had on the plaque was that of Moses “Fleetwood” Walker, who was actually the first African American to play in the major leagues when he briefly played for the Toledo Blue Stockings franchise in 1883. Jackie Robinson gets credit for integrating baseball because with his play, African Americans were officially welcomed to major league baseball, breaking the unwritten ban against African Americans that existed since Fowler’s day. 

If you look closely at Fowler’s Shrine plaque today, you can see the picture portion of the plaque is thicker than the rest of the plaques adorning the concourse. This is because the Binghamton Mets laid the correct picture of Fowler over the Walker picture. This correction was made on the urging of local baseball historian and former Shrine committee member, Joe McCann.

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John Pawlowski: From Binghamton to the Big Leagues

Author’s Note: John Pawlowski was inducted into the Greater binghamton Sports Hall of Fame on Monday, September 27, 2021. The following is an excerpt from the evening’s program.

Though John Pawlowski excelled as a scholastic and collegiate athlete and even got to achieve his dream of playing in the major leagues, one can argue that it is his accomplishments as a collegiate coach and manager that will define his sports legacy. Pawlowski starred on both the hardcourt and the diamond for Seton Catholic Central, playing four years each of varsity basketball and baseball. He was a two-time All-STAC selection on the diamond (1981 and 1982) before he continued his baseball career not only at Clemson University, where he was a three-year starter, but also in Chicago, where took the mound for White Sox manager Jim Fregosi in parts of the 1987 and 1988 baseball seasons. Pawlowski is currently the head baseball coach at the College of Western Kentucky, where he continues to add to his 600 wins as a collegiate head coach.

Pawlowski poses for the camera before the festivities begin.

It was on June 2, 1980 that Binghamton sportswriter Charlie Jaworski called a Pawlowski start a “Saintly Script,” as Pawlowski threw a 4-2 gem to beat Union-Endicott for the STAC baseball championship. At the time Union-Endicott had three times the enrollment of Seton and had beaten Seton 16 times in a row, but Pawlowski and his teammates were the spoilers on this day. It was that championship game that stands out in Pawlowski’s memory even today. “I have so many great moments and memories from my high school days that are forever ingrained in my mind.  My teammates, coaches and support staff were with me every step of the way, but that game was something extra special,” Pawlowski recently recalled. U-E’s loss to Seton that day was its only blemish on a 17-1 record!

At Clemson, Pawlowski was a three-year starter for the Tigers, winning 21 games and finishing in the top ten for all-time shutouts.  His standout collegiate career earned him a sixth round selection in the 1985 first-year baseball draft, with the Chicago White Sox being the happy recipient of his services. Two years and three months after being drafted, Pawlowski was called up to the big leagues, getting his first taste of big-league life by being the teammate of such baseball legends as Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, and Ozzie Guillen. Pawlowski debuted for the Sox on September 19, 1987, just 13 days after his 24th birthday, throwing two innings against the Seattle Mariners, allowing three hits and one run while striking out a batter.

In 1988 Pawlowski had an encore performance with the Sox, getting into 6 games and pitching 14 innings; he finished the season with a 1-0 record and an earned run average of 8.36. After his stint with the Sox in ‘88, Pawlowski pitched four more years in the minors. After his playing days were over, Pawlowski embarked on a career as a Division-1 collegiate pitching coach, tutoring hurlers for Clemson, Arizona State, and San Diego State University. His success as a pitching coach led to him becoming a head coach first at the College of Charleston, then Auburn, and today at Western Kentucky. Pawlowski earned his 600th collegiate win as a head coach in 2020.

Reflecting on his growing up in the Greater Binghamton area, Pawlowski recently remarked “Growing up in the greater Binghamton area provided me with a foundation and appreciation for hard work. I’m thankful for all the opportunities that were provided to me and the impact it made on my journey.  From the playing fields, to the classrooms, and into the community, life in Binghamton, NY certainly provided me with all the growth and development that I could ask for.  I had so much support, from people who really cared about shaping us young aspiring adults!”

Pawlowski also has words of wisdom for today’s athletes: “It starts from the people you surround yourself with and the internal drive within.  I was so fortunate that my parents supported me in all my adventures and gave me the opportunity.  Great athletes, successful business people, and masters of our craft are not born with a special trait.  It is acquired over hours and hours of dedication and hard work.  The pursuit of your dreams should never be derailed by others.  You control what you aspire to be, and have.  So many opportunities are out there, waiting to be chased!!!” 

Thanks to his talent, work ethic, and support from others along the way, Pawlowski is in the middle of carving out a remarkable coaching career in baseball—after having already achieved the highest level of this sport as a pitcher.

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The Coming of Age for Brett Baty

By Jim Maggiore

On Saturday night, July 24th, Brett Baty entered the game hitting .139, still looking for his first RBI in Double-A, let alone his first home run and, to make matters worse, he had already struck out 15 times, an incredible 38% of the time he marched to the plate! Though he had only 40 plate appearances, these totals were still alarmingly anemic.

Baty takes a cut while Carlos Rincon, acquired from the Dodgers earlier this year, looks on as the Rumble Ponies play at MIRABITO STADIUM in Binghamton. Baty demonstrates his sound fundamentals here, with level shoulders and his eyes focused on contact with the ball.

 Brett Baty was the first round pick of the Mets in 2018, the 12th overall pick and expectations have been high for him from the first moment he set foot on a professional diamond. Now he was finding that the pitchers in Double-A had better command and kept hitters off balance with an assortment of off-speed pitches. The game was faster than what he had seen in Class-A ball, where he hit .309 in 205 plate appearances, with 7 homers and 34 RBIs, and had struck out 53 times, still high at 25%, but nothing approaching his rate at Double-A. At the end of the night on July 31st, however, Baty would raise his batting average almost one hundred points, to .225, with one homer and 6 RBIs.  July 24th was indeed a coming of age night for Baty.

His first at-bat this night he hit a 92-mph fastball off of Chance Kirby that reached the left center-field fence on a single hop. In the third inning he got his team back into the game by hitting another fastball far, this one over the leaping try by standout centerfielder Riley Greene, who just missed making a spectacular catch to rob Baty of his first Double-A dinger. The two-run shot brought the Ponies to within three runs of the SeaWolves, as the score stood 7-4 after Baty’s milestone.

The fun had started for Baty.

In the bottom of the 4th he knocked in two more runs with a single to left off an 84-mph changeup, bringing home Matt Winaker and Nick Meyer. After walking in the 6th inning, Baty hit another double in the bottom of the seventh, this one off another off-speed pitch, to the left-center gap, scoring Luis Carpio and Matt Winaker, giving the Ponies a 12-11 lead. Mark Vientos then followed with a single up the middle, ending the 6-run scoring and giving the Mets a 14-11 lead. The Ponies held on to win the game, 14-13.

The next morning Baty was up early, as he was a guest on the 9:30 segment of Grant Paulsen’s “Majors and Minors” radio show on SIRIUS XM radio. Paulsen introduced Baty with glowing remarks, calling him a jewel in the Mets’ farm system.  He praised Baty’s exploits from the night before and asked him how he celebrated his big night. “Well, here in Binghamton there’s a neat place to get a bite to eat called The Colonial, so I went with a bunch of the guys there and we had a good post-game meal and talked about the game a bit.” Baty also went on to explain the difference in playing in Binghamton from Brooklyn. “In Double-A the game’s a lot faster, everything’s faster, from the speed of the players to the velo on the pitches, to the way the ball travels all over the diamond. It’s taken me a bit to get adjusted to the speed and I’m still adjusting to its speed up here, but last night felt good.”

Baty has developed a reputation for hard work and is also learning how to play left field, as the power-hitting presence of Mark Vientos has the Mets’ front office already wondering how they can get the bats of Baty and Vientos in the lineup at the same time in Flushing in a year or two. With Baty’s arrival, Vientos has also seen increased time in LF and 1B as well.

 As of this writing, in the 72 plate appearances Baty has had since July 31st, he’s raised his average to .271 and has hit 5 homers! He’s obviously caught up to the speed of the game and now it appears the only thing he does slowly is sign autographs. It turns out the autograph hounds who patrol MIRABITO STADIUM have lots of cards of Brett Baty that they would like him to sign. They’ve found out that Baty only signs one autograph a day for each fan, making it a long season for those with a dozen or so cards of Baty. Those hounds now affectionately refer to the promising prospect as Brett “One-A-Day” Baty.

If Baty keeps playing this well, there just might be a future vitamin commercial for him in Flushing.     

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Congratulations to Mark Vientos, the BBBC’s Player of the Month for June

Mark Vientos, Binghamton’s third baseman, was voted the Player of the Month for July by the Binghamton Baseball Boosters. During the month, Vientos was simply sensational, hitting .324 with 9 homers and 21 RBIs. Throughout the month he showed an increased ability to lay off on breaking pitches out of the zone and use the whole field while at bat. In addition, he displayed excellent power to the opposite field.

Mark Vientos poses with “Wonder Woman” as he receives his Player of the Month Award for June.

In addition he displayed a steady glove at third base, with a good arm. His defense has been better than “advertised” before the season. Vientos has clearly been one of the most improved players on the team, as in May he got off to a disappointing start, often chasing breaking pitches that were low and outside. During the past week he has begun to see playing time in left field, as top prospect Brett Baty, also a third baseman, joined the team. Baty and Vientos have been alternating between 3B and LF.

The official ballot for the award included the following nominees:

  • Andrew Mitchell, RP: (2-0, 1.72 E.R.A, 20 strikeouts in 15.2 innings pitched)
  • Mark Vientos, 3B/1B: (.324 batting average, 9 HRs, 21 RBIs in 71 at-bats)
  • Carlos Cortes, LF: (.316 batting average, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs in 98 at-bats)
  • Josh Walker, SP: (3-1, 3.41 E.R.A., 26 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched)
  • Hayden Senger, C: (.327 batting average, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, in 51 at-bats) 
  • Write-In candidate

In winning the award, Vientos joins a long line of previous winners; many of whom went on to play in the major leagues (bold indicates major league experience).

April 2015: Jayce Boyd

May 2015: Josh Rodriguez

June 2015: Brock Peterson

July 2015: Gavin Cecchini

August 2015: Tyler Pill

April 2016: Robert Gsellman

June 2016: Philip Evans

July 2016: David Roseboom

August 2016: Dominic Smith

April 2017: Champ Stuart

May 2017: Tomas Nido

June 2017: Chris Flexen

July 2017: P.J. Conlon

August 2017: Corey Oswalt

April 2018: Pete Alonso

May 2018: Jeff McNeil

June 2018: John Mora

July 2018: Levi Michael

August 2018: Joey Terdoslavich

April 2019: Anthony Kay

May 2019: Patrick Mazeika

June 2019: Ali Sanchez

July 2019: Jason Krizan

August 2019: Mickey Jannis

May 2021: Carlos Cortes

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Book Review—MR Met: Jay Horwitz Recounts His Years as the PR Man for the Mets

by Jim Maggiore

In “Mr. Met: How a Sports-Mad Kid from New Jersey Became Like Family to Generations of Big Leaguers,” Jay Horwitz, longtime public relations director for the New York Mets, shares stories from the Mets players of the 1980s to the present day, consistently displaying a love of his job and the people with whom he crossed paths. In reading the book, it’s clear two of the reasons he kept his job as long as he did was because early on in his job he learned to keep his ears open and his mouth shut. Besides being a clearing house for media access to the players, Horwitz was like a second father to them, with their welfare always in the forefront of his mind.

If you’re looking for salacious material on the Mets, this book will disappoint you, as Horowitz consistently chooses the innocuous over the scabrous, the insouciant over the insidious.

Bob Klapisch, beat reporter for the New York Post in the 1980s, describes Horwitz’s role with the Mets early on in the book: “Players loved Jay in a way that players today no longer love PR guys. Now PR guys are mostly just seen as nuisances. Players don’t want to be bothered….Especially early on, Jay was privy to everything that was going on, from the front office on down, they clued him in, they let him know everything that was going on, and he was privy to the private lives of the players. I’ve never met a guy as good as keeping a secret as Jay.”    

This book not only puts a smile or two on your face, but also provides insights into the workings of the Mets organization and the personalities that comprise it. You get a glimpse of the Mets players from the past forty years, from the frightening feeble teams of the early 80s to the swaggering 1986 team to the delightfully overachievers of the 2015 team that went to the World Series.  Horwitz always had a knack for making the Mets an interesting story, even during those post-Seaver days, when Shea Stadium was dubbed “Grant’s Tomb” by sportswriters. It was a caustic moniker that caught on with the public, as not only did the fans stay away, but at the time M. Donald Grant was the man in charge of the Mets and his feud with Tom Seaver was a primary reason for Seaver being traded to the Reds; the media profiled Grant as a person focused on pecuniary matters rather than posting wins. 

Horwitz countered this negativity by looking for interesting and offbeat stories to feed the media and advertising agencies. Some of you might remember the “Magic is Back” slogan from 1980 that the Mets coined to promote the team. Ironically though, most of you have forgotten that one of the main reasons for the slogan was that the Mets began a new ownership regime that season, as Nelson Doubleday and the Wilpons took control of the team. Other slogans prominent in the early 80s were “Catch the Rising Stars at Shea” and “The Magic is Back,” and when it was apparent it wasn’t, the following year the marketing words became “The Magic is Real.” 

Through the good years and the bad, Horwitz has been a constant for the Mets. Currently he serves as the Director of Alumni Relations for the Mets and he has instituted events that reconnect former Mets players with today’s fans. Remember when Ed Kranepool needed a kidney transplant a few years ago? Horwitz was instrumental in getting stories in the media highlighting Kranepool’s story. Today Kranepool, one of the mainstays of the Miracle Mets of 1969, often makes appearances on behalf of the Mets.

During this past offseason Horwitz also initiated a monthly series of ZOOM sessions between former Mets and today’s fans. The guests for these events included such former players as Joel Youngblood, Doug Flynn, and Howard Johnson. Each of these players expressed genuine love for Horwitz and said whenever Jay called, they would be happy to make an appearance on his behalf.  These sessions were not only welcomed by the players, but by the fans as well. Horwitz’s idea to run these sessions show his ongoing attachment to both his family of players and the fans of New York.

If you want a “Pollyanish” view of the Mets for the past forty years, this is clearly a book for you. If you’re of an acerbic bent, this book can only sweeten you up.

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The Binghamton Baseball Boosters Selected Carlos Cortes as the Player of the Month for May!

Carlos Cortes, Binghamton’s left fielder, was voted the Player of the Month for May by the Binghamton Baseball Boosters (BBBC). During the month, Cortes was a mainstay in the lineup, hitting .250 while hitting three homers and knocking in 12 runs. Other players receiving votes included Jake Mangum, Tylor Megill, and Yoel Romero.  All members of the BBBC are eligible to vote.

John Bayne, general manager for the Rumble Ponies, presents Cortes with his award.

Ironically, as the voting entered its final stages, Megill was promoted to Syracuse, eliminating him from being considered for the award, as the intent of the award is to recognize current Binghamton players. The performances of both Megill and Cortes stood out among the Rumble Ponies.

In winning the award, Cortes joins a long line of previous winners; many of whom have gone on to play in the major leagues (bold indicates major league experience).

April 2015: Jayce Boyd

May 2015: Josh Rodriguez

June 2015: Brock Peterson

July 2015: Gavin Cecchini

August 2015: Tyler Pill

April 2016: Robert Gsellman

June 2016: Philip Evans

July 2016: David Roseboom

August 2016: Dominic Smith

April 2017: Champ Stuart

May 2017: Tomas Nido

June 2017: Chris Flexen

July 2017: P.J. Conlon

August 2017: Corey Oswalt

April 2018: Pete Alonso

May 2018: Jeff McNeil

June 2018: John Mora

July 2018: Levi Michael

August 2018: Joey Terdoslavich

April 2019: Anthony Kay

May 2019: Patrick Mazeika

June 2019: Ali Sanchez

July 2019: Jason Krizan

August 2019: Mickey Jannis

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A Review of “It’s How You Play the Game: Build a Business. Take a Stand. Make a Difference”

By Jim Maggiore

People of a certain age in our community no doubt have personal recollections of Ed Stack, the billionaire businessman who turned his father’s unassuming business into a retailing behemoth whose name, Dick’s Sporting Goods, belies its nationwide influence and expanse.

Ed grew up on Binghamton’s East Side, on Ardsley Avenue, and divided his boyhood summers between working at his father’s store at 354 Court Street and playing pickup baseball and football games at Fairview Park.

Now Ed lives in Pittsburgh and Florida, but in between he built a business empire based on the lessons he learned by growing up right here in Binghamton. In his 2019 book, “It’s How You Play the Game: Build A Business. Take A Stand. Make a Difference,” he provides an unabashed look at how the retail empire of DSG was built and how his relationship with his father and his hometown influences him to this day.

cover of book
Here’s the front cover for Ed Stack’s story.

Though he takes us on an erudite retailing journey, Stack writes in a populist style—you won’t need to have a dictionary handy as you turn Stack’s pages, but every once in a while you’ll flinch at his colorful language. Fear of displaying himself in an unpopular light is minimal. He attributes his decision to uproot his family from Binghamton and move DSG’s corporate headquarters from the Binghamton area to Pittsburgh to either being done because of “balls or brains.”  He talks of how he loves to compete in a “street fight” with his competitors, and of how his dad didn’t speak to him for a full year after he fired his brother for failing to follow a corporate directive.

Throughout the book Stack has lessons to give and he doles them out the way a coach does on an athletic field. “Discipline, execution, and endurance are not only keys to success in sports, but in life as well,” he exhorts. Winning or losing on the athletic field is not as important as learning from the experience of competing on the athletic field. “Everyone needs to belong” and sports teams are one way of experiencing this feeling he opines, also offering that after-school activities of any kind are essential for developing this feeling among our nation’s youth.

Very few topics are off bounds; he is frank as he discusses the tough-love relationship he had with his dad and the many disagreements they had about running the business. He explains how he balanced the financial aspect of his business with the civic responsibility he felt when he banned the sale of the AR-15 modern sporting rifle from DSG stores after the Newtown mass killing on December 14, 2012.  No doubt the longtime Binghamton resident will find Stack’s stories about growing up on the East Side of the city the most interesting. Stack’s story reinforces not only the legacy of this town, but its resiliency and spirit as well, and his story echoes that of sundry others who have gone on to national fame while forever holding this town in a warm and reflective light, including: actor Jeremy Davidson (Greenberg); the Johnson family; Arthur, Chandler, and Jon Jones; Isaiah Kacyvenski; Edwin Link; Rod and Robert Serling; Thomas Tull; Thomas Watson, and so many more.    

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