Mohawks play for area's elementary schools


Recorder Sports Staff

Given the morning off Wednesday for the team's exhibition game against the Albany Senators, Amsterdam Mohawks player Kevin Guthrie tried to make the trip from the first-base dugout at Shuttleworth Park to the concessions stand for a hamburger.

Forty-five minutes and an ambush later, Guthrie's trek was complete.

Wednesday morning was the Mohawks' annual game in front of many of the area's school children on a field trip. When those in attendance saw Guthrie making his move, they pounced.

"Probably two or three hundred," he said when asked how many autographs he thought he had signed during the trip. "It was awesome, though. These kids loving coming out here, so it was a lot of fun to try and put on a show for them."

In front of roughly 1,200 kids, the Mohawks were 6-5 winners against the Senators, as Brian Ruby hit a solo home run for the home team. While Mohawks players filed in and out of the game for head coach Keith Griffin, a foursome of current and former Amsterdam High School baseball players -- Zach Dufel, Julian Gallup, Ethan Kiselis and Andrew Rouse -- also got in on the action on the Mohawks' side.

Rouse, who entered as a pinch-runner and later played in the field, said it was a bit intimidating to play on the field at Shuttleworth Park with so many fans watching.

"It was a little frightening, at first," he said. "A little stage fright kicked in."

Mostly at ease with the day's circumstances was Mohawks pitcher Christian Bartholomew. The Wake Forest product has a large extended family -- "I have a family of 72," he said -- so he said he is used to large crowds, but said Wednesday's adventure was still a bit of a trip.

"I'm used to the big crowd, but this was something else," he said. "This was 1,200 screaming kids -- and 'screaming' is kind of a nice way to put it -- but I loved it."

Similar to Guthrie, Bartholomew had to make the trip from dugout to concessions stand. He made his trip a few times, as he worked in the stand selling hot dog and French fries for the game, as the Mohawks' usual workers -- mostly high school kids -- were not all able to make the early-morning game because of testing. Each time he made the trip, he found himself quickly surrounded.

"You just got mobbed each time," said Bartholomew. "It was like you were shark bait."

Leading the team visiting the Mohawks was Mike Bellizzi, the son of late former Mohawks owner Bob Bellizzi, who had moved the club to Amsterdam. Spagnola said it was "really touching" to have a Bellizzi on the field Wednesday for the raucous occasion.

"This is something my dad would have been proud of for sure," said Senators head coach Mike Bellizzi. "It was a blast. ... It was a real treat to get to play in front of this many people on a beautiful day."

While the game was the day's center of attention, the kids in attendance also got to participate in on-field games and were spectators for various demonstrations. The day's activities were sponsored by the Montgomery County Youth Bureau and Montgomery County Stop DWI.

While an unusual way to start the day for the Mohawks -- who had a PGCBL game scheduled for later in the day -- Guthrie said the team had gotten a kick out of its morning of being treated like rock stars.

"It was truly a cool experience, especially for us because most of us come from smaller schools -- like, I'm from Brown -- and this never happens for us there," Guthrie said.

Some of the children at the game had baseballs for the players to autograph. Meanwhile, being resourceful was the name of the game for those who did not come prepared with a piece of baseball equipment.

"I signed a couple of palms, a couple of foreheads and I invisibly signed a couple of things," Guthrie said.

As Guthrie explained it, that last part referred to a group of girls who asked him to "pretend" autograph their hands -- and he obliged.

"There's nothing really there," he said. "But they were still happy about it."