Vrana, Kozakiewicz enjoying friendly rivalry at Shuttleworth

By MICHAEL KELLY

Recorder Sports Staff

It is not quite Ali-Frazier, but Rich Vrana and Pete Kozakiewicz are engaging in an epic rivalry of their own at Shuttleworth Park this summer.

Vrana is a reliever for the Amsterdam Mohawks, while Kozakiewicz is an intern with the franchise and specializes in game-day operations. But where the pair brings out the best in one another is when the two square off in between innings during the "Cha Cha Slide," and "Gangnam Style," songs during which fans -- and Kozakiewicz and Vrana -- are allowed to come onto the field and dance along to the tunes.

"Petey, he drags me out there for a little competition," Vrana said before Tuesday's game.

That's not completely true, as Vrana -- who earned the win during Tuesday's game against Cooperstown -- looks the part of an enthusiastic participant during his turns as mid-inning entertainment.

"These past few years, I've been coming out of my shell a little bit, ever since college started," said Vrana. "So, I've been dancing more and busting out some moves."

But Vrana is admittedly no match for Kozakiewicz, whose legs might be made of rubber.

"I feel like it's been close, but he is a better dancer," said Vrana. "He's got more moves in his arsenal than I do."

Kozakiewicz, who is going to be a junior at the University at Albany, got his start as a dancing phenomenon by chance.

"I was asked to be (Mohawks mascot) MoJo one day and I went around town, dancing on the back of a truck and on the road -- and (assistant general manager) Dan (Nelli) really liked my moves," Kozakiewicz said.

Kozakiewicz's dancing has gained him some fame with the crowds at Shuttleworth Park. He said Tuesday that when he went around to local schools earlier in the season to participate in Mohawks events, he often was one of the first people recognized.

"They'd be like: 'Oh, hey, it's the kid who does the Cha Cha. It's the Cha Cha Kid,'" Kozakiewicz said.

The rivalry between Kozakiewicz and Vrana might have reached a tipping point a week ago. During the Mohawks' game last Wednesday against Glens Falls, Kozakiewicz had a secret weapon -- a white towel he whipped around -- to augment his performance.

"Maybe I got a little desperate, but I was really into the idea," Kozakiewicz said.

"That," said Vrana, "or he was throwing in the towel."

Rain, rain, go away

According to John McGraw, the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League's director of media relations, the league has had just two days this season -- heading into Tuesday night -- when the PGCBL's schedule went off without a hitch.

Released in the daily league notes McGraw puts together, what that means is that the PGCBL's schedule has only twice not had its daily schedule affected by rain in the form of a suspension, delay or postponement.

That fact is also rosier than it looks: One of the two days where the league's schedule has not been affected by rain was the Fourth of July, when only one game was scheduled.

Outfielder Jordan Ebert -- an Auburn product from Alabama whose home is not far from the Gulf of Mexico -- said before Tuesday's game that he grew up playing baseball with the constant threat of rain interfering with his games.

"But I've never played with this much rain," he said. "I've never had so much rain in a season. ... It seems like every game we've had, we've had a rain delay."

The Mohawks have actually made out better than most teams this season with the weather. Heading into Tuesday's action, the Mohawks had played 27 games, which was more than six of the other nine teams in the PGCBL.

Tuesday, head coach Keith Griffin said that wasn't good enough.

"It's good to coach with dry shoes and that hasn't happened often for me," Griffin said.

Feeling good

On the injury front, Griffin had nothing to report for his team except some bumps and bruises.

"We've got a couple tweaks in the legs, in the hamstrings, but that's it," said Griffin, who listed Ebert and fellow outfielder Kyle Barrett as a pair of Mohawks dealing with minor ailments.

But, Griffin said, no player is too hurt to play at this point.

"Now, we're just trying to some days off for guys," said Griffin. "So, if 'Johnny' isn't playing today, it's just that he's getting a day off."

The one exception to this is Colin Gay, who still is technically on the Mohawks' roster. The outfielder suffered an arm fracture weeks ago and appears unlikely to make it back to Amsterdam this summer.

Pitching probables

Jeremy Soule was given a turn in the Mohawks' rotation Tuesday, but the club will return to its normal starting hands Wednesday.

Griffin said Matt Ternowchek (0-1, 4.66 ERA) will start Wednesday's game at Albany; Trey Wingenter (1-2, 3.47 ERA) will start Thursday against Albany; Dylan Dwyer (2-2, 3.63 ERA) will start Friday at Adirondack; and, Matt Snyder (2-0, 1.82 ERA) will start Saturday at Utica.