Griffin to return for fifth season


Recorder Sports Staff

The top priority in the Amsterdam Mohawks' offseason to-do list has been checked off.

In fact, the Mohawks have pretty much everything set for their 2013 season in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

Keith Griffin, the most successful head coach in the franchise's history by a wide margin, will be back for the 2013 season. Mohawks president and general manager Brian Spagnola confirmed Griffin's return earlier this week.

"Yeah," Spagnola said Monday, "Keith's coming back. He's all set."

Griffin's return to the Mohawks has been, in fact, all set for a while, with the Mohawks simply opting not to release the information publicly until now. Reached by telephone Monday evening, Griffin said that was looking forward to his fifth season with the team, whose roster is already largely configured for the 2013 season.

"I'm coming back and we're going to have a good team," said Griffin. "What we have on paper looks real good. I'd rather be us than anybody else."

Griffin finished the 2012 season with 156 career wins as the Mohawks' head coach, 19 of which have come in the playoffs. In Griffin's four seasons guiding the Mohawks -- two of which were in the New York Collegiate Baseball League, while the past two have been in the PGCBL -- the club has won three league championships and appeared in four finals.

The most recent season for the Mohawks was the most-recognized campaign for the franchise. The club finished eight games ahead of second-place Glens Falls in the regular season, the squad which the Mohawks eventually swept in the PGCBL Championship Series.

Along the way, the Mohawks were regulars in the national ranking of summer collegiate baseball teams put together by Perfect Game USA's Allan Simpson. Amsterdam spent the final eight weeks of the summer season in the poll's top 10, finishing as the No. 3 team in the country. Before this past season, the Mohawks had never appeared in the ranking's top 10.

At least three Mohawks players will return for another year with the franchise, though it is possible other 2012 Mohawks could re-up before next season begins. For now, Spagnola said he has confirmed commitments to return from outfielder Ed Charlton, pitcher Chris Kalica and third baseman Brian Ruby.

"We're really looking forward to getting all those guys back," said Griffin. "I liked all of them."

Of the three returnees, Charlton is the biggest get for Amsterdam. The New Jersey Institute of Technology sophomore played center field for the Mohawks this past season, in which he was named to the PGCBL All-League First Team after a campaign in which he hit .353 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.

Griffin and Spagnola each said they were a bit surprised Charlton was returning to Amsterdam. Given the success the outfielder had in the PGCBL in 2012, the duo thought Charlton was likely headed to the prestigious Cape Cod League for 2013.

But Griffin said Charlton had called him to ask if he could return for another season in the Rug City.

"Well," Griffin said he told Charlton, "we can make that happen."

Besides the returning players, the Mohawks boast 2013 members from several powerhouse Division I programs -- players from Auburn University, Florida State University, the University of Kentucky and Louisiana State University are included in next year's lineup.

While several players from those schools will be expected to contribute and help lead Amsterdam next summer, Spagnola seemed most interested in Jacob Russell, a signee from Kentucky who projects more as a project than a sure thing. Russell was originally at Kentucky to play football as a quarterback, but the 6-foot-4-inch, 224-pound native of the Bluegrass State joined the Wildcats' baseball program this fall. While Spagnola is unsure what position Russell will play for the Mohawks, the team's president has been impressed by what he's heard about Russell's athleticism.

"He's an intriguing guy," said Spagnola. "He's a guy that's worth rolling the dice with a little bit. He's a different breed."

In other PGCBL news, Spagnola said the league is close to reaching an agreement to add two new franchises for the 2013 season. The league will know by mid-November if it will add the pair of clubs.

Also, Spagnola said the league's 2013 schedule will be available in early December.

While the PGCBL still has some logistical issues to figure out, the Mohawks do not. With his head coach of choice in place and a roster of players confirmed to head to Amsterdam, Spagnola said his Mohawks are practically ready for Opening Day -- even if it is still several months away.

"We're ready to roll," Spagnola said.