Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder 5/6/2014 Amsterdam Assignment The Amsterdam High School baseball team plays its first game on the artificial turf against CBA on Tuesday afternoon at Shuttleworth Park.
By ADAM SHINDER
Barely 45 minutes before the scheduled start of Tuesday's Big 10 baseball game between Amsterdam and Christian Brothers Academy, the waiting official ended.
After more than a month of labor and constantly frustrating weather delays -- both at the start and the finish of the project -- the brand-new artificial turf infield at Shuttleworth Park was declared ready for play when a group of volunteers including Mark Robertshaw, Rich Glionna and AHS assistant baseball coach Art Ausfeld put the final touches on the pitcher's mound.
And it was then, and only then, that AHS head coach and Amsterdam Mohawks president and general manager Brian Spagnola could finally take the scale of the project in and smile.
"(I was happy) when they finished at about 3:40 today," Spagnola said. "We had a handful of guys -- Mark Robertshaw, Rich Glionna, a whole crew of guys -- who worked for two days getting that mound ready. They did a great job, because without them, we wouldn't have even played."
The Rams christened the new infield in style with their 3-0 win over CBA, and after four weeks of playing their home games as a guest of Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, Tuesday's return to their true home field felt like a continuation of the rejuvenation the team's undergone since struggling to an 0-3 start to the season.
"It just felt refreshed. It feels like a whole new season for us," said senior Julian Gallup, who threw a six-hit shutout on the newly-constructed mound that dots the center of the infield. "We just started last week really revving it up, and it feels like this is a part of the whole get-up. We're just getting better and better, and this is a big part of it."
With the chance to finally play at home on their shiny new field -- not to mention the ill will between the Amsterdam and CBA baseball teams -- the Rams certainly weren't shy of motivation Thursday, something their coach could sense.
"Being on the turf the first time, I wasn't worried about having to give them the pre-game pep talk," Spagnola said.
"Every time we play CBA, the whole team gets up," Gallup said. "There's never been good feelings between us, and that's obvious out here, you can tell. First home game, first game here on this field against that team, you can't find a team more pumped than we were today."
Though there's still a few cosmetic issues at the park -- most notably a wide strip of dead grass in centerfield where the work trucks beat a path over the last month -- the turf played as smooth as advertised and the Amsterdam defense responded with slick fielding, turning a pair of key double plays to get Gallup out of jams.
CBA coach Casey O'Connor praised the quality of the field, but did say several of his players mentioned they had trouble getting the right footing while running.
"I don't want to make excuses, but I think it caught us a little by surprise," O'Connor said. "A lot of guys showed up wearing turf shoes, and I think there were a couple singles that could've been doubles if we had cleats on, because we're not used to playing on this. I think guys were slipping up a little bit."
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