Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin, standing second from right, speaks to his team at the end of Tuesday's practice at Shuttleworth Park. Pictured standing, left to right, are athletic trainer Carla Pasquarelli, assistant coaches Doug Semerad and Doug O'Brey, Griffin and assistant coach Heath Storey.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks pitcher Thomas Hackimer throws during a bullpen session as assistant coach Heath Storey watches Tuesday at Shuttleworth Park.
Adam Shinder/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mohawks catcher Blake Logan throws with pitcher Daniel Castro, not pictured, during a bullpen session Tuesday at Shutleworth Park.
By ADAM SHINDER
With the late-morning sun baking Shuttleworth Park to a crisp Tuesday, it wasn't exactly the ideal situation for Jake Salpietro to strap on some borrowed catcher's gear and catch a few bullpen sessions for his Amsterdam Mohawks teammates.
But, with the roster still bare bones two days out from Thursday night's season opener, it was all hands on deck -- and Salpietro was more than willing to deal with a sweat-soaked t-shirt after practice to help things move along.
"It was a little hot, a little dizzy," Salpietro said.
With the team still far from complete -- Tuesday's arrivals of Auburn University catcher Blake Logan and St. John's University pitcher Thomas Hackimer bolstered the roster to 15 -- prior to Thursday's 6:35 p.m. game against the Newark Pilots at Shuttleworth, these early days of practice give sixth-year head coach Keith Griffin a chance to see what his players can do beyond what they did for their college teams this past season.
Pitchers hit, position players shuffle along the diamond and players like Salpietro borrow catching gear from Logan to spell him during a long line of bullpen sessions.
"It's what you're trying to do right now," Griffin said. "You're trying to find some depth here."
That depth could have to carry the Mohawks through the first weekend of the season, as while Griffin said he expects more players to file into the Rug City before the Mohawks open up Thursday night, there are several key players -- including the team's contingent from the University of Kentucky -- that won't be here until the early part of next week.
Griffin's hopeful that those players will be in town by Monday, when the Mohawks have their first off day of the season, and that Amsterdam will be close to full strength for its second home game of the season Tuesday against the Albany Dutchmen.
"We've got five or six key guys that still aren't here and probably won't be here through the first four or five games," he said. "It's a work in progress."
That goes for the bonding of the players as well. While the team's three players returning from its 2013 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship team -- Josh Gardiner, Kevin Guthrie and Zach Breen -- are plenty familiar with each other, as are groups of college teammates like Salpietro, E.J. Ashworth and Joe Randall from Fairfield University, the familiarization process takes time.
"A couple weeks here are gonna be slow, nobody will talk, everybody will be shy," Gardiner said. "After that, we should be on a roll and things will be real nice all around."
Although, as the players continue to pour in, that process could be even more extended -- especially for Salpietro, who said his roommate with his host family in the area won't reach Amsterdam before June ends.
"I guess the guy who's gonna be living with me won't be here until July," Salpietro said.
But, for Mohawks old and new, there's one uniting factor -- the desire to bring another PGCBL championship to Shuttleworth Park.
"Hopefully, we win it again this year," Gardiner said. "Back-to-back would be awesome."
"If we do what we do," Salpietro added, "I'm sure we'll win."
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