Dave Wojeski/For The Recorder Mary Partlow, left, and husband Joe Partlow are shown during the July 8 baseball game at Shuttleworth Park between the Amsterdam Mohawks and the Albany Dutchmen.
Dave Wojeski / For The Recorder Mary Partlow, front, and husband Joe brave the rain against Glens Falls earlier this season at Shuttleworth Park.
By MICHAEL KELLY
Tucked away in the front row of Shuttleworth Park, directly behind where the catcher sets up in the home team's bullpen, is where two of the Amsterdam Mohawks' most devout fans take in game after game, season after season.
And, like many of the ballplayers, Mary and Joe Partlow come up from the South for the summer of games. Once Gloversville residents of 20 years, the married couple now lives in Brackettville, Texas -- just more than 2,000 miles from Shuttleworth Park's home plate -- and makes the trip back to the region each summer.
A married couple of 60 years as of March -- "We're a Mary and Joseph," the wife says, beaming -- the Partlows have had season tickets for the Mohawks for, well, they are not sure how long.
"I lose track because I enjoy them so much," Joe explains.
Both Mary and Joe enjoy the game. Mary, a native of San Diego, says she enjoys a wide variety of sports, but baseball has long been a favorite; meanwhile, Joe -- originally from Sleepy Hollow -- has been a lifelong fan of the game. As he watches the Mohawks warm up before a game last week, Joe fondly recalls watching legends such as Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson play at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.
Joe grew up playing the game, too, he says.
"Even overseas, even when he was overseas, he played ball," Mary pipes in, explaining that Joe played in his most interesting game while stationed in Japan as a member of the military.
As Joe explains it, he was walking by a school one day when he saw a team working out together on a diamond. Then, one of the club's coaches spotted him watching the group.
"You from America?" Joe, who served 23 years in the Navy, says he was asked.
"Yes," he says he responded.
"Well, we're short one -- you want to play?" the coach asked him.
"So, I played all afternoon with them," Joe remembers, smiling from beneath a hat honoring veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
As Joe finishes his story, Mohawks pitcher John McCarren passes by on his way to the bullpen. Seeing Mary and Joe in their seats about an hour before the start of last Thursday's game, McCarren smiles and points at the duo.
"First ones here," he says, gesturing to the Partlows. "First fans here, every day."
The Mohawks are not the main reason the Partlows continue to come back to the area -- there's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- but the Mohawks are the couple's main form of evening entertainment. Having sold their house in Gloversville, the couple currently rents a house in Amsterdam not far from the ballpark and rarely, if ever, miss a home game.
Smiling faces like those of the Partlows make a positive impression on the Mohawks, nearly all far from home for the summer. While crowds at Shuttleworth Park regularly swell past 1,000 patrons by first pitch, the club's players value seeing familiar faces when they reach the ballpark for batting practice.
"It's really great -- especially early before games -- when you see all the same fans getting here," says outfielder Jonathan Pryor. "It's really great to have their support."
That support is shown with cheers and kind words. On this day, Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin walks by the Partlows and greets the pair.
"You're doing a better job than ever," Mary calls out to Griffin as he heads out onto the field.
The reason for the Partlows' affection for the Mohawks is twofold.
Joe says he likes to take note of the players' progress; he keeps score each game, checks the statistics and continues to follow the players when they head back to college.
Meanwhile, Mary enjoys more than just the game.
"I love these games because it's so family-oriented here," she says. "There are not very many places besides here where I see teenagers wanting to come, little kids wanting to come and parents wanting to come. The whole family wants to be here, and I love that."
There's another reason, too. When Mary gets deep into each night's game, she can lose herself a little bit.
"I haven't been able to yell like this since I raised my kids," she jokes.
Follow MICHAEL KELLY on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderMK