Amsterdam Mohawks head coach Keith Griffin talks to his team prior to a July 2017 game at Shuttleworth Park. Griffin will return to the Mohawks for his 10th season in 2018, the team announced Wednesday. (Recorder file photo)
By ADAM SHINDER
The successful partnership between the Amsterdam Mohawks and head coach Keith Griffin will continue for another year, as Griffin will return for his 10th season with the franchise in 2018, the Mohawks announced Wednesday.
In his nine seasons with the Mohawks, Griffin has accumulated a career record of 333-128 to go along with six league championships. In 2017, he led Amsterdam to a league-best 36-12 record in the regular season before the team, depleted due to injuries, lost to the eventually league champion Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League East Division championship series.
Mohawks president and general manager Brian Spagnola never had any real doubt of Griffin’s return. It’s been a longstanding tradition between the two to never discuss the next year until the current season ends, but Spagnola said that was a little different this year.
“We actually talked about next year while this year was going, just a little bit,” Spagnola said. “Not that we actually finalized anything, but we had talked a lot about, ‘Well, next year we want to do this and next year we want to do that.’ We knew it was there. It’s a year-to-year thing, but we love having him here, he loves it here and it’s a good match. We’re certainly glad to have him back with the stability he provides.”
Griffin reached a pair of milestones during his 2017 stay in Amsterdam, winning his 300th game as Mohawks head coach and earning his 1,000th head coaching win overall in a career that spans more than 30 years.
With Griffin’s return official, recruiting is already well underway to put together a Mohawks team that will seek to reclaim the PGCBL title in 2018.
“We work well together with everything we do, with the recruiting,” Spagnola said. “Believe it or not, we probably got up to about our 15th player the other day, and we’re just waiting on our regular (schools). Some of the big schools, they’re gonna wait until they start practice and then call us.”
Among those committed players, Spagnola said, is one of New York’s most prized prospects. Pitcher Lenny Torres Jr., a St. John’s University commit who is about to start his senior year downstate at Beacon High School, is slated to be in Amsterdam in 2018. One of the top high school pitchers in the nation, Torres’ fastball reaches 96 mph.
Like with current St. John’s pitcher Jeff Belge, who pitched for Amsterdam coming off of his senior year in high school in 2016, Torres’ availability next summer will likely depend on how early he is selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft.
“It’s probably a longshot that we get him, but still a great signing,” Spagnola said.
Griffin’s reputation is a primary reason the Mohawks continue to attract such marquee talent from power programs.
“The consistency that he brings allows us to do that,” Spagnola said. “They know Keith’s gonna take care of their pitchers. That’s a fear for college coaches, that their pitchers are gonna get hurt. They know that with Keith — even though anybody can get hurt at anytime — he’ll take care of them the best he can.”