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Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Muckdogs announce 2015 schedule

post by Billie Owens in baseball, muckdogs, sports

Press release:

The Batavia Muckdogs, Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, have announced their schedule for the 2015 season. Batavia will open the 2015 season at home on Friday, June 19th, when the Auburn Doubledays visit Dwyer Stadium.

The Muckdogs will host their annual Independence Day celebration on July 3rd this year, as they are not home on July 4th. The Muckdogs also have a home game scheduled for Father's Day (June 21) this season. In addition to their Pinckney Division rivals, the Muckdogs will welcome the Boston Red Sox (Lowell), Detroit Tigers (Connecticut), Houston Astros (Tri-City) and Oakland A’s (Vermont) farm teams to Dwyer Stadium in 2015.

Here is a month-by-month and day-by-day breakdown of Batavia’s 2015 home schedule:

Month    Home Games    Day         Home Games
June                6               Sunday            5
July                13              Monday           4
Aug.               17              Tuesday          5
Sept.                2              Wednesday    7
                                        Thursday         5
                                         Friday             7
                                         Saturday       5

Season tickets, coupon books and ticket packages for the 2015 season are all on sale now. They can be purchased by calling 585-343-5454 or in person at Dwyer Stadium, Monday thru Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For a complete schedule, visit www.muckdogs.com.

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 6:00 am

Johnny Bench got his Batavia Muckdog's hat

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, Batavia Downs, Batavia Muckdogs, sports

This past weekend we told you about the visit Hall of Famer Johnny Bench paid to Batavia Downs, and we mentioned that Bench expressed an interest in seeing a Batavia Muckdog's baseball cap.

The person with Bench at the time was season ticket holder Ross Fanara. Fanara called his wife and confirmed that they in fact had a brand new Muckdog's hat at home, so she brought it to Batavia Downs and they presented it to Bench.

Fanara sent over this picture of him with Bench wearing the Batavia Muckdogs hat.

Ross said, "Johnny Bench is a class act."

Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 6:58 am

Johnny Bench, from Buffalo to Batavia with a Hall of Fame career along the way

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, Batavia Downs, sports

Johnny Bench was just a 19-year-old kid from a town of 600 people in Oklahoma when he arrived in Buffalo 47 years ago.

"I didn't venture much beyond the Kenmore District and North Tonawanda," Bench said during an interview Saturday at Batavia Downs when asked if this was his first visit to Batavia. "I was still trying to figure out who I was and who I was supposed to be."

His 98 games as a Buffalo Bison in 1967 helped answer some of those questions.

"I matured (in Buffalo)," Bench said. "I had older players I played with. They gave me a lot of guidance, worked with me, helped me along. It was a great stepping stone, more importantly for the Dom Zannis, the Jim Duffalos, the Steve Boroses, the Duke Carmels, the Frank Obregons and the Gordy Colemans, and there was Dick Stigman, a pitcher, too, and Rollie Sheldon. It was a maturation process. These guys had pitched before. I kept calling games and learning stuff and doing stuff and you had to get the most out them. I felt like I could paint the picture, but I had to pull it all out of them. That was the secret and the thing I learned the most and enjoyed the most here."

That list of former Bisons -- who, unless you were a Bisons' fan in 1967, you probably never heard of -- were all 30 years old or older. Bench was the youngest player on the team, and one of only six players who hadn't yet turned 23.

But through the years, Buffalo stayed with Johnny Bench. All those names, easily recalled. He turned a question about his legacy into remembrance of a time before he became rookie of the year, an MVP, won two home run crowns, 10 gold gloves and played on two world championship teams.

"We played at the old War Memorial Stadium, but then they had the riots," Bench said. "We had to go over to Niagara Falls and play on the old football field with the temporary snow fence. The yardage lines were still there on the infield."

Arguably -- and some of us would say it's beyond dispute -- Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher in baseball history.

We can talk about his 389 career home runs, his 1,376 RBI, his 3,644 total bases, as well as two home run titles and three RBI titles, but suggest he's best remembered as an offensive catcher and he's quick to rebuff the audacity of dwelling on how he swung a bat.

"The 10 gold gloves didn't hurt," says the man whom base runners feared and pitchers counted on to do a very basic thing time after time: catch the ball.

"That was my main job, getting a win for the pitcher," Bench said. "I took great pride in the fact that I wanted to get that pitcher a win and if we got a win for him, we got a win for the team. Individually, I could throw runners out, I could block the plate, I could get hits, I could call a great game, but calling a great game was the most important."

And it was guys in Buffalo, like Zanni, Duffalo, Obregon, Stigman and Sheldon, who taught him to call a great game.

Bench was in town for a memorabilia show at the Downs. So were Pete Rose, Tony Perez and George Foster, along with other sports stars.

It's worth noting, perhaps, that Bench, Rose, Perez, Foster, and the other stars were signing autographs for a fee. Bench and Rose commanded the highest price, especially on a jersey or bat, but they all got paid.

On the other side of the proverbial coin, of course, is that fact that as players, none of them were enriched the way today's stars are lavished with cash. Bench never earned as much as $500,000 in a season and Rose never made it to the million-dollar mark until his final year as a player-manager with the Reds.

So it's not surprising, perhaps, that these heros of so many youths so many years ago would travel to America's small towns, sit under bright lights on folding chairs at plastic tables and sign their names for fans and speculators for a fee.

While Bench was affable and at times chatty with patrons who came through his line about an hour after Rose had finished, Rose seemed detached from the parade of people pushing baseballs, bats, jerseys, baseball cards and 8x10s onto the table in front of him.

An assistant sternly rebuffed a fan who asked if Rose would pose for a picture. No, she said, but he could kneel in front of the table while somebody snapped a keepsake.

Rose didn't even look at the camera.  

Rather than a smile, Rose wore the look of a man who seems beaten down by a decades-long wrestling match with the Lords of Baseball over his legacy.

In contrast, there sat a youthful, smiling Johnny Bench, with his Hall of Fame ring secure on his left hand, scanning the field and letting nothing go unnoticed.

"That's my jersey," he says to a woman with a camera standing off to the side waiting to snap a picture of a friend who will get an autograph.

As a man tries to get a picture of his friend with Bench as Bench signs a picture, Bench tells him to wait. "I'm not looking up," he says.

When the same photographer seems to move the camera before the shutter snaps, Bench says, "that one's not going to turn out," but the quick-release snapper has moved on without noticing.

Without being asked, he poses for another photographer with a bat at the ready.

When he meets a Batavia Muckdogs season ticket holder, he says as he signs, "I don't even know what a Muckdog's baseball hat looks like. I'd like to see one."

The 66-year-old Johnny Bench smiled and signed and kept chatting even in the face of a line dozens of people long. His massive hands -- hands that make grizzly bears stand up and take notice -- etched a beautiful cursive on whatever he was asked to sign.

Johnny Bench is always the team player.

"Winning an MVP award or rookie of the year, it's a fantastic honor, but there is nothing like the feeling though when I walked into the clubhouse after game seven of the '75 World Series and we were World Champions," Bench said. "That's when I knew what it was all about, because every player was a world champion. Every player, every owner, every sponsor, every equipment manager, and all the fans were world champions. That's when you can really share and realize the importance of what team sport is about."

Bench isn't without some pride over his individual accomplishments. When asked to sign a 1972 San Diego Padres game program with Nate Colbert on the cover, Bench smiled, "Old Nate," he said. "I hit five homers in the last week of the season to beat him for a home run title."

In 1972, Colbert had 38 dingers. Bench had 40.

To enjoy a career like Johnny Bench, that's one in a billion, but just getting the chance to go pro for today's young athlete is nearly impossible.

Bench, who went straight from high school to the Reds instructional league team at age 17 in 1965, said today's young athlete should take advantage of the wealth of college scholarship opportunities.

"When I played, only one in every 500,000 kids who played Little League baseball ever signed a contract," Bench said. "I don't know if they want to go up against the numbers, but the fact that there's so many scholarships out there available, I'll still push education every chance I get. Be a good student, study various things, find something you love and be prepared in case athletics doesn't work out."

If you do want to be an athlete, Bench said, work hard, practice, study the sport, prepare, understand the game. Watch the great ones to figure out what they do and how they do it.

"I think Ozzie Smith is a guy who taught kids how to play shortstop," Bench said. "I taught kids how to catch better."

Which brings us to Johnny Bench's final word of advice: Catch every ball.

"My theory in life is, 'catch every ball.' Somebody says, 'my kid wants to be a catcher, what do I tell him?' and I say, 'catch every ball.' If you learn to catch everything that comes your way, then people say, 'wow, you're a great catcher,' or 'you're a great shortstop,' or 'you're a great first baseman,' or 'you're a great businessman.' If they throw stuff at you and you have the answers, they're going to say, 'this guy really knows what he's doing.' People are going to rely on you and they're going to trust you and more things will come your way."

Pete Rose

Tony Perez

Lou Piniella

After the show, Pete Rose stopped at Larry's Steakhouse for dinner. Pictured with Sandy Mullen and Brenden Mullen. Photo submitted by Steve Mullen.

Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 7:00 am

Muckdogs drop game to Scrappers, 2-1

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, batavia, muckdogs, sports

Silent Muckdogs bats Friday night meant strong performances by Muckdogs pitchers went to waste and Batavia dropped the contest against Mahoning Valley, 2-1.

Starter Ben Holmes and reliever Jacob Smigelski carried a 1-0 shutout into the 7th inning, but Smigelski let the lead slip away and Josh Hodges gave up the deciding run in the ninth.

It was a disappointing loss on a night when 1,532 fans turned out on a night billed as an attempt to break the all-time Batavia attendance record by drawing 3,001 patrons.

Obviously, that didn't happen.

Those who did show up got to see a hard-throwing Holmes, a ninth-round draft choice out of the University of Oregon, strike out seven and scatter three hits over four frames.

Hodges took the loss and his record moves to 1-5 (with six saves) despite a respectable 3.06 ERA.

Catcher Brad Haynal, who returned to the team last night after a 13-game stint with Class A Greensboro, had two hits. Center Fielder Josh Norwood also had two hits.

The same two teams go at it again tonight at Dwyer. Game time, 7:05.

Friday, August 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Tonight is largest crowd contest, season's last fireworks at Muckdogs vs. Scrappers game

post by Billie Owens in baseball, muckdogs, sports

Information provided by Batavia Muckdogs Booster Club:

Tonight baseball fans should flock to Dwyer Stadium to be part of a milestone in the history of pro baseball in Genesee County. The goal is to break the ball park's 75-year-old attendance record.

The Muckdogs face the Mahoning Valley Scrappers at 7:05, and one lucky fan could win $3,001!

Fans must register for the drawing at the ballpark but no purchase is necessary. All Muckdogs’ season ticket holders are automatically eligible to win. Tonight will also feature the last post-game fireworks show of the 2014 season.

The first season consisted of six teams in the Pennsylvania/Ontario/New York League (The Pony League): Batavia Clippers, Bradford Bees, Hamilton Red Wings, Jamestown Jaguars, Niagara Falls Rainbows, and the Olean Oilers.

When baseball came to Batavia in 1939, a crowd of 3,000 gathered on May 10 at what was known at the time as State Street Park. They sat in borrowed folding chairs from a funeral home in an outfield behind a snow fence (the actual wood fence hadn't been built yet).

They watched our Clippers lose to the Jaguars, 9-4.

Just before the start of tonight's game, at about 6:45, the Muckdogs Booster Club will be handing out awards to the team's four All Stars. Each one will receive $25 cash; the Booster Club's most popular player will receive $100 cash and a trophy.

There will be one extra award this year. With this being the Diamond Anniversary of professional baseball in Batavia, a special fan will be lauded for decades of attendance and going the extra mile to help keep baseball here.

Snapple is tonight's sponsor and free Snapple beverage samples will on hand and there will be a T-shirt toss!

The Launch-a-Ball game will be presented by the Hillside Family of Agencies.

Game tickets can be purchased at the Dwyer Stadium Box Office or over the phone by calling (585) 343-5454. Normal box office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday -- Friday.

Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Four Muckdogs named All Stars

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, batavia, muckdogs, sports

Press release:

The 2014 New York-Penn League All-Star roster will include four players from Batavia. They will send infielder Mason Davis, catcher Rodrigo Vigil and pitchers Michael Mader and Alex Carreras to the game to be held Tuesday, August 19th at MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Davis, a 19th-round pick in the 2014 draft, has played in 41 games for the Muckdogs this year and has been among the league leaders in hitting all season. Davis currently ranks fourth in the league in hitting, with a .329 batting average, fourth in on-base percentage at .407 and third in OPS at .891.

Rodrigo Vigil was an undrafted free agent signing in 2009 and has started 20 games behind the plate for the Muckdogs this season. He is currently batting .254 with eight runs scored, four doubles and seven RBI’s. Vigil has been solid behind the plate this year for the Muckdogs, throwing out 46 percent of the runners who have attempted to steal on him.

A supplemental 3rd-round pick out of Chipola College in the 2014 draft, Mader has started nine games for Muckdogs in his first professional season. The left-hander has compiled an ERA of just 1.80 and has racked up 20 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched. Opposing batters are hitting just .192 against Mader so far this season.

Alex Carreras is in his third year of professional baseball and was a Minor League free agent signing in 2014. The left-hander has appeared in 15 games this year and is 5-2 with an ERA of 1.85. He has also recorded 27 strikeouts in his 34 innings of work and opposing batters are hitting just .220 versus Carreras this year.

Batavia currently holds the fourth-place spot in the Pinckney Division with a record of 24-30 and sit only five games out of the Wild Card. The Muckdogs sent five players to the 2010 All-Star game, six in 2011, five in 2012, and four players in 2013.

Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 9:10 am

Muckdogs downed by Yankees 4-2

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, muckdogs, sports

The Yankees are in town, and that helps. So does post-game fireworks. Either way, 1,500 baseball fans came out to Dwyer Stadium on Friday.

Alas, the Muckdogs lost, 4-2.

Sadly, that's been the trend for the hometown team recently. Batavia has lost seven of its last eight games. All low-scoring affairs.

At 24-30, the Miami Marlins affiliate is fourth in the Pinckney Division, trailing first place State College (now the Cardinals affiliate) by nine games.

Last night's game completed a three-game series with Staten Island, which gave local New York fans a chance to see some of the Yankees prospects, including 18-year-old catcher Luis Torrens. The Venezuelan was signed as a free agent by the Yankees at age 16, when he was considered one of the top two international prospects.

He's hitting .304 on the season, but Batavia pitching kept his bat silent in this series. His only hit came last night.

For the Muckdogs, second baseman Mason Davis continues to impress. He's hitting .329, fourth best in the league, and had two more hits Friday. 

John Norwood also had a two-hit game. Norwood is riding high after signing with the Marlins six days ago as a free agent. Norwood hit one of the few home runs in this year's College World Series, and the dinger propelled Vanderbilt to its first national championship in baseball. Norwood, who decided to forego his senior season to turn pro, is off to a hot start in three games, with four hits in 10 at bats.

Catcher Christopher Hoo, a 27th round draft pick out of Cal-Poly, also had two hits.

The losing pitcher was Scott Squier, a 16th-round draft pick in his first professional season. He gave up three earned runs in four innings. This was his second start. He's 1-2 in nine appearances with a 3.00 ERA.

New York Mets fans can come out to Dwyer Stadium the next three days to check out Mets prospects while the Brooklyn Cyclones are in town. Tonight's game will include post-game fireworks. Game time is 7 p.m. On the mound for the Mets tonight is Marcos Molina, a top-10 prospect who is 5-1 with a 1.27 ERA.

Sunday, August 3, 2014 at 11:20 am

WNY Boys of Summer League accepting team registrations for Fall Travel Baseball

post by Billie Owens in announcements, baseball, sports

Press release:

Fall Travel Baseball: WNY Boys of Summer League is accepting team registrations for our fall travel baseball season for full teams only -- ages 11  thru 16 (based on 2015 playing age).

Teams will play 10 games in September and early October.

For more information or to register see www.wnyboysofsummer.com <http://www.wnyboysofsummer.com>  or contact New Era Park at 716-681-3001.

Deadline is Aug. 15th.

Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Tonight's Muckdogs game postponed

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, muckdogs, sports

Press release:

Tonight’s game between the Batavia Muckdogs and Connecticut Tigers has been postponed due to rain. This game will be made up as part of a double header on Sunday, July 20th. We will play two seven-inning games, with the first game starting at 1:05 p.m. Gates will open at noon. Any person with tickets to tonight’s game can exchange their tickets for any other regular season game, subject to availability.

Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Young baseball team off to good start in inaugural season

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, batavia, sports, youth sports

Jane Johnson shared this picture of the Batavia Clippers 8-and-under baseball team, sponsored by Graham Manufacturing, who she said are off to a good start in the team's first year.

A portion of her e-mail:

The Batavia Clippers 8U Travel Baseball team took 2nd place in their division and 3rd place overall last weekend in the Honeoye Falls Mendon Youth Baseball Midsummer tournament. The team played teams from Canandaigua, Fairport, Mendon, Pittsford and Rochester.

This weekend the team plays in the Clarence Youth Baseball Travel Team Tournament at the Clarence Meadowlakes Park. The team matches up against teams from Clarence, Amherst, Williamsville, Orchard Park, Lancaster, Akron, Buffalo, Evans, North Tonawanda, and Grand Island.

The Clippers team is led by Coach Ben Buchholz, Coach Sam Antinore, and Coach Jeff Grazioplene. The Clippers players are all members of the Batavia Minor League.

Team members are: Jay Antinore, Bronx Buchholz, Joe DiRisio, Dane Dombrowski, Cole Grazioplene, Jake Hutchins, Alex Johnson, Cal Koukides, Jameson Motyka, Carter Mullen, Sheldon Siverling, Malcom Wormley.

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