Early stages of season present challenges as players, coaches adjust to new settings

The first days of the season for a college baseball summer league like the Perfect Game College Baseball League (PGCBL) can be a bit of a glorious mess.

Players are arriving just days before they are to play. They need to meet their coaches and teammates, get settled into host families or dorms, and get used to the professional-style wooden bats instead of the usual college metal.

John Mayotte, the new head coach of the Newark Pilots, knows this. He's a lifelong baseball man seemingly right out of central casting, who has had decades of experience coaching not just in the PGCBL but also the Division I and II college ranks and the best-of-the-best showcase on Cape Cod. The start is often the same, he says.

“Early on, everybody is kind of feeling each other out, finding out who is in town and when the next shoe is gonna fall.”

He can understand it, as well. The PGCBL is a summer college baseball league, after all, serving as a place for college players (and the occasional incoming college players) to stay sharp, face good competition, and maybe even catch the eye of a scout.

“What's the purpose of this thing?” Mayotte asks. “It's a developmental situation. You've got kids that are in college, trying to make their dent in society and in college baseball.”

Of course, they'd also like to win, too. The Newark Pilots were able to pull that off on the opening night of June 1 against the Oneonta Outlaws, with 2 RBI nights from Tyler Odekirk (Irvine Valley/University of San Diego) and Will Allocca (University of Virginia) pacing the offense while Kyle Griffin (Louisiana Tech) and Jake Bernardo (Fordham) combined to give up just four hits as the Pilots won 6-2.

It's success that team co-owner and General Manager Leslie Ohmann hopes spreads to the stands, a year after dry conditions caused attendance to be below-average and the field to be in less-than-ideal conditions.

“Last year was extremely hot and dry,” she says. “The grass was dying off, but (this year) we had rain.”

The next two months will determine whether that opening night was a sign of things to come for the Newark Pilots, but as a crowd of over 1,000 people watched fireworks (the first of at least five shows scheduled), the new year looks bright. Just imagine how it will be once the initial chaos ends!

NOTES (Stats as of June 11, 2017): The Victor RailRiders are on hiatus while they await a new playing field, but the PGCBL still has 13 total teams due to the addition of the Onondaga Flames, while a 14th or 15th team (depending on when Victor returns) will begin play next year in Watertown ... Allocca's Virginia team made the NCAA Tournament but he was able to the join the Pilots to begin the season because of his red-shirt status... Victor's 2016 coach Dan Shwam is now leading the Geneva Red Wings, and Newark/Geneva co-owner Bob Ohmann believes his recruiting skills will make a big difference ... After just a few game this season, Geneva is 7-2 and Newark is 1-7.