Editors’ Note: This is the eight feature in a series on the nine ballparks that make up the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. The series will feature each park and will conclude prior to the start of the 2012 PGCBL regular season in early June.
Part I: Veterans Memorial Park, Mohawk Valley
Part II: Colburn Park, Newark
Part III: Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, Watertown
Part IV: East Field, Glens Falls
Part V: Doubleday Field, Cooperstown
Part VI: Damaschke Field, Oneonta
Part VII: Bob Bellizzi Field, Albany
Team: Amsterdam Mohawks
Location: Crescent Avenue, Amsterdam N.Y.
Opened: 1914 (Rebuilt after fire 1942)
Chronology of teams…
Amsterdam Rugmakers (Can-Am League) 1938-1942
Amsterdam Rugmakers (Can-Am League) 1946-1951
Amsterdam Mohawks (New York Collegiate Baseball League) 2003-2010
Amsterdam Mohawks (PGCBL) 2011 – current
Tucked away amongst the trees in the quiet city of Amsterdam, about 45 minutes northwest of Albany, sits Shuttleworth Park, home of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League’s Amsterdam Mohawks. This year, the Mohawks are celebrating their 10th Anniversary season in the Carpet City. The team moved to Shuttleworth Park in 2003 and has won four summer baseball championships in the colorful, unique and usually jam-packed field hidden beneath the trees.
Originally, it was known as Crescent Park and opened up on Memorial Day Weekend 1914. However, this was just not your ordinary baseball field but an actual park that according to historian David Pietrusza, included a baseball field and a “Midway” which featured a dance hall, shooting gallery, motion picture theater, miniature railroad and “boating and bathing on Lake Crescent.” The very first game at the baseball field was played that year and featured the local semi-pro team known as the Empires taking on the Philadelphia Colored Giants.
The 1930s brought forth a renamed Crescent Park as “Jollyland.” However, towards the end of the 30s, Mohawk Carpet Mills purchased the field and it became known as Mohawk Mills Park. At the same time, the Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Can-Am League were born. The Rugmakers were one of the dominant teams in the league from 1938 through 1942, winning the league title in 1940 and appearing in the playoffs each year before the loop shut down due to World War II. The team was affiliated with the New York Yankees. Herb Shuttleworth, the park’s current namesake, worked for Mohawk Mills and he ran the Rugmakers. Shuttleworth helped install lights at the field in 1940.
The most interesting episode of the existence of Mohawk Mills Park came in 1942 when the wooden grandstand and just about all of the facility burned to the ground eight days before a scheduled exhibition game with the New York Yankees. According to historian Pietrusza, the park was rebuilt over the course of the week prior to the game with the Yankees. And not only was it rebuilt, but the capacity was increased by several hundred seats. The Bronx Bombers won the actual game itself with a 9-5 decision in 10 innings. The game was played in front of over 4,000 fans.
The original dimensions at Shuttleworth Park were a thing of beauty. A short porch of 279 feet in left field was guarded by a 26-foot high fence. However, the outfield got very deep very quick with a depth of 409 feet in center field.
The Can-Am League shut down in 1942 because of World War II and resumed again in 1946 with the Amsterdam Rugmakers serving as one of the teams. Between 1946 and 1951, the Rugmakers made three more playoff appearances. The league folded after the 1951 season. Local teams continued to play at Shuttleworth Park but a professional team would not return. Over the course of the next 50 or so years, before the arrival of the Amsterdam Mohawks, Mohawk Carpet Mills sold the park to the City of Amsterdam and eventually it was renamed Herbert L. Shuttleworth Park in honor of a man once known as the “Amsterdam’s No. 1 Citizen.”
Shuttleworth Park was renovated in the 1970s and then again in the 2000s. The current park harkens back to the days of a young Herb Shuttleworth, the Rugmakers and the glorious Can-Am League. Prior to the 2008 season, the facility underwent a tremendous facelift. The fence in left field, moved back during a prior restructuring, was moved in and a high chain-link fence stretching up seemingly into the clouds was erected. During the summer season, the “Chain Monster” is covered in colorful advertisements. Looking at the Monster, you’re expecting to see signs that reads “Hit This For a Free Suit,” White Owl Cigars and/or Ballantine Beer.
The right-field line boasts a similar short porch though the power alleys in right and left center give quickly away to a deep center field. The scoreboard, replete with bright red numerals that glow incandescently in the darkened night, stands in right field. At every game, the speed of a pitch flashes on the scoreboard after every toss from the mound. Much like the “Chain Monster” in left field, the rest of the single tier outfield fence is plastered with colorful advertisements for local businesses.
The covered grandstand is reminiscent of old Mohawk Mills Park. Wooden bleacher seating, usually jam-packed to the gills on a Friday night, engulfs the home plate area behind the brick and cement backstop. The current grandstand was added to the park during the 2008 renovations. For those that want a closer look, chair-back box seats are wrapped around the backstop in front of the bleachers. The box seats had a previous owner, the now obliterated Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. For the 2012 season, box seats are being added down the right field line. The first base side also contains a wooden party deck which hosts gatherings during every Mohawks home game. Just under the roof on the covered grandstand on the first base side resides the lone sky box in the PGCBL. The sky box has been recently added and features everything one could want while watching a baseball game.
Shuttleworth Park also features what one might call “Windshield Alley.” As Shuttleworth Park resides essentially in a very large forest clearing, there is a road that runs from one end of the clearing to another and this road is right behind the third-base side dugout. Cars line the street on a game night and every once so often, a foul ball finds its way off of a windshield. Just past the road and all around the clearing rise tall green trees that seemingly go on forever. The Shuttleworth Park baseball field is just part of what was once known as “Jollyland.” The facility also includes a softball field, tennis courts, a picnic pavilion and a large parking lot. High above the trees in the distance, visible from the press box on top of the grandstand roof and from field level is the Amsterdam Water Tower that offers a one of a kind view.
Modern-day Shuttleworth Park welcomed into the Mohawks franchise in 2003. From the late 1970s through 2002, the Mohawks played their games at Central Park in Schenectady. The team was known as the Schenectady Mohawks and it captured a summer baseball championship in 1988 under the leadership of longtime Saint Rose baseball coach Bob Bellizzi, the namesake of Bob Bellizzi Field inside the Christian Plumeri Sports Complex in Albany. At Shuttleworth Park over the last 10 years, the Amsterdam Mohawks have enjoyed great success. The team has produced four summer baseball championships (2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) and made eight playoff appearances in the previous nine seasons.
The franchise itself has produced countless professionals and over the course of the 30-plus year history of the franchise, over 100 players have gone on to play professional baseball. Former Mohawks that have played in the Majors in recent years include Philadelphia Phillies all-star Hunter Pence (Schenectady 2002), Cord Phelps (Amsterdam 2006), Brendan Harris (Schenectady 1999) and Val Pascucci (Schenctady 1997). Last June, eight Mohawks were taken in the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft. The year before, four Mohawks went in the first six rounds of the draft led by outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. who was taken in by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round, 89th overall.
The current Mohawks are led the winningest manager in the history of the franchise. Keith Griffin has helmed the Amsterdam squad to a league championship series three years in a row. Last season, the Mohawks boasted a 30-17 record during the regular season and the team missed out on the PGCBL East division championship by a half-game to rival Glens Falls. The Mohawks and Golden Eagles got together in the postseason for the fifth time in less than 10 years. Amsterdam swept Glens Falls, two games to none to move on to the first-ever PGCBL Championship Series against the Newark Pilots. Amsterdam captured the opening game of the series but an injury-depleted team dropped both ends of a doubleheader to Newark to fall just one win shy of the league title.
Overall, seven Mohawks were named to the All-PGCBL squad and six of the seven were tapped for the All-PGCBL first team. In his second season with the franchise, catcher Luke Maile (Kentucky) had a monster summer and was the runner-up for the 2011 PGCBL Player of the Year award. Closer Abram Williams (Radford) capped off a stellar two-year run with the Mohawks. He left the Carpet City as Amsterdam’s all-time leader in games pitched and saves and he holds both single-season records for saves and games pitched as well. Starting pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. (NJIT), the son of the former Major Leaguer and nephew of Al, led the PGCBL with 74 strikeouts in 54.0 innings.
At the gate, the Mohawks have had a run like no other. Overall last year, over 30,000 fans descended on Shuttleworth Park to watch the Tribe. On average, there were over 1,200 fans per night at Shuttleworth Park. The most memorable performance at the field however came from an opposing player. Watertown’s Eric Gaylord (Campbell), on the Friday night before the All-Star Game, hit what is believed to be a Shuttleworth Park record four home runs in a single game. Gaylord smashed four home runs and drove in seven runs overall in a 9-7 victory for the Watertown Wizards. One night earlier, the Mohawks had welcomed in the largest crowd of the season, 2,764 for a 3-2 victory over the Cooperstown Hawkeyes.
Next month, Shuttleworth Park will play host to the 2012 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game. For more information, click on the link on the main PGCBL home page.