Those were just some of the questions that arose as the makeshift league got off the ground. Last Wednesday the league successfully completed its season and the Albany Athletics, typically of the Albany Twilight League reigned supreme with a 21-3-2 record.
“We’re a hybrid of players who are in college and out of college. You always gamble with chemistry and camaraderie when you have an age gap and blend guys together like that, but every year the formula seems to work," said Athletics manager Joe Altieri.
"The players always come together and the older guys seem to me...tor the younger guys. They look up to everything they've accomplished and I think that’s what helps at the beginning. That has been our formula for success over the years, so I’m pretty proud of these guys for continuing with it.”
Albany's pitching staff was led by two veterans. Chris Salamida, a former Tri-City Valleycat and AA player, as well as Zach Breen, who played college ball at Barton College and also serves as an assistant coach.
“Chris is a guy where his actions speak way louder than his words. He has this humbleness about him. When he’s out there in the middle or end of a game, he really thrives on that energy, but at the end of the day he’s a really humble guy even though he’s been through pro ball and had a good college career," Altieri said. "I look at Sal and Breeno as 1 and 1A."
Salamida was able to rack up nine saves in the short season, full of double headers, not only proving how he thrives with the game on the line, but how competitive the league actually was, even though the A's came out on top most of the time.
In total, the A's converted 13 saves combined as a team. With 21 wins on the season, they played a lot of close games. The team that gave them their toughest competition was the Albany Dutch, coached by Nick Davey.
“We had a lot of competitive games. They were a very good team. Their lineup kept them in every game and that was tough to overcome sometimes. They had a lot of talent. Their lineup was full of good hitters and they had outstanding pitchers. That’s what made for some of the best games we played this summer," he said.
The A's went 4-3-2 this summer against their Albany counterpart. They were a perfect 17-0 against the Amsterdam Mohawks and Glens Falls Independents.
To start out the summer, the Athletics were led offensively by their catcher, Nick Hansen, who strung together hits in the first 11 of 12 games of the season, including an eight game streak. The LeMoyne junior and Troy native was solid defensively behind the plate as well.
“I liked our lineup throughout the year. We did some tinkering, trying out guys in different spots. We came up with a lot of big hits, but we also struck out a lot. Striking out is going to take you out of rallies and situations to score runs," Altieri said of his hitters, although with a team of veterans, they also took their walks.
Salamida, who did much more than pitch for the A's, hit around .250, but maintained an on-base percentage of .420-plus. Although, his longstanding knowledge of the strike zone was put at odds throughout the season with the umpire being in the middle of the field.
“When you have older guys, you tend to trust them more. That goes for knowing the strike zone, as well as knowing when they're ready to come out of a game," Altieri said. "They are going to tell you or give you an indication of when they’re ready to come out of the game. A lot of the college guys want to go 100 miles an hour all the time, hurt or not, able or unable."
"When you have the older guys you can rely on them to help you make an informed decision and everyone else sees how that helps translate into wins. I think that showed a lot this summer.”
On top of pitching high leverage innings, the A's relied on their bats for hits when they counted.
"We made adjustments and were able to get timely hits and it seemed like it was a different player every game who stepped up and had those big hits. Hansen had a big hit in the last game against the Mohawks after Anthony Raimo hit that go-ahead homer," Altieri said.
While the A's games with the Mohawks often displayed some figurative fireworks, some of their games with the Independents were also extremely close.
“Glens Falls was a really competitive. team They were actually very good one paper early on, but they didn’t get a chance to build momentum early on, after dealing with some of their key players going down. If they didn’t, I think they would have been able to get close to .500 at some point. They were still a competitive team, even though their record didn't show it.”
One think that Altieri wanted to stress though is that while Salamida and Breen put up the big numbers with complete games, strikeouts and saves, you don't rack up as many wins as they did, when playing six games a week, just behind two pitchers.
Payton Kurzejeski was tied with Breen for the team lead in wins, each with three. Kyle and Ryan Lambert, James Rubino, and Tommy Kretzler also pitched several meaningful innings as the A's piled on their wins.
One of the brightest spots on the A's roster was Brenden Harris, a graduating senior from Guilderland, who is headed to Cypress College. Harris knocked out three home runs, with 13 RBIs, prior to being shut down in the final two weeks of the season.
"At the end of the day, nobody really knew if we were going to have baseball this year and this league helped to make that possible. I'm really proud of the guys and how they came together with so much uncertainty," Altieri said.
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