A Guest Pass to Albany’s Past in America’s Pastime

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A Guest Pass to Albany’s Past in America’s Pastime

Celebrating Baseball, Softball, Athletes With/Without Disabilities, and Other Sports/History/Entertainment in NY’s Capital Region and Beyond

by former Albany-Colonie Yankee umpire Pete Celestino

Pregame Introduction

The purpose of this article is to honor the history of the Albany-Colonie Yankees, other baseball/softball in upstate NY, and athletes with or without disabilities. A lot of time, effort, thought, and energy went into this project. Information about other sports, history, and entertainment events got discovered through research. It was thought that comparing and contrasting baseball to other sports may help one to see a bigger picture.

It was found that there are many scholarship opportunities, coaching jobs, and other opportunities related to sports and entertainment in the capital district and beyond. People in the Albany area can get those jobs and opportunities if they work hard at it. Plenty of incredible people have started their sports and entertainment careers around Albany. Even when barriers stood in their way, several people have stepped up and made positive things happen for themselves in upstate NY and beyond. It also seems like Albany and the capital region have a lot of opportunities for someone to have fun.

Top of the 1st

I grew up in a baseball family. My grandparents, uncles, and my mom/dad were huge baseball fans. Growing up in the NY area also had a big influence. I love the history of the game and what it has meant to American culture. I also grew up in an area that was very sports minded. I played every sport, but baseball was special to me.

I loved growing up listening to the stories that my grandfathers and uncles would tell about their favorite teams. Baseball is like no other sport when it comes to honoring its past.

There are a lot of emotional ties to home teams. In my family, it took a while for them to get over losing the baseball teams like the NY Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. They did not root for the uprooted team. When the Mets came along, that gave them a new home team to root for.

I collected cards as a kid. The market for some of the newer cards now is so saturated that it doesn’t always make sense to get into it if it strictly for monetary investment purposes. I like collectible baseball things for sentimental reason. I like collecting things that remind me of the days gone by. I have a modest collection, but my prized item is chairs from Yankee Stadium. Albany and other parts of the capital region have plenty of card shows and collectible events. Some of these events even bring in athletes for the fans to meet them. In recent years, Topps has come out with cards celebrating baseball players with disabilities.

My family came to watch me on the road many times in many different places.

I had a lot of support from friends and family when I decided to become an umpire. I loved umpire school and the type of people it attracted.

I have so many great baseball memories that it would be impossible to mention them all. One moment stands out for me. I took my oldest son Mike to the sixth game of the 1996 World Series at Yankee Stadium. A World Series game is like no other. At the end of the game, I had tears in my eyes because I was able to share that moment with my son. I looked to my left and there was a guy standing with his son and he was tearing up as well. We both nodded at one another knowing we both felt the same way. That kind of emotion is why baseball is special.

I felt bad for Don Mattingly because he gave his heart and soul to the Yankees team. I wish he could have stuck around to be part of a championship team. His last year with the Yankees was 1995. 1995 was the year before the Yankees finally reclaimed a World Series championship win. Several players who contributed to the Albany-Colonie Yankees moved up and helped the Yankees MLB team to win the World Series in 1996.

Some things are different from when I umpired. Instant replay is one of those things. I like replay, although I think it can be improved on. Most of the big league umpires I have spoken to about it say they like it.

I have run across umpire groupies in my travels. They are fun to talk with and they see the game from a different perspective. You can find news stories on umpire groupies of all ages.

I like all kinds of music so it would be difficult to put a soundtrack together for my memories. If it has Tony Bennett or Sinatra on it then it would work for me.

Albany Colonie Yankees

New York’s baseball history is rich. The history is especially rich in upstate NY. Ballston Spa is about half an hour from Albany. It is where Abner Doubleday supposedly invented baseball. I never got to Ballston Spa. Doubleday’s legacy is hard to deny. It will always be associated with the game of baseball even though there are people out there who try to discredit him. I was not aware of the Troy Trojans former MLB team. It is a great part of upstate NY history. I am embarrassed that I had no idea.

I never watched a game in Albany from the stands. I always had the best view from right on the field as an umpire. I do remember that the field was probably not the best from a fans point of view. I do recall that the fan support was always good. There should be baseball in the capital city and Derek Jeter being part of any celebration is a no brainer. Even the Tri City Valleycats in Troy NY and various newspapers realized this by putting out articles and tributes to him.

On Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, Deion Sanders, and Derek Jeter and others playing in the capital district area- The history of baseball in the Albany area has deep roots. As pointed out above, the area even had a minor league Yankee team called the Albany-Colonie Yankees, a major league team called the Troy Trojans, and the Albany Senators to name a few.

Deion Sanders brought a lot of excitement to the sporting arena. Being a superb two sport athlete made him much more marketable. He was good for both sports. He competed as an Albany-Colonie Yankee.

I remember JT Snow. JT went on to have a pretty good major league career but he will be most remembered for grabbing Dusty Baker’s son (bat boy) before he got run over at home plate.

I wasn’t really a part of the Yankees minor league team. I was an umpire assigned to a league which had a Yankee team in it. I loved going to Albany because I had friends living in the area. It’s always nice to catch up with friends when you spend so much time on the road. My last days in Albany were bitter sweet. It meant that the baseball season was over, but it also meant I got to go home to be with family.

Most people don’t realize that umpires are on the road constantly during the course of a minor league season. They miss family functions and events such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Waking up in hotels for six months straight is not very exciting. Neither is eating restaurant food three times a day.

There is a link between the disability community in the capital region and baseball. One alumnus from the Albany-Colonie Yankees named Bernie Williams has been in the area recently to help out for the annual center for disabilities telethon. He has also come to the area for his music. I have had the pleasure of being on the field with Bernie Williams during my umpiring career. He is a class act on and off the field. I know he is an accomplished classical guitarist. I don’t know much about his musical career. I have heard him play the national anthem on the guitar. It was an awesome rendition.

Staying Positive

Umpiring has its difficulties. Playing professional baseball is very difficult as well. The game itself on any level is a game of failure. The best hitters in the world make out seven out of ten times. If you don’t keep a positive attitude, you won’t stay around long.

There are stories about a guy who is trying to have a good attitude in the face of being dropped from his dream team of the Yankees. This baseball players name is David Kubiak. This is a guy from Long Island who played ball at the University at Albany.

William Hoy was the first deaf MLB player. He is the reason umpires use hand signals today. I umpired games in which former Yankee Curtis Pride played. He was also deaf. My parents were deaf, so it gives it even more significance. My parents never let their hearing loss stop them from doing anything. They and their group of friends were hard workers.

I actually umpired a game where one handed MLB pitcher Jim Abbott pitched as well. It’s great when people with disabilities such as former Yankee Jim Abbot in baseball, Tamika Catchings in the WNBA or US Paralympic soccer goal keeper Sean Boyle are able to compete on a national stage. It was also great that Tamika Catchings was able to come to Albany recently to give a motivational speech.

The Bigger Picture

Many of the athletes that have competed in the capital district have gone on to do great things. Example- Derek Jeter went from the Albany-Colonie Yankees to the MLB. A current Yankee is from the Albany-Colonie area as well in Tommy Kahnle.. Tommy Kahnle is going to help the Yankee bullpen in my opinion.

The Tri City Valleycats are a developmental team for the current MLB World Series champions the Houston Astros. The World Series trophy will be on display in Troy, NY during a Valleycats game later this summer. Interestingly, many players who came through the Valleycats helped to win that trophy. Also, Dan Radison used to manage the Albany-Colonie Yankees and then ironically worked in the area as a talent scout for the Houston Astros.

Ironically, a star this season who has helped the Valleycats to some wins is Gilberto Celestino. No relation. It is a good segue in this interview from the minor league Yankee history in the Capital District to the Valleycats.

I know that the Yankees have a franchise in Staten Island. I don’t know much about them. I would imagine that it is very successful considering the proximity to Yankees Stadium. The fan base is already in place. You can see the Staten Island Yankees play three games vs the Tri City Valleycats every summer in Troy, NY. As far as who to cheer for, that’s up to each individual in Albany. You shouldn’t HAVE to root for anyone. Interestingly, in a makeup game that was rained out in Staten Island that happened in Troy this weekend, Staten Island was announced as the home team.

A former NBA basketball star from not too far away is Jimmer Fredette. He is from an hour away in Glens Falls, NY. The basketball hall of fame is only about two hours away in Springfield, MA. So if you like basketball, Albany seems to be a good place to be.

This year we have seen many athletes who competed in hockey in Albany, NY on various teams now competing in the winter Olympics. I played ice hockey as a kid. I am a big Ranger fan.

Ice Skating was fun back in the day on Long Island for me too. Albany, NY offers free ice skating at Empire State Plaza. Albany has had ice skating champions such as Ryan Bradley appear there for the people. In other ice skating news, Albany brought in an Olympic gold medalist team of Sergei Grinkov and Ekaterina Gordeeva in the 1990’s for a competition. Also, Daria Zuravicki out of Albany went on to compete internationally.

Albany NY also offers free swimming at Lincoln Park in Albany, NY during the summer months. I am not a good swimmer, but I know that it is great exercise. It is easy on the knees. It is also a good way to cool off during a heat wave.

Controversy in Upstate NY

On the topic of gambling in general, Schenectady NY opened up a casino. Saratoga Springs already has a casino there as well at the harness track. On the controversial topic of sports gambling, former Yankees managers Joe Torre and Joe Girardi made separate trips to Albany in spring 2018 to let lawmakers know their stances on sports gambling. I thought Torre and Girardi were excellent managers and great ambassadors for the sport. Of course being Italian Americans, they hold a special place for me. And on top of that they managed the NY Yankees.

The Former Albany Patroon Derek Rowland led a revival of the Albany Patroons to the North American Premiere Basketball league championship game. The Patroons also had famous NBA player and Coach Phil Jackson play for them in the 1980’s. What was controversial about this revival team was the addition of former NBA player Smush Parker. He was still talking about his rivalry with Kobe Bryant to this day.

Another controversial topic is segregation in baseball. The research shows that Schenectady, NY had a team called the Mohawk Giants that was in a segregated league in the early 1900’s. Our country has come a long way since the days of segregation. It is regrettable that it ever happened.

The information above reminds me of Jackie Robinson. All that I have ever read on Jackie Robinson tells me that he was the best choice to break barriers. He must have been quite a man. One more thing on this topic is that Albany, NY has a statue of Martin Luther King Jr at Lincoln Park that means a lot to the community.

Teams Folding or Moving

Like the Albany-Colonie Yankees, other sports related teams and groups in the capital district have folded or relocated. Sports groups that have folded include the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in Schenectady/Amsterdam, the New York Buzz Tennis, the NY Kick Arena Soccer, The NY Capitals Soccer, the Albany Eagles soccer, the Albany Firebirds Arena Football, the Diamond Dogs Baseball Team, the Albany Attack Lacrosse, the Albany River Rats, the Troy Trojans MLB franchise, the Schenectady Blue Jays minor league baseball team, the Albany Devils minor league hockey. The sports franchises come and go. Unfortunately, it almost always comes down to money. Money is usually based on fan support. The capital region has a rich history in supporting local franchises, but for some reason the market is not always stable and that is when changes happen.

You saw teams folding in other parts of New York in soccer in recent times. I am not much of a soccer fan, but I do not like the idea of teams just pulling up stakes… How can you develop a fan base with some loyalty if this is an ongoing problem?

The Western NY Flash roster and coach Paul Riley (who got his start playing in Albany, NY playing for the Albany Capitals.) left to form the North Carolina Courage in the division 1 National Women’s Soccer League while the champions. One of the controversies in their final division 1 season was that they played one game on a baseball field that was too small for soccer. Not all baseball fields are the same dimensions, so why can’t they have different dimensions on fields in soccer also? I don’t understand.

NYCFC plays at Yankee Stadium on the days that the Yankees are not there. It would be fun to have a double header with both sports one day, but it may not be logistically possible. Again, some people are not happy with soccer being at a baseball field. As pointed out above with the Western NY Flash, not all baseball fields are the same dimensions, so why can’t they have different dimensions on fields in soccer also? Also, some fans of baseball have the chance to be converted to soccer fans with this cross promotion. Hourly staff that may lose work when the Yankees are off may get more days of pay due to the stadium staying open for soccer.

The Rochester Rhinos of the division two United Soccer league had to cancel their season for financial issues. The Rhinos were the last minor league franchise to win the Open Cup in 1999. The revival of the NY Cosmos had their latest season canceled on them after the revival of the North American Soccer league lost division 2 sanctioning. Meanwhile, their B team went undefeated in the National Premiere Soccer League (NPSL) in the regular season.

Teams folding or moving are not just a story limited to NY. Since we will talk about an Ohio success story, the research also shows that Ohio soccer has a team that is on the verge of trying to leave. The Major League Soccer team the Columbus Crew is trying to relocate to Austin Texas. A movement to save the team in Columbus was a big story in 2017 in MLS.

It’s always good to see the underdog team win.

Americans almost always root for teams that are told they have no chance against a bigger and better opponent. The research shows that Western NY Flash of the National Women Soccer League were not expected to win the championship in 2016. The Flash did not feature the more well-known players who had won the world cup. Lynn Williams of that team has turned into a huge underdog success story in the NWSL. She is proving all of her doubter’s wrong and adding diversity to the game.

The entire great roster of players for the Western NY Flash has consistently been in the number 1 spot in National Women’s Soccer League for the past three years. As the North Carolina Courage, they were on a winning streak from March to June in the NWSL. It could be bittersweet for some fans that these players are doing so well since they left NY as champions.

The College Scene

The University of Albany Softball Team just won the championship two years in a row. I play and have been playing softball for over 40 years. I still at age 61 enjoy being on a softball field.

University at Albany just made it to the NCAA division 1 finals for lacrosse and won the American East Championship for both men and women’s lacrosse. Even though the pro lacrosse team left, lacrosse is still thriving.

Several colleges in the upstate NY area have also produced excellent results in basketball over the years. I played basketball up until a few years ago. I have a hoop in my driveway. I like the college game.

The University at Albany division 1 NCAA women’s soccer team won back to back American East championships as did the men in recent times. Several men’s players have gone on to play in Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues Recently, Bouna Coundul went from U-Albany to the Major League Soccer team the NY Red Bulls. Some of the women soccer players have went on to be a part of the National Women’s Soccer League.

The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences men’s soccer team is the current Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions. Their teams share a field with another college that is right next door to them in Sage College. It is interesting to have two colleges that compete in athletics located that close to each other. They do not play against the University of Albany.

I think that it is very important for players to give back to their schools. I am currently an assistant baseball coach at the local high school where I live now. We love when our former players come back to help with the current layers.

The idea of area colleges having some sort of partnership with a pro sports team is nothing new in the Capital Region. The Albany BWP Highlanders soccer team played at Union College in Schenectady, NY. They were in the Premiere Development League for seven years.  The New York Giants did their spring training in Albany, NY at University of Albany for 16 years until 2013. The New York Knicks did preseason training for a few years at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs about 10 years ago. The New York Knicks returned to the area for a preseason game with the Boston Celtics at the Times Union Center in Albany in 2012.

Upstate NY has hosted the NY State Special Olympics Summer games at area colleges two years in a row. The area also has another group in East Greenbush called the Miracle League. The Miracle League has baseball programs and other sports programs for people with disabilities in this area and around the country. I have had very little association with the Special Olympics or the Miracle League baseball programs in upstate NY or elsewhere, but I think it is great to give these special needs children an avenue to compete through athletics. The Special Olympics are also helpful to the parents of these children. I have not had any involvement with these organizations, but I know that they do great work.

Things that happen in colleges in other parts of NY have had an impact on our colleges and communities in upstate NY. For example, the Special Olympics NY games were held in Troy, NY at Hudson Valley Community College where the Tri City Valley Cats play. The athletes from the western NY Genesee Region Branch were there and they were reportedly impressing people with their skill and with their great attitudes. It is known that some of the colleges out in western, NY have shown support to these athletes. It is great to see these athletes being given a chance to reach their full potential. Athletes with or without disabilities can be great role models for all people.

Online education is a tool that many people with busy lives have used to achieve their dreams. The athlete who carried the torch for the winter Olympics in 2018 named Erin Hamlin attended a college that is known for its online programs. Though there are satellite campuses to that college, the main campus is linked to the capital region.  It seems like online students may risk losing the experience that sports brings if they do not find a way to pursue the sport on their own.

I can’t imagine how an on line educational course can develop a fan base for college athletics. I think college campus life lends itself much better for that. I think club sports would be the best way to go for these particular students. I think that the logistics of satellite campuses would make it difficult to compete at a higher level. Erin Hamlin is a good example of someone who used the flexibility of online classes at Empire State College to open up her availability to be able to travel, train, and compete in the sport of luge at Olympic level.

Female Athletes in Upstate NY and Beyond

Albany has produced and featured amazing female athletes outside of college sports. Among these athletes are a roller derby team called the Albany All-stars and a division 1 rugby team known as the Sirens/Albany Knicks. Albany also has amazing runners that have competed in the Freihofer’s run for women since 1989. I used to watch Roller Derby as a kid. I loved to run. I have two marathons under my belt. (NYC and Long Island.) Rugby looks like it could be fun. I can appreciate all of these sports.

Female umpire Jen Pawol has umpired with the Tri City Valleycats in Troy, NY. She also umpired a preseason game for Major League Baseball. A female umpire in the big leagues is going to happen before too long. The NBA has already done that starting with Violet Palmer in 1997.

A historic ticker tape parade happened in Manhattan in 2015 for the world cup champion USA women’s soccer team. This is similar to the parades that the New York Yankees received in the past for winning the World Series. Women deserve their place in sports history. It was good to see a female sports team get this type of credit and celebration.

Minor League Sports Having a Major League Influence

Minor League or college athletics are on a much different level than their major league counterparts. That’s not to say they couldn’t beat them on a given day. The research shows that a minor league division 2 soccer team called FC Cincinnati competed against and beat several Major League Soccer teams in a tournament called the Open Cup in 2017. In this tournament, teams from all levels of soccer are able to enter. Major League Soccer enters the tournament in the fourth round. This ties into NY State because the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer beat FC Cincinnati in the semifinals of this big tournament in 2017. FC Cincinnati also drew over 30,000 fans for a minor league franchise.

In a rare move for sports in USA in general, a minor league team in FC Cincinnati got so popular that it was announced that in 2019 they would move up to division 1 in Major League Soccer. Ironically enough, this was announced the weekend that they were playing against and defeating the Red Bulls #2. That is the minor league division 2 (USL) team for the NY Red Bulls. After the game, the team went into the crowd to celebrate with its fans.

Live streaming makes it possible for people from all over to follow minor league teams like FC Cincinnati. This type of technology did not exist back when the Albany-Colonie Yankees were a team. I don’t know much about live streaming but a real fan likes to see live action in person. Live streaming may have an effect on attendance, but for me I need to be at the park. The ability to attend a game and be a part of the action is one reason why local teams can draw support from a community.

The research shows that the division 2 United Soccer League Champions, Louisville City were actually in the final 8 this year of the US Open Cup. We all know the history that baseball has with Louisville. Louisville soccer was hoping to make history there too. Ironically, this minor league soccer team was eliminated by the Chicago Fire. The Chicago Fire is the Major League Soccer team that FC Cincinatti beat last year to get to the final four. Sometimes these stories just write themselves.

Partnerships and Promotions in Sports

Minor league sports franchises are very creative when it comes to marketing. I am an old school guy. I go to games to see the game. I don’t need the other stuff, but I can accept that young people need to be entertained. If it gets them off the couch and to the ballpark then I am ok with all the other distractions.

The brand new Albany Empire Arena football team was able to draw thousands of fans to their games. They used free pregame parties featuring local musical artists to hype up their events. The Tri City Valleycats had too many promotions to mention here. There was probably something that appealed to everyone.

Soccer in Upstate NY and Beyond

Forty five minutes outside of Albany, the Kingston Stockade Soccer Club started up recently. They made it to the post season last year, stood up for their beliefs against US soccer, utilized former U-Albany soccer stars, and made a US Open Cup Run vs the Long Island Rough Riders.

As far as following the Long Island Rough Riders or Kingston Stockade, I am a Long Island guy who has very little interest in soccer at any level. I do watch the world cup, but am not glued to the TV when it is on.

It’s hard to believe a country our size, with as many kids playing soccer as we have, that we cannot put together a world cup caliber men’s team. I think the woman’s game in America is more popular than it is in other countries. I really don’t have much interest in watching without the American’s playing. The good news is that USA will automatically qualify to be in the 2026 world cup. It was just announced that they will be co-hosting the world cup in 2026 with Canada and Mexico.

I am not a big soccer fan. What is interesting in the research though is that team USA men’s soccer team just tied the world cup champions France in a game. This game happened 1 month before France dominated the world cup. The USA women’s team/ reigning world cup champions tied the France women’s team in the She Believes Cup at the Red Bull Arena a few hours away from the capital region in NJ. USA would go on to win that tournament in March 2018.

I am not a fan of games ending in a tie, but it is still interesting to tie the champions of the world. The Rocky Balboa vs Apollo Creed world championship boxing match in the classic movie Rocky pretty much ended in a tie. Storylines regarding tie games can occasionally be very entertaining. A soccer game that ends in a 0 to 0 score game is usually epically bad television though. When attending a game where two teams that you root for are playing, cheering for a tie could make sense.

North Carolina Courage beat Paris Saint Germain and Olympique Lyonnais in the first ever International Champions Cup Women’s Tournament this week. They are the first International Champions Cup winners. (This could be bittersweet for soccer fans since this NC roster used to be the Western NY Flash Roster.) You could have watched all of these games at the 3 capital district locations of a soccer bar called the Biergarten in Albany, Troy, and Schenectady NY. The women’s world cup is apparently happening in France in 2019 as well.

It is common knowledge that Brazilian star Pelé helped to create a soccer boom in the United States when he joined the New York Cosmos in the 1970’s. While it cannot be confirmed, local folklore suggests that Pele came to play preseason Cosmo training games in the area back in the day. If this is the case, then in 2016/2018 history repeated itself as the Cosmos B of the NPSL played games against the local Kingston Stockade soccer team. The Cosmos B are the minor league team for the revived New York Cosmos of the revived North American Soccer League. Unfortunately for Kingston, the Cosmos ended their 2018 regular season that day by going undefeated.

Utica NY has also announced that they are having an indoor soccer team starting in December. This team will play in the winter when outdoor soccer at the college and pro level is out of season. I am sure having a new soccer stadium not too far from upstate NY will be a great addition to the area. Soccer is a big deal to people in that community. Utica is only 1 hour and a half away from Albany, NY.

There have also been news articles on how soccer has helped the local immigrant community and united them in Utica, NY. Utica has done positive work for its residents utilizing soccer tournaments and events. Having new hope and a new thriving soccer industry could be great for Utica.

Regardless of if it is the sport that you prefer or not, having sporting venues and leagues in communities will always be a plus to that community. Sports promote physical health, mental health and camaraderie. Sports also provide an outlet from the everyday grind of life. Sports also provide jobs at all levels. Sounds to me like upstate NY is not lacking in sporting opportunities. I just hope that this trend continues and they keep the cost reasonable to attend these venues.

Other Entertainment and History in Upstate NY and Beyond

Even the park playhouse in Washington Park is offering sports themed plays this year. I don’t recall ever going to Washington Park, but I love the idea of these types of programs. These programs promote a good sense of community. I am familiar with the play Damn Yankees that they are playing this year, but I have not seen it in person. Ironically, during the opening week of this play, the lead actor from 1967 version of this movie passed away.

The riverfront park hosts a concert called Alive at 5. In June 2018, Tito Jackson of the Jackson Five fame reportedly did an emotional blues tribute for his father. His father had passed away the day before. This is just the latest example of the relevance that Albany brings in entertainment. I don’t have any thoughts on Tito Jackson. I do like to listen to the blues occasionally.

One other thing about the riverfront is that you can actually spend a day walking the bike trail at the Albany Riverfront and get off the trail in Troy. This will take you to a Tri-City Valleycats minor league baseball game and back. Or in the case of the 700 Erie Canal Bike tour athletes who came from Buffalo, NY on the day of the soccer world cup, the trails go a lot further.

Another part of entertainment that has been prevalent in upstate NY is the filming of movies. The topic of disabilities received attention in an academy award winning film that was partially made in Troy, NY called Scent of a Woman. Al Pacino won the academy award for playing the part of a blind man. In my opinion, Al Pacino was great in Scent of a Woman.

Another relevant movie that was filmed in the area features Jack Nicholson playing the part of a former baseball player. I did not see Iron Weed, but I love Nicholson. This movie premiered at the palace theater in Albany NY.

Sports extend outside of just playing or watching the games. You see portrayals of George Steinbrenner on shows such as Seinfeld. I think it’s pretty funny. I like that they never show his face.

A play version of the movie a Bronx Tale is going to be shown this fall at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, NY. This is about half an hour from the Albany area. There is a reference to Mickey Mantle in the movie a Bronx Tale. I honestly didn’t remember the Mantle reference in A Bronx Tale, but was a big fan of the Mick. I got to see him play at the end of his career.

I read a lot of baseball books, but the ones that I like the most are historical in nature. For me, the documentary by Ken Burns is a must see for any fan of the game.

If you liked this historical view of Albany, NY, you should check out many of the museums in the area. The Albany Museum of History and Art has even featured an in depth baseball exhibit not too long ago.

The historic Woodstock concerts took place only an hour and a half away from Albany almost 50 years ago. There is a museum there commemorating the history of that area. Woodstock has its place in history. I am old enough to remember and have friends who attended.

The Albany Community Action Partnership has a chalk board that people write on right in front of their building. One of the things that people wrote is that they need more sporting events in the city. There are so many statues and other uses of art in Albany besides those examples. As shown from those examples, when displayed in the appropriate area these forms of artwork are an asset to the community in which they are displayed.

Even beyond Albany and the capital district, you have the baseball hall of fame not too far away in Cooperstown, NY. I love the baseball hall of fame. I have been there many times over several decades. They make changes every few years to keep it fresh. It is a great tribute to the history of baseball and to those who have played the game. The Hall of Fame hosts the induction in the summer and also holds parades and baseball games there. The whole town is mostly baseball themed. I have been to the Hall with parents, aunts and uncles, children and close friends. I enjoyed each and every visit.

One underrated part of Cooperstown, NY is the boat tour on the water. I never went on a boat tour nor have I ever attended the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown. Albany, NY and Troy, NY also have boat tours. There are also floating restaurants on the waterfronts on the Hudson River in the Capital Region. Albany even has a floating war museum called the USS Slater.

On the topic of sports hall of fames, Rome NY has a general sports hall of fame with a building. They honor their local athletes. The closest thing that Albany has to this with sports is when they honor local football athletes with a ceremony. The colleges also have their own hall of fames for their athletes.

Albany also has memorials for several wars honoring both male and female soldiers. Saratoga Springs is about half an hour away and they also have war memorials and museums. Saratoga also has a walking trail at the battlefield where the revolutionary war was fought. In Saratoga County, you can visit and take a tour of the cottage that President Grant used to live in. You also have an amazing view of the Adirondack Mountains from that location. These are just a few examples of the way that history is celebrated in upstate NY. I have never been to any of these places that were researched here, but I love walking trails and visiting historical sites.

In the winter when you want to get exercise, an indoor rock gym is right in Albany, NY. If you want to have a water related experience but it is too cold to go the riverfront, Rotterdam NY just opened up an Aquarium about 20 minutes away from Albany. I have never been there, but I have been to SeaWorld many times. There is also an indoor planetarium at the Albany visitor’s center.

Saratoga has some history with food with the invention of Potato chips supposedly happening there. They are known for that and their natural flowing spring water that you can drink. I am not a potato chip fan. A lot of people like to have chips and dip during events such as the super bowl, so this is relevant to sports. I drink a lot of water. I like beer every so often too.

Giving Back to the Community

I am a purist when it comes to sports. I love sports for the competition and entertainment that they provide. I am not as much interested in individual talent when it comes to a team sport. I want to see how players use their talent to help their team win games. We put sports heroes on a pedestal. Maybe sometimes we put sports heroes on a pedestal too much so. These heroes need to realize that they are role models and should act as such. They represent the community that they come from and should do so in a positive way. Hall of Fames and Museums can be watered down. I don’t necessarily have a problem with people being recognized for their achievements, but inductions need to be well deserved.

Speaking of heroes, a Netflix show based on a Marvel super hero named the Punisher apparently filmed some of its season 2 in Albany, NY in July 2018. One of the actors on that show named Jason R. Moore had lived in Albany, NY. It is not known if he had any influence on the decision to bring this production to Albany, but it is appreciated if he did. Either way, it was cool that a hometown guy came back working on such a big time production. On a side note, my wife is our favorite super hero in my house.

There are umpires that I have associated with or met who represent the community well and do a lot of positive things. I have met umpire Steve Palermo. I know his story and it just shows what kind of man he is. He overcame a disabling violent crime and then went on to do positive things. To see someone overcome such obstacles gives others hope to do the same. I know Angel Hernandez as well and he like many umpires is very generous with his time helping others. One of the things that Angels does is that he helps kids with disabilities through a branch of the Miracle League in Florida.

As talked about with Bernie Williams above, other people with Yankee ties have come to the capital district area recently to help people with the Center for Disabilities. One name that stands out is Nick Swisher. Nick Swisher seems like a likable guy. Current Yankees manager Aaron Boone also showed up in the capital district in the past year. He was here to help with the center for disabilities. On a side note, Boone is going to be fine with the Yankees but he is in a no win situation. He is expected to win with the talent he inherited. It is great that he is giving back to the community though.

NY State Honoring Athletes and Other People with Disabilities

The NYSILC NY state disability rights hall of fame debuted this year with their first inductions in the capital region. I am sure it’s a feather in the cap of NY State to have this Hall of Fame. The importance of having it there will be felt for years to come for our future generations.

Other museums and hall of fames honoring people with disabilities can be seen in other parts of New York. Though it is several hours away, Western NY has the Museum of Disability. They feature a sports exhibit. People with disabilities or family and friends of people with disabilities may appreciate this type of museum.

A woman with autism named Dr. Temple Grandin was inducted into the National women’s hall of fame in Seneca Falls NY last year. Seneca Falls is about 3 hours from Albany. Among the things that she was honored for appear to be her humane work with animals. She also gave a speech in Albany the same year that she was honored. I can appreciate someone who is kind to animals because I have a dog. I also have a koi pond in my yard and a fish tank in my house.

I love when businesses find a way to employ people with disabilities. John Robinson CEO of Our Ability Inc. is a good example. His disability owned company helps other people with disabilities to get employed. tHe also rides from Western NY to Albany NY for an almost two week trip every year to raise awareness and support. The local newspapers honor him and his efforts by covering the story every year.

Postgame Thoughts

The band Smash Mouth just played for the 4th of July at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY. Their big hit song was called all-star. All-star was used in Shrek.  I like the song and the baseball all-star games. The research shows that the Albany Park Playhouse did a Shrek play a few years ago, so everything ties together. I have never been to Empire Plaza. This column is very much an all-star tribute though, so that tune fits the theme.

While some sports and topics may not have been as interesting to you as others, it is hoped that a bigger picture could have been shown by doing the research. It would have been impossible to cover every athlete, game, sport, statistic, or topic in upstate NY and beyond in 14 pages. Thank you for the sports scene and the community in upstate NY and to everyone who contributed positively to it in it past, present and future.

As you can see from all of the information above, Albany and the capital region has a lot to offer in sports, entertainment, and life. Everyone in that area is not disconnected from the rest of the world. If you work hard in Albany, it is possible to reach any dream that you want to reach. There are job and life opportunities for those who put in the effort. Just this week someone from the Albany Empire Arena football team got signed to the NFL Chicago Bears team. So if you are drifting through, stop to walk around to take a closer look at all of the great things that this area has to offer.