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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Schenectady varsity baseball goes a year without play


SCHENECTADY — Alex Jurczynski, the⁢ esteemed head coach of Siena College’s baseball team, holds his Schenectady roots close to his⁤ heart.

His journey from playing Little League‍ in the city to participating in ⁣its high school baseball program, has not only fueled his love for the game but also​ paved the way ⁤for his professional career.

“Schenectady’s baseball scene has been​ instrumental in ⁤shaping my career. As ​a 33-year old head​ coach at a⁢ Division I ​school, I owe my success to Schenectady​ Little League and Schenectady High School,” Jurczynski expressed.

So, when ​he discovered that his‍ alma mater would not be ‍fielding a ‌varsity ‌team this season due to low​ participation, he was‌ overwhelmed with a mix of emotions.

“I’ve ⁣always kept a close eye on Schenectady baseball. My father, Al Jurczynski, was the mayor‌ of Schenectady,‍ so I take immense pride in my roots. ⁢The news was disheartening. It’s not that baseball in the area has⁢ declined, but there’s a noticeable lack⁣ of interest in it.

“The most disheartening ‍aspect is ​the impact on the seniors. Your senior year is‌ a pivotal time, where⁢ you get to‍ lead the team ‌and inspire ⁤the ‌younger players. It’s your chance to⁢ leave a lasting impression on⁢ the program.”

And then there were none

Edgar Glascott, the Athletic Director of Schenectady City School District, revealed that he wasn’t expecting a large number of seniors this season anyway, even before the decision to cancel the ⁤varsity season in late March was made.

Last year,‌ the Patriots had five juniors on the varsity team who would‌ have been eligible to return this season.

According ​to Glascott, out of those five student-athletes, only three registered to play and just one ⁤showed ⁢up on the first day of practice.

“Two of the seniors who played on the team last‌ year registered, ‌but they never‍ showed up for ​tryouts,” ​Glascott said. “So it was just the one senior who attended three practices, which was before we⁢ made the decision not to have a varsity team, and he decided he⁣ didn’t want to play.”

The Daily Gazette was unable to reach⁢ the team’s returning ‌seniors or their parents for comment.

Instead of promoting younger players to field‍ a varsity team, Schenectady decided to concentrate on ‌developing the junior​ varsity and modified levels of the program.

“We tried our best ⁣to​ assemble a team at the⁢ varsity level, but ⁢the players were‌ all underclassmen,” Glascott said.⁢ “There was no way — considering skill level⁣ and safety — we could put a team together.”

The⁢ juniors who were still interested in playing baseball this season are able to play down‌ on junior‌ varsity. The Patriots currently have four juniors ​on the ‌JV roster — Jerimyiah Bishop, Jomar Molinari, YuDeivy Diaz Jimenez, and Matthew‍ Santiago.

During the JV team’s first​ game of the ‍season on Friday, ⁢the Patriots conceded ⁤11 runs in the first inning against Christian Brothers Academy, resulting in a ‍20-0 loss.

Despite the heavy defeat, Schenectady players continued to cheer⁣ for each other,‍ and head coach ‌James Duffy commended all the small victories his team achieved.

Still, the question lingers: how did Schenectady reach a point where it doesn’t have enough players to field a varsity team?

“The key is to start from the grassroots,”⁣ Jurczynski said. “I don’t think the administration can do much if⁣ they ‍don’t have the numbers. It has to come from families and youth‌ coaches, starting⁢ in Little League.”

Another program in flux

Children in Schenectady interested in playing⁤ youth baseball have two options: Schenectady Little League, ⁣with teams for ages 4 ⁤through 12, or the Schenectady Blue Jays travel baseball club, which has teams for elementary school-aged through high ‍school.

Currently, Schenectady Little League has 124 players registered for the spring season, ‌70 of which are in the Tee Ball division for children as ​young as ​four. This is ​in contrast to 412 total ⁢players in the Rotterdam-Carman Little League and ​254 in Scotia.

“Every year, it’s a struggle to field teams,” said Schenectady Little⁤ League President Cassie Dillon. “This year we managed to increase our Tee Ball numbers, so we⁢ decided to ⁣start ‍from the bottom up. We offered free registration to ​all Schenectady kids, but the numbers in our older divisions are ⁣still low.”

Like many American cities, Schenectady has seen a steady decline in youth-baseball enrollment over the decades, especially among Black⁢ children. High participation costs and ‍a lack of representation at all levels‍ of the sport discourage participation, according to advocates for more investment in baseball ⁢in disadvantaged communities. The crisis,‌ they say, has ⁤two major components – affordability and accessibility. Travel ball dominates youth baseball these days and ‌most travel teams are ‌based in suburban, mostly white communities. ⁣Consequently, city-based leagues‍ like Schenectady’s have dwindled across the country.

One⁣ significant challenge in Schenectady and other American cities⁤ is the occasional lack of familial support for transportation to and from practices‌ and games.

“In the years I’ve been with the Little League, I’ve seen⁤ so many kids‍ bring themselves‍ to ⁣practice. You’re talking nine to 10 year olds, bringing themselves to Little League practice walking or on their bike,” Dillon said. “My husband and I have driven so many kids to games, whose parents have‌ never shown​ up to a‌ game. ‍I just don’t ‌think that the importance for a lot of ⁣these kids and ⁣families is on sports, when they’re in survival mode with everything else‌ they have going⁢ on.”

Dillon, who runs the league with her husband Justin Pinn, took over during a transitional period in 2020 when the organization nearly​ folded entirely.

“We didn’t know, to be honest,” Dillon said on how ​confident she was that Schenectady Little League would remain open. “The board was crumbling, there was so much happening and then there was COVID.”

Even ‌Dillon, who sees the struggle to field baseball teams in the city year in and year out, was still surprised at the news the high school wouldn’t be able to field a varsity team.

“I think⁤ it speaks volumes of‍ where we’re at with our sports in Schenectady.

Imagine a‌ school with a population of nearly 3,000 students, yet unable to form⁣ a varsity⁣ baseball team. This is the predicament that Dillon ‌finds himself⁣ in. “With 3,000 ​students in the school, it’s baffling that we can’t form a single varsity team. What’s going wrong with our ⁣city sports?” Dillon questions.

Everyone has a role to play

Despite the challenges​ of managing the‍ Little League, Dillon remains committed to keeping it alive as long as there are children interested in playing. “Our motivation is simple. If there are kids who want ⁣to play, they‍ should have the opportunity to do so.⁣ We will keep this going for as ⁢long as there are kids who want to play because every child in Schenectady deserves that. That’s our driving force,” Dillon explains.

Once children start playing baseball, the next step is to ensure they return ‌in the subsequent‍ seasons to continue playing.

Jurczynski, reflecting on why he kept coming ‌back, credits‌ his youth coaches, who became some of his biggest role models. “We need more volunteers, not just for a ⁢day or two, but throughout the⁣ season. Kids will remember their coaches like I‍ remember mine. These are ⁣the coaches who ‌helped shape me ‍into the person I am today,” Jurczynski said.

He further added, “It doesn’t have to ‍be​ the‌ older generation. High⁢ school or college kids can also⁢ volunteer. They need to understand that they’ll be impacting⁣ young kids ‌who will grow the game and be a good representation of their community.”

Alex Jurczynski ​at 518 community Cup

Siena baseball head coach Alex Jurczynski, ​right, gives⁤ 10-year-old Devin⁤ Burke some instruction at the 518 Community ‌Cup in Central Park Thursday, August ⁣17, 2023.

During the summer, Jurczynski collaborates with the Schenectady‌ Old‍ Timer’s Baseball Club to organize a two-day skills camp ​at Central Park. “Our main project, in partnership with the ⁢City of​ Schenectady, ​is to sponsor a free two-day skills camp for Little League-aged children,” said Don⁣ Blaha, a​ longtime president ⁢of the‍ Old Timer’s Baseball Club. “Our goal is to rejuvenate⁤ baseball ‌in​ Schenectady and keep it alive.”

“I ⁣would love to​ see hundreds of kids at these camps that we’re running,” Jurczynski said, noting that⁢ he had⁣ around 70 last summer, which was the camp’s fourth ⁣year. “It’s disheartening, considering the number of kids in the Schenectady school district, ⁢and we ​just don’t have enough.”

Photographed by: Kyle Adams


Jayveon Williams, another‍ player ⁣for the Schenectady junior varsity team, also made a⁤ notable throw to first base during the same game at CBA.

Mitchell Petersen leading off second base

Mitchell Petersen is seen here taking the lead off second base for the Schenectady junior varsity team during a thrilling game at CBA on‍ Friday, April 19, 2024.

Photo by: Kyle Adams

Jomar Molinari up to bat

Next up, we have Jomar Molinari stepping up to the plate for the Schenectady junior ⁤varsity team during‍ the same game at CBA on Friday, April 19, ‌2024. The tension was⁢ palpable as he prepared‍ to swing.

Photo by: Kyle Adams

Schenectady junior varsity​ team⁣ in action

Here’s a snapshot of ⁣the Schenectady junior varsity team in action⁢ during the game.‍ The team’s determination and ‌spirit⁣ were ⁤evident throughout the​ match.

Photo by: Kyle Adams


On Friday, April ⁣19, 2024, Schenectady junior varsity coach Steven DeLuca‌ was seen⁤ having a strategic discussion with players Mitchell Petersen (15) and Connor Sayward (18) during a thrilling game at CBA.

Schenectady Junior Varsity Team

The Schenectady junior varsity team strategizes during a break in the game at CBA on Friday, April 19, 2024.
Photo by: Kyle Adams

Schenectady Junior Varsity Team Action Shot

An action shot from the Schenectady junior varsity team’s game at CBA on Friday, April 19, 2024.
Photo by:⁢ Kyle Adams

Mitchell Petersen in action

Mitchell Petersen, a key player for⁢ the Schenectady junior varsity team, is seen‌ here throwing the ball back into play ​from left field during a thrilling game ‌at CBA on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Jason Guynup pitching

Jason Guynup, another star of the Schenectady junior varsity team, is captured here in the ​middle ​of a pitch during ‍the same game at ⁤CBA on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Schenectady junior varsity team in action

Here’s a⁣ broader view of the Schenectady junior varsity team in action during the game at CBA on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Experience‌ the thrill​ of the game with these ⁢captivating images. The photos capture the‍ intensity and passion ‌of the players, making you ⁣feel as if you’re right there on the field.

Jayveon Williams pitching

Jayveon Williams, a key player for the Schenectady junior varsity team, is seen here delivering a pitch ‌during a game at CBA on Friday, April 19, 2024.

Photo Credit: Kyle Adams

Baseball game ⁣action shot

Another action shot of Jayveon Williams pitching for the Schenectady junior varsity team during the same game on April 19, 2024.

Photo⁢ Credit: Kyle Adams

Baseball game wide shot

A wide shot capturing the entire field during‌ the game on April 19, 2024.

Photo ⁤Credit: Kyle Adams


Alvaro Jiron, a player from the Schenectady junior varsity team, is seen throwing back to the mound during a thrilling game at ⁤CBA on ‌the sunny afternoon of Friday, April 19, 2024.

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Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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