Park # 111
What I Remember
Batavia, New York is technically a city. The population, according to the city’s web site, is just north of 15,000. Thus it was certainly not the smallest town we saw minor league baseball in during the 1991 season. But it felt, and still feels, like a small town. It is just off the New York State Thruway, but because it is about halfway between Rochester and Buffalo and not very far from either, most motorists probably zoom right through without giving the exit they just passed much thought.
As much as any place, though, Batavia is a reminder of minor league baseball’s past. Some of it is recent past, Batavia was hanging on as a member of the New York Penn League as recently as two years ago. Some of it goes much further back, way before Bill or Sue were even born. Dwyer Stadium was built in 1939 in the midst of World War II and for decades was home to teams in the Class-A New York Penn League and its forebears.
The ballpark was, according to the article linked above, in pretty bad shape going into its last season as a park in affiliated minor league baseball in 2019. But to pretend that is why minor league baseball has left, not only Batavia but nearly all the towns that used to have teams in the now defunct New York Penn League, is disingenuous. It has to do with money, of course, more money could be made elsewhere and now it is.
But if In League with America has a central theme, the theme is this. If the game of baseball is ever to become America’s Pastime again it will need all the Batavias it can get. If you look at the entry for the city in Wikipedia you will see that the second paragraph of a long page points to the fact that the city was once home to a minor league team and is still home to a team in a wooden bat summer league for college players.
I enjoy the college leagues that have taken the place of many once-affiliated minor league teams, we have a team in one near my own small community in Vermont. But make no mistake, they are not the same thing as affiliated minor league baseball teams and play at nowhere near the same level. The Batavia Muckdogs were affiliates of the Florida Marlins for the last several years of their existence, they were generally near the bottom of the New York Penn League standings although they did win a division title in their last season.
But in the doubleheader that the Marlins played against the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday there were five players who played at Dwyer Stadium, either as a member of the Muckdogs or one of the other teams in the NYPL. The winning pitcher in Game Two yesterday played in Batavia just three seasons ago. No such similar success is likely for the members of the Muckdogs of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Does that matter? Perhaps not, it is still baseball after all. But I would suggest that when the fans in Batavia and Geneva and Utica and Elmira have all forgotten the last major leaguer that played on their local field, a part of the connection that made baseball great will be lost forever. It was this connection between fans in small towns and teams in big cities that were often hundreds of miles away that was one of the most amazing parts of Bill & Sue’s Excellent Adventure, I hope it can be preserved.
Erie Sailors 3 Batavia Clippers 2
The Batavia Clippers lost the night we were there but several of the players on their roster that night ended up getting to the majors including pitchers Mike Grace, Tyler Green and Matt Whisenant all of whom played later in Philadelphia. Batting third in the Clippers lineup that night was Antonio Grissom, the brother of longtime MLB Marquis Grissom. The Batavia news also did a nice feature on our trip which you can see part of in the gallery below.