BATAVIA — In 2021, baseball returned to Dwyer Stadium after a dormant 2020.
And fans embraced the new Batavia Muckdogs. After all, said one on opening night, there should always be baseball in Batavia.
Baseball and Batavia are an integral part of the community.
There were 501 season-ticket holders who came out to see the Muckdogs, 400 more than the team had previously. The team reported nightly attendance of 1,878 and there were other events such as the Pride Festival in June, Genesee-Wyoming counties Walk to End Alzheimer’s in September and Monster Mash in October. High school baseball games took place there, as did other baseball tournaments.
The team is starting out 2022 as the recipient of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneurial Business of the Year Award.
“It was great news when we got the phone call. It was a very pleasant surprise,” said Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols. “It was great to feel appreciated by the county of Genesee. For our team, we put a lot of hard work into that, so it was an honor to be recognized for our hard work.”
Nichols and CAN-USA Sports, LLC took a chance on bringing the Muckdogs back to the stadium as part of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) after the New York-Penn League folded in 2019 as part of a restructuring of professional baseball’s minor leagues by Major League Baseball.
With the New York-Penn League defunct, many feared that baseball – staple of summer life in Batavia for more than 80 years – would also be over.
“We came in there after not having baseball for a year. We told everybody we were going to have big numbers and big crowds, but nobody believes it until they see it,” Nichols said. “I think everybody, us too, was very pleased with the attendance and what we brought to the community. I think people are excited to see the product. They’re excited to see the fun things that are happening at the park and attendance just kept growing and growing.”
Nichols said there are a number of people to thank for the Muckdogs’ success last year, starting with Batavia City Manager Rachaeltabelski and the City Council, and PGCBL President and General Counsel Robert Julian.
“The president of our league, Mr. Julian was very instrumental in this. The whole City Council … if it wasn’t for them taking a chance on us, obviously they had to vote to let us come in there (Dwyer Stadium,” he said. “It’s their stadium and we always tell people, ‘ We’re just the holders of the keys.’ We don’t own it. We just take care of it for them. They’ve been great partners to work with, the city has.”
There are also the season ticket holders to thank, Nichols said.
“Our staff — the long hours it takes to run a baseball season — obviously, you don’t get a day off May, June, July,” he said. “Without a great staff and people working extremely hard behind us, it would not have been possible. Obviously, the coach and players … our local broadcaster, Griffin (Della Penna) and our on-game host was John Kindig.”
Fans enjoyed the performances of the KMS Diamond Dance Team from KMS Dance Academy, LLC, the Muckdogs owner said. Head Groundskeeper Larry Hale did a great job with the field in 2021,
Nichols said he and his wife, Nellie, plan to be among those attending the March 12 awards banquet at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. He said Muckdogs General Manager Marc Witt plans to be there.
“A lot of our family members, a lot of our workers — we’re going to start making calls and inviting them. There’s been people behind the scenes…” Nichols said.
Aside from the people and groups he mentioned earlier, Nichols said he wanted to thank Eli Fish Brewing Co. and Turnbull Heating & Air Conditioning for their sponsorship of Muckdogs baseball. He also noted Turnbull owner Bill Hayes wrote a letter to the city in support of baseball there, then sat down with Nichols and said he wanted to be a sponsor, Nichols said.
Nichols also mentioned Russ Salway, with whom he talked about baseball and the area.
“We’re just honored to be there. We’re so thankful and excited. We love Batavia,” Nichols said.