Expect plenty of new faces around East Field this summer, as the Glens Falls Dragons will have a new coaching staff and a lot of new talent in its ranks.
The Dragons begin their Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season with a home game on May 31.
Players are still weeks away from arriving in town for the whirlwind, 48-game season, but the team has been put together for the most part, and includes former local standouts like Schuylerville’s Carson Dunkel and Whitehall’s Daniel St. Clair and Evan St. Claire.
Coaching this year’s Dragons will be Brockport State assistant Nick Pontari, a Troy native who calls himself a “518 guy.” SUNY Adirondack baseball coach Casey Job, a high school teammate of Pontari’s, gave him a heads-up about the Dragons’ coaching vacancy.
“I couldn’t pass it up, it’s an opportunity to coach kids from all over the country and help them develop,” said Pontari, 27, who pitched at Hudson Valley, Fulton-Montgomery and Brockport State.
Pontari has one assistant — current Brockport senior Anthony Eaton, who played one season at SUNY Adirondack — signed up and he plans to add one or two more. Pontari has worked with pitchers and catchers at Brockport, but said he is comfortable with coaching any position.
“When you send players to a summer-league team, your expectation is for your players to get better in that time,” Pontari said. “College coaches are entrusting us with their development over the summer, keeping them on track, get better and achieve the goals that they set for themselves. But we also want to have a little fun, win some games and put a competitive team on the field.”
The Dragons are hoping to bounce back from a series of subpar seasons, including a 16-28 record last year. Pontari replaces Cameron Curler, who coached the team that last two seasons.
To assemble the roster, owner/general manager Ben Bernard enlisted the help of Neil Andreoli, a former associate scout for the New York Yankees who owned a collegiate league team in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Andreoli, who is based in South Florida, drew upon his contacts among college baseball coaches to find talent. While some teams in the PGCBL, like Amsterdam, load up on NCAA Division I players from major programs, Glens Falls has usually gotten players from smaller D-I and D-II schools, or freshmen.
“Division I guys aren’t the end-all, but they do usually have better coaching,” Andreoli said. “I’m looking for good character kids who need a little work, who want to develop but also want to win. I’m getting kids whose coaches have contacted me, so it’s a handpicked team.”
One player from last year’s team, outfielder Brian Hart of Marist, returns to the club this summer, while several others moved on. Players entering their freshmen year through incoming seniors are eligible to play in collegiate leagues.
Andreoli said the Dragons have 17 position players and 16 pitchers on their roster, and 17 D-I players overall.
Among local players on the roster are Dunkel, a catcher, and St. Claire, an outfielder, both freshmen at Siena College, and St. Clair, a freshman pitcher at the University at Albany. Saratoga Springs grad Brad Hipsley, a freshman infielder at SUNY Stony Brook, is also on the team.
Talented players like hard-hitting Joe Impeduglia of D-II Concordia College, Hayden Cooper (Tennessee-Martin), Jarrett McDonald (LSU-Eunice), Mike Golankiewicz (Merrimack) and Western Kentucky signee Sean Bergeron (Angelina College) are expected in Glens Falls later this month. All are having strong seasons for their respective schools.
“I think the team is going to be better this year,” Andreoli said. “They’ll have more depth, they’ll be competitive and they’ll want to succeed.”
“We have a ton of position players, so we’ll be a very versatile team,” Pontari said. “We’ll be able to run, there’s a lot of good bats, and we have a good mix of younger guys who will be hungry for innings.”