GLENS FALLS — Nick Kondo had an opportunity to play collegiate-league baseball out in California this summer.
But when it fell through, it was only natural for him to return to the Glens Falls Dragons, where he was a regular at shortstop and was among the team’s leading batters last season.
“I was supposed to be placed out in California, but something fell through with the contract and things didn’t work out,” said Kondo, a former Saratoga Springs standout who is entering his senior year at the University at Albany. “I had a good time, good experience here last year, so I was thankful to text (assistant general manager) Ryan Cummings late, and he was able to find a way to get me on the roster, so I’m happy about that.”
So are the Dragons. Since arriving two weeks ago, Kondo has been one of Glens Falls’ most consistent players, second on the team in batting average with a .344 heading into Tuesday night’s PGCBL game against Albany at East Field.
He’s one of four former Saratoga players on the Dragons — outfielder Brian Hart (Marist), infielder Brad Hipsley (Stony Brook) and pitcher Alex Henderson (Fordham), a graduating high school senior, are the others.
Kondo and Hart are the only two Dragons who returned from last year’s club. They currently bat second and third, respectively, in the Glens Falls lineup.
“Having them 2-3 has been a luxury for us,” Dragons head coach Nick Pontari said. “When you have returners who are familiar with the league that are hitting in the top of the lineup for you, it’s been nice to say the least.”
“It’s nice to sleep in my own bed every night, hanging out with my friends still and be able to come here,” Kondo said. “It’s fun playing with new guys and making new friends. I’m still in touch with a few of the guys from last summer.”
Kondo was named the PGCBL Player of the Week last week, the first Glens Falls player so honored since 2016. He helped the Dragons to three wins in four games and batted .500 for the week, with nine hits, including a home run.
“This summer, I started out lining out — I felt like every time I got up, I would hit it right at someone. Finally they started to drop,” said Kondo, who batted .324 this spring at UAlbany, where he was an All-America East first-team selection. “I’m focusing more on my hitting this year. Last summer, I had a huge focus on baserunning and just improving my game there. This year it’s more about getting quality at-bats, seeing pitchers, staying consistent.”
“He knows who he is offensively,” Pontari said. “He stays short to the ball, he can hit for average and he also has power. He really comes through in big situations. ... When you have someone who can handle the bat in the (number) two-hole, that makes life easy for you.”
Speedy and compact at 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Kondo employs his quickness both on the bases and at shortstop for the Dragons. He played second base his first two seasons at UAlbany before switching to his natural position at shortstop this spring.
“I learned a ton about baserunning — we had a guy last year that went to speed school and he gave me a bunch of tips that I brought back to school with me,” Kondo said.
The rangy, 6-foot-4 Hart, meanwhile, has seen plenty of action in center or right field for the Dragons, and was batting .293 heading into Tuesday’s game, good for fourth on the team.
“Last year, I was like the high school kid who was coming in trying to work for some playing time,” said Hart, who had a solid freshman season at Marist. “Now I’ve had a little bit of college experience under my belt, I have a bigger role this year.”
“This league has helped me a lot — last year, it gave me a first start to see what college was going to be like,” Hart added. “Some players are better than people I’ve seen in school, so playing against them is something that will help me in my school season because I’ve seen it already.”
“He’s versatile. He’s another kid who has power, he can drive the ball gap-to-gap, he pulls well, and he can hit it over the outfielder’s head — and when you can run like he does, he can leg out infield singles, as well,” Pontari said. “He’s been all over the place in a good way, and he’s given us a ton offensively and defensively.”