GLENS FALLS — While the Whitehall baseball team has been rolling into the state playoffs, two former Railroaders are continuing their careers a little farther from town.
Outfielder Evan St. Claire and pitcher Danny St. Clair are first-year Glens Falls Dragons, playing in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League to improve their skills at the next level.
Both were freshmen this spring at their respective schools — St. Claire at Siena College, St. Clair at the University at Albany.
They’re both Whitehall baseball royalty. St. Claire is the grandson of Ebba St. Claire and nephew of Randy St. Claire, both former major leaguers. Their dads, Steve St. Claire and Tom St. Clair — played together on the Railroaders’ state championship team in 1984. Tom St. Clair got the pitching win and Steve St. Claire picked up the save in the state title game, 35 years ago this week.
So it’s no surprise that the two 2018 Whitehall graduates have been following their former teammates’ progress this season.
“It’s awesome, it’s great for them,” Evan St. Claire said before Wednesday’s game at East Field. “I know a lot of the kids on the team, when they were sophomores and juniors, and they were good.”
“They’ve been playing well,” Danny St. Clair said. “I’ve talked to quite a few of them, we keep in touch. Obviously everyone on the team is excited to go down to Binghamton and play at a great field in states.”
This summer, the pair have been getting some work with the Dragons, though St. Clair is currently out with a strain in his back.
Besides growing up together playing baseball in Whitehall, they played travel ball with the Clifton Park-based Hayner Academy Barnstormers, along with Dragons teammate Carson Dunkel of Schuylerville.
“This year at college we never played each other, so it was different keeping up with each other,” St. Clair said. “It’s definitely nice playing on the same team again.”
St. Clair is also a cancer survivor — diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Sept. 1, 2016, just before his junior year of high school, he has been cancer-free for 2 1/2 years.
“We just had my two-year CAT scan, which is normally the last scan they do for the type of cancer I had, and the docs said just get my normal physical every year and a chest X-ray,” St. Clair said.
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Debuting in the Dragons’ season opener on May 31, St. Clair’s first inning was rough, but he put up a zero in the next inning. The right-hander pitched two scoreless innings of middle relief in his next outing.
“He’s a competitor, he’s a bulldog. UAlbany has a really good arm there,” Dragons head coach Nick Pontari said. “Danny’s looking good — his velocity is good, his off-speed is good. The thing with a lot of pitchers is monitoring their inning limit and getting them in a consistent flow and routine for the summer.”
After his debut, St. Clair said he talked with his college pitching coach about working on pitching inside and getting confidence in his change-up.
“He told me to throw it with conviction in key situations,” said St. Clair, who also throws a two-seam fastball, a four-seamer and a slider. “The next time out, I did it a few times, and I’m confident I’ve got another pitch to get kids out with.”
St. Clair said the competition level in the PGCBL has him excited for his future at UAlbany.
“Playing kids from the SEC (Southeastern Conference) who are playing all year — baseball down there is definitely different,” he said. “You learn a lot from every outing, even the bad ones. Every time you pitch, there’s something you can do to get better.”
St. Claire has been a regular in the outfield for the Dragons, playing all three spots, and was in the starting lineup Wednesday against the Saugerties Stallions. His defense at Siena was excellent, so he’s been working most on his hitting.
“Mainly just getting at-bats — getting ready to go back to Siena and have a good year there,” said the lefty-swinging St. Claire, who came into the game with a .286 batting average. “You definitely see good pitchers here, kids from all over, big schools. It’s good competition for going back to Siena, it’s definitely going to help me.”
“He swings it, no doubt,” Pontari said. “He’s working on some things, he’s making some adjustments this summer. He knows what he wants to do, he’s very cerebral. Once he gets comfortable, he’s going to take off — the sky is the limit for that kid.”
Pontari has been impressed with St. Claire’s willingness to play and bat wherever the team needs him.
“He’s a selfless ballplayer — we’ve had him starting, we’ve had him coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter late in the game,” he said. “He had a huge pinch-hit (Tuesday) night in the ninth inning that got on base (in a 9-2 win at Saugerties). He’ll do whatever the team needs. He never takes a rep off in batting practice — he’s getting everything he possibly can out of his talent.”