The Jamestown Tarp Skunks were scheduled to open their Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League season in a little more than three weeks.
To the dismay of league and team officials, however, their campaign was canceled before they had a chance to take the field.
The coronavirus pandemic gave them no other choice.
“We sympathize with the college athletes who were looking forward to suiting up for the Tarp Skunks in 2020,” Frank Fanning, Jamestown general manager, said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Even more, I sympathize with baseball fans in Jamestown who need to wait at least one more summer before baseball is played at Diethrick Park.”
Added PGCBL President Robert Julian in a separate statement: “We have engaged in watchful waiting in the hope we could commence play on either May 29 or on a later date, but we are now persuaded that the likelihood and probability of either option is low to non-existent. We understand that the issues faced by our state and local governments create insurmountable hurdles that prevent us from safely playing.”
For the Tarp Skunks, the cancellation, while necessary, was nevertheless disappointing, because of the momentum that Fanning and the Jamestown Community Baseball LLC ownership group had created in less than a year, highlighted by the rebrand of the team name, alternate uniforms and fan gear.
Meanwhile, on the field, manager Jordan Basile was looking forward to welcoming players from 14 different states.
“We have been successful in recruiting players to play for the Tarp Skunks from across the country — California to Virginia, Texas to New York,” he said. ” … We are continuing on with our player development program for those who committed to us and we anticipate most of these players to be back with us next year. We should be pretty good.”
Among those players who had committed to play for the Tarp Skunks this summer were Aaron Hair of Frewsburg and Mitchell Pascarella of Southwestern who saw their high school seasons canceled last week, too.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s just sinking in that there will be no baseball this year,” said Pascarella, who is bound for the University of Connecticut. ” … It would have been exciting to play at Diethrick Park.”
In the absence of games, the pitcher/infielder said he will continue to work on his skills with his brother and his dad.
“We’ll still have competitive games going on,” Pascarella said, adding that when he needs a break from skill development, he’ll head to the lake with his father.
“I’ll try and catch more, and bigger, fish than my dad,” he said with a laugh.
Hair, a pitcher bound for Mercyhurst University in the fall, had an idea his summer baseball fate was sealed when the Cape Cod League recently canceled its season.
In the meantime, Hair said “he’ll do all he can do” to prepare for his first year in college, including continuing his weightlifting program; throwing to his older brother, Matt, and friend Mark Mammoser; and working on his pitching mechanics with his dad, Bill.
“It’s been a dream of mine,” he said of playing at the Erie, Pennsylvania school. “I hope to make the most of that.”
The Tarp Skunks will try to do the same as they look to next year.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those whose lives have been devastated from the effects of COVID-19,” said Russell E. Diethrick Jr., Jamestown Community Baseball LLC chairman. “Now, as never before, the local Jamestown Tarp Skunks group is committed to bring you baseball fun and excitement in 2021. Looking forward, the staff, management group and the Tarp Skunks are eager to hear, ‘play ball,’ at the stadium once again.”
The Tarp Skunks will continue with certain scheduled releases through the remainder of 2020, and will hope to make public appearances whenever it is safe to do so later in the year. In the meantime, it will be broadcasting a virtual series called “Tuesday’s with the Tarp Skunks” that will be offered through the team’s web network. In addition, a baseball-oriented podcast with special guests from the sports and entertainment world is also being planned. More details will be announced later.
“There are fun moments ahead,” Fanning said. “Nothing can stop Jamestown from having fun. COVID-19 has changed a few things, but it can never, ‘funk with the skunk.’ Jamestown is too strong.”
The PGCBL is a 13-team summer league in upstate New York that is affiliated with Perfect Game USA, the nation’s largest independent amateur scouting bureau.
“As the naming sponsor of the PGCBL, we support Mr. Julian’s and the owners’ decision to cancel play for the 2020 season,” said Jerry Ford, Perfect Game founder and president. “While disappointed that baseball won’t be played in the PGCBL this summer, we recognize the significant barriers with housing, player travel to upstate New York and between cities, and other factors the league faces that Perfect Game doesn’t face, as other areas of the country reopen for play later this spring and summer.”
Jamestown’s history in the PGCBL has been impressive. When the team was known as the Jammers, it reached the league championship series in 2017 and captured the league title in 2018. Diethrick Park was dark for the 2019 campaign, but was ready to go under new ownership and new name this summer.
The coronavirus had other ideas.
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