By Jasmine Willis
DANSVILLE — The former Wellsville Nitros Baseball Team talked with local officials and community members about the desire to bring the college team to Babcock Park.
Steve Ackley, Nitros Baseball president and general manager is looking for a new home for his prestigious team, and has spoken to the village board, chamber of commerce, and school officials about having it in Dansville.
Ackley said it was time to move from Wellsville, where the team has been since 1998. There wasn’t enough support in the community anymore for the team to thrive.
“I didn’t want to give up on the franchise. A franchise costs a lot of money. I knew I didn’t want to start over. I took a year off, and I am ready to start out somewhere fresh. We want to introduce our program to the community. We want to see community support. We need to get people interested in being host families for these boys,” he said. “We will have three coaches, and they can be a host family. We will have anywhere from 30 to 35 boys on the team. We want to see all of our boys go far. They really became a huge part of your family. I have housed about 38 boys over 15 years, and I still keep in contact with a lot of them.”
Dansville is an ideal location for Nitros Baseball since it is close to all the major highways,
and a short distance to Rochester. Ackley took over ownership of the team in 2010. Ever since he has worked hard in improving the team. Along with the prestigious feel of having a college team in the area there are other pros. The teammates and their families will be spending money in the area, which will bring great revenue.
Joe Brown, New York Collegiate League commissioner and Cortland University head coach had come down to approve Babcock Park or Nitros Baseball. He said that everything is professional on the field, and all that is needed is a safety fence and net for the balls.
Ackley talked about the challenges and importance of Minor League Baseball in the area. Minor League Baseball deals with wooden bats, and that means he teaches the boys how to hit with them first.
“I know the Dansville (Central) School and Babcock Park location since I have played games there before. I got ahold of (mayor) Peter Vogt to talk about the program and it all blossomed from there. We like that Babcock Park is bigger than the field in Wellsville, but it has the same layout we are used too,” he said. “We play a Major League schedule so we will be playing 42 games in eight weeks. We play 21 games home and 21 games away. I select the head coach and he would pick two other coaches.”
These 30 to 35 players come from all over the country such as; Florida, Hawaii, Maine, California, Alaska, and more. They all need a place to call home as they play the season, which is where host families come in. The season is June 1 to July 31.
Ackley said he grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, and he learned to get involved with the community from a young age. For this reason, community service is a big part of the deal.
The players will do the following in the season; school readings, restaurant help, jump day, parades, little league program, senior citizen support, and sponsor greeting.
There are about 12 teams that take part in these games in the season; Cortland Crush, Rome Thunderbolts, Sherrill Silversmiths, Syracuse Saltcats, Syracuse Spartans, Hornell Dodgers, Genesee Rapids, Olean Oilers, Niagara Falls Power, Mansfield Destroyers, Nitros Baseball, and Rochester Ridgemen.
There are special days such as; Kids day at park; Law enforcement day, little league night, and host family appreciation night.
The players all need to fill out a profile form to make sure who they work well with as a host family. Some might not work well with pets or have certain allergies to take into account.
Ackley said whatever rules you have in your home apply to the boys when they are here. It is important to have stable structure in the home. They will do yard work, have kitchen privileges, do own laundry, have own transportation, and help with your children or grandchildren.
“These are good boys. They are in college and looking to sign pro contracts. There will be scouts here to watch them play. We have had 43 players sign pro contracts since we started in 1998. We have had a lot of big names come through our league,” he said. “It is an amazing feeling when someone who stayed in your home goes pro. The host family is the key of the program. The host family needs to supply a bed, have a washer and dryer, allow kitchen privileges or cook meals if desired, and know the players will provide their own transportation. The memories you make with these boys will last you a lifetime.”
Another appealing thing about Dansville and the surrounding areas is the Letchworth State Park and Stony Brook. This will keep the boys out of trouble and keep them entertained when they are not playing the games. However, since there are 42 games in eight weeks, they will play about five times a week.
The benefits of being a host family; new family, instructor for children or grandchildren, yard worker, culture enhancement, travel new places, season passes, meet and greet dinner in your honor, and team picnic with sponsors.
Ackley would call it Dansville Nitros Baseball for a year since that is what the franchise has been established as, but after that a naming contest might be a good idea.
Jim Burke, former Plattsburgh head coach talked about having this kind of program in Cohocton for 12 years. He agreed that the host family is the heart and soul of the program, and that it is something you will never forget. He talked about his experience playing two teams in Russia back in 1992.
Ackley will be meeting with the league in October to talk about his final choices. He wants to have all the host families ready by Spring so that he will have a couple months to get them acquainted with the players before the season starts in June.
There will be about four meetings with host families in the wintertime to get ready for the season.
The Dansville Babe Ruth team was concerned about this program keeping them from playing their games at Babcock Park, but Ackley assured them they can work with their schedule and if needed play in Wayland or Livonia.
“I have had a passion for baseball my whole life. I am in this for the community,” he said. “I have the players talk to the kids from Arc and it makes their whole day. I have the least skilled player in little league throw the first pitch on opening game day and it makes them feel like a winner. The program is all about community. Another side to this is the revenue it brings into the area. Each player will spend about $40 in the stores and will buy food while they are here.”
If you are interested in being a host family contact Steve Ackley at 585-596-9523 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.orgNew York Collegiate Baseball League is not just about sport, but more about family fun.