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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

CMC Showdown: NY Penn League Style

The New York-Penn League playoffs begin tonight, pitting the Jamestown Jammers against the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Tri-City Valley Cats against the Batavia Muckdogs. It's the second series that I felt as thought I should point out.

It pits two CMC set members against each other for a spot in the NY-Penn League finals. Both managers, Dann Bilardello for Batavia and Jim Panovits for Tri-City, sat down with me earlier this summer for quick interviews. Throw in Batavia's hitting coach Roger LaFrancois and all three of my interviewees will be there. The opposite side of the bracket has no CMC set members with either Brooklyn or Jamestown.

Batavia knew it was going to be in the playoffs for several days, going in with a 45-29 overall record. Tri-City didn't know until the final day, holding off Connecticut for the division title, with a record just two games over .500.

I'm sure LaFrancois was just happy that his team was in the playoffs, but I'm also sure he would have preferred to face Connecticut, for personal reasons. LaFrancois is from the Norwich, Conn., area and he would have had the chance to see his home stadium. He didn't get to do that during the season, Batavia played Connecticut at home, but Batavia didn't go to Norwich.

While LaFrancois may have been somewhat disappointed, Pankovits told The Valley Cats' blog he was just relieved after weeks of uncertainty.

The Valley Cats got in with a Connecticut loss. The team got word of the loss in the dugout, with grins all around. The Valley Cats lost their own game, but celebrated nonetheless.

"[That sort of celebration] doesn't happen very often," Pankovits told the blog, "and I wanted the players to experience it. There's no better feeling than accomplishing something as a team. Last night they got a taste of that, and hopefully it'll continue. If we can keep our energy up and have a good playoff, maybe we can bring a championship back here."

The first game is tonight in Troy, NY, home of Tri-City. The Valley Cats are also my local team. But I won't get to go, work and all. Games 2 and 3 of the three-game set will be in Batavia. Hopefully they play all three, Batavia needs it. Their final home game, be it this round or in the finals, could be the last for the franchise in Batavia.

According to Baseball America and elsewhere, Batavia is losing money and looking for a buyer. It's also last in the league in attendance, which is too bad. My wife and I had a great time when we visited in June.

So I'm not sure who I should root for, my local team or the team that may not be local to Batavia much longer. If this is the final season for the Muckdogs in Batavia, I guess I'll have to root for their fans to see them a few more times before they go. The Valley Cats will be here next year.

13 - Dann Bilardello, Big Moment, 6/24/10
269 - Jim Pankovits, This Is Fun, 7/14/10
671 - Roger LaFrancois, Major League Catcher, 6/25/10


-Jim Pankovits, Be Ready, 7/19/10
-Roger LaFrancois, Doors Opened, 7/5/10
-Dann Bilardello, Respect the Game, 7/2/10

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