AMSTERDAM - As a child growing up and developing as a baseball player at Fonda-Fultonville, Josh Nethaway attended the camps hosted by the Amsterdam Mohawks.
Now, the last two years, he was one of the Mohawks players coaching, as he is one of three local players to suit up every night for Amsterdam.
"We always love to get as many good local guys as we can," Mohawks General Manager Brian Spagnola said. "We hate to see a guy that could be playing with us that's local going to play somewhere else."
From left, D.J. Hoagboon (Mayfield), Matt Gage (Gloversville) and Josh Nethaway (Fonda) are part of this year’s Amsterdam Mohawks roster. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
Nethaway is in his second season with the Mohawks, while his University at Albany teammate, D.J. Hoagboon (Mayfield), and Siena pitcher Matt Gage (Broadalbin-Perth) are both in their first seasons playing their summer ball locally.
"It's definitely nice," said Nethaway, who was hitting .202 coming into Friday's game against Glens Falls with two home runs and 13 RBIs. "I knew what to expect from last year. It's nice for all my friends and family to come down and watch."
For Hoagboon, spending the summers with the Mohawks came as a bit of a surprise, but playing at home gives him the opportunity to work during the day and play baseball at night.
"I can do everything I want, instead of staying with a host family that I'm not familiar with," Hoagboon said. "I get to play with kids I already know."
Spagnola said Hoagboon originally wasn't supposed to be on the Amsterdam roster, as he was supposed to go away for the summer. But when UAlbany called looking to place him on the roster, the Mohawks didn't have a spot for him. However, with the college playoffs going on, the Mohawks' roster was a little short at the beginning of the season so Spagnola invited him for a week or two to fill in.
"It's surprising actually [that I'm playing here]," Hoagboon said. "I always wanted to play here. I was always around watching games. I always dreamed of playing here one day. I'm here now."
The player invited to fill in found a way to get himself into the lineup just about every day for the Mohawks, playing either left field or behind the plate when regular catcher Matt MacDowell needed a night off. After a slow start, Hoagboon has lifted his average to .310 entering Saturday's play, with four doubles and 10 RBIs.
"He started out slow, but you could see he was going to turn it around," Spagnola said. "It was great, and we're glad it worked out that he was able to stay for the year."
Gage, the 6-4 lefty who graduated from Broadalbin-Perth, has exceeded expectations this season, after posting a 4.38 ERA at Siena.
"I always wanted to [play here]," Gage said. "It's been a reality check, that's for sure. I love the chance I got. I'm glad I'm making the most of it."
Gage, who was projected to be a situational lefthanded pitcher, has worked his way in as a starter and a middle reliever. He has appeared in eight games, started two, and has a 4-1 record with a 2.38 ERA. He has struck out a league-leading 46 batters in 34 innings.
"He threw a lot at Siena and we expected him to come in and be a situational guy, but he's certainly gone past our expectations," Spagnola said. "He's a kid who has a real big chance to be a big-time pitcher with his size and being lefthanded."
The three local players also had a hand in acclimating their out-of-town counterparts to the area, and showing them places they can go, or things they can do when they're not on the field.
"It's an advantage knowing where places are and helping these guys out," Gage said. "It's just fun to meet guys from all over the country, to get to meet them, to see what their coaches and their programs are like. It's been a really fun experience."
Spagnola said the local players can be a draw for fans coming out to Mohawks games, as evidenced by last year's field-trip day, when the Fonda-Fultonville students would "go crazy" whenever Nethaway came to the plate.
It's great because it's somebody they know and they can relate to," he said.
However, the general manager stressed that a player won't be added to the Mohawks' roster just because they hate to see local players get away. They need to be able to play competitively in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, which features Division I college talent from across the country.
"We don't take them just because their local," Spagnola said. "Those are guys that all fit in and belong here. I wouldn't take a guy just because he's local. All the guys we have are legit players."