Team will play games in Dansville, Wayland beginning in 2020

DANSVILLE — It’s official. The Nitros are coming to Dansville.

The New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL) has voted to bring the franchise back into the fold, approving its move from Wellsville to Dansville.

The Nitros were on a one-year hiatus in 2019 as owner Steve Ackley assessed options after determining operations were no longer sustainable in Wellsville.

“I’m excited,” Ackley said. “It’s a program I’ve been so involved in with a passion for baseball, I did not want to lose it. The community needs it. The time had come where it was time to move on (from Wellsville). That’s why the end result was Dansville. People stepped forward and wanted it.”

Ackley said an informational meeting in Dansville earlier this summer was well-attended, with the community and local government receptive to welcoming the college team to the area.

Now, the countdown is on until next summer, when the Nitros will throw out the first pitch on a 42-game regular season. Most home games will be played at Babcock Park.

“The (NYCBL) commissioner looked at the field and he’s good with the way it sits. The only thing we have to do is put a safety fence in front of the dugouts,” Ackley said. “There’s projections down the road of redoing the bathroom facilities, at some point we’ll redo the home run fence, and we’re looking at possibly three years down the road for lights. Being a town facility, other than Babe Ruth and the high school using it, there wasn’t the need for the upgrades.

“Now, with a program like this, it’s something that will bring people to the community. People are going to spend money locally. You’ve got to drive right by food and gas places to get there (to the ball field).”

Ackley said the Nitros have received strong support from village government and the Dansville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Livingston County Industrial Development Agency, all of whom are excited to add a local attraction to the summer calendar in the region.

The Nitros program will have a footprint beyond Dansville, with several host families in the Wayland area already eager to open their homes to players for a couple months during the 2020 season. Because of the support, the Nitros will play a select number of games on the diamond at Wayland-Cohocton Central School.

The area has a history with the NYCBL. Cohocton hosted the Red Wings for years under the leadership of Jim Burke, who spoke on the importance of host families during the informational session in August.

“We’re bringing in community members from the Wayland-Cohocton area,” Ackley said.

Ackley highlighted the bonds that host families can create with their players.

“It’s a lifetime experience to host a player who eventually could go pro someday,” Ackley said. “Not only is it a lifetime experience for the parents, the young kids can have 15, 20 years or more of bonding such as my son Alan did. He met a player in 2005 from Washington, DC and they still talk today. They’ve been at each other’s weddings. It’s that lifetime bond. Even non-host families that have kids, it’s that bonding as kids come to the game to mingle and meet the players. The more families come, the more reason the players have to go out into the community. We will be doing our school reading programs, we’ll be having the Kids Games with Wayland-Cohocton and Dansville.”

Many NYCBL players have big league dreams. A few even make them come true. The Nitros have had 42 players drafted over the last two decades.

“Our shortstop from 2002, Jeremy Acardo, is now on the administrative pitching staff for the New York Mets,” Ackley said, providing one success story. “He bounced around the majors and now he’s coaching for the Mets. When you have players from your hometown at summer ball go that far, it’s pretty cool.”

Ackley is in the process of selecting a coach, who will work with him to fill out the roster. The schedule will be released in late October.

“The NYCBL ownership is very strong and very organized. Everybody works together,” Ackley said. “It’s a great league, and with the addition of Mansfield last year and now with the Nitros and the Rochester Ridgemen coming back, we’ve got a 12-team league.”

Ackley would like to involve interns from GCC and Geneseo in the day-to-day operations of the program. He is open to changing the name of the franchise to something particular to the Dansville area moving forward.

“Because of the short time between now and January, we’ve got to have things going. We just didn’t have time to do it yet,” Ackley said. “We have put out the possibility of having a naming contest for 2021. There’s a number of possibilities for the name, but it’s going to take time. We want to do it right.”

To get involved in the program in any way, contact Ackley at nitros04@gmail.com or 585-596-9523.