Dansville Gliders make course adjustment

Chris Potter
The new changing rooms for players, part of upgrades to the ballpark at Babcock Park for the NYCBL's Dansville Gliders. [Express photos

DANSVILLE — The COVID-19 pandemic may have robbed the Dansville Gliders of their inaugural season, but the franchise is still looking to hit a home run this summer.

Owner Steve Ackley is planning a thank you dinner for host families, staff and sponsors at the Dansville American Legion Wednesday, Sept. 16.

“I wanted to do something good for the community of Dansville, especially the host families,” Ackley said. “We decided on a thank you dinner. It’s taken a lot of people to get to this point where we are now.”

The Gliders, a member of the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL), had the lineup set for their first summer in Dansville this year until COVID-19 canceled the season. The franchise had 28 of the 32 beds needed for players and coaches all lined up as early as the March 22 team meeting.

The coronavirus shut down the season a short time later, but Ackley wanted to put together an event this summer to thank the Dansville community for welcoming the franchise with open arms. Ackley previously operated the team as the Wellsville Nitros in Allegany County. Ackley kicked off each Nitros season with a welcome dinner and decided to thank the Gliders supporters this summer even though the team has yet to play a game.

“The biggest thing I can say about Dansville is it’s a tight-knit community, not only of people but of organizations,” Ackley said. “Everybody works together and supports each other.”

Attendance at the dinner will be limited to 50 given COVID-19 restrictions. Although the franchise’s first pitch in Dansville was delayed, the Gliders have spent the summer getting better — specifically, making improvements to their home field at Babcock Park. Investment by the Village of Dansville and a few private donations have helped turn the diamond and park infrastructure into an NYCBL-level complex.

“Because we couldn’t play, work began on the field,” Ackley said. “Rotary Park has never had a whole lot more done to go above and beyond what the high school needs. Now, we’ve built some changing sheds to tie right into the end of the dugout that are 16 feet long, one at each end of the dugout. The players can go in there and change their clothes, all their bags will be left in there so they’re not out behind the dugouts. That takes care of a lot of issues. The buildings are built. The village has poured pads on the end of those dugouts where these buildings are going to sit. We’ve added water at the end of the dugouts on the home base side.”

The improvements don’t stop there.

“We’ve upgraded the bullpen in left field and added a new one in right field. We’ve also added 16 foot of covered seating for the bullpen benches,” Ackley added. “The backstop was 40some years old. The fence is coming down. The pipes are going to be recoated. New black rubber coated chain link fence is going back up. Netting will be extended out from the backstop over the buildings.

“The biggest thing, over off right field where the fireman’s pavilion is, the fence has been taken down, new parking has been put in place along the road, and the whole thing will be retooled and more parking has been built behind the fireman’s pavilion. A new parking spot has been built when you pull into Rotary Park off Morey. All this was done contingent on the Gliders coming.”

The Gliders will have 20 home games (a few were scheduled at Wayland-Cohocton in 2020, with the remainder at Babcock Park). Ackley said his past estimates indicate the franchise generates $700,000 in a year, with food and dining out for players, dining and local lodging stays for families of the players, and associated team expenses.

The NYCBL is a wood bat league that draws in collegiate players from around the country joining NYCBL rosters for the summer to improve their skills. Many have big league dreams, and some make it to the pros.

Some past big leaguers with NYCBL ties include Tim Hudson, Dallas Braden and Rajai Davis, who all played for the nearby Hornell Dodgers, and Rob Scahill, who played for the Nitros.

The Gliders have been meeting once a month, while the next NYCBL league meeting is set for Sept. 12.

“The league is moving forward with the 2021 season. At this time it looks like all 12 teams will be back,” Ackley said. “The league will come back stronger. Everybody has been off a year and wants to come back better.”

Randy Mutt, the pitching coach at Genesee Community College, will guide the Gliders in 2021.

“He’s already in the process of recruiting. We’re going to put a full team together,” Ackley said. “We’ll address the COVID situation when it comes time, probably in February. We’re hoping a vaccine will be in place by then. Colleges have got to start first. Everything is hinging on that. We’re moving forward business as usual. We are looking forward to 2021.”

To get involved with the Gliders, call Ackley at 585-596-9523 or visit https://www.glidersbaseball.com

The new covered bullpen benches, part of the upgrades to the ballpark at Babcock Park for the NYCBL's Dansville Gliders.