Team’s Breath-Taking Season Continues

Framed and hanging in one of the rooms that make up the spacious press box at Diethrick Park is a program cover from the 2005 New York-Penn League season. The images on that “Leadoff Magazine” are of the late Lyle Parkhurst, a Jamestown native who spent a good portion of his life in the stadium on the city’s eastside.

During his decades in the game, “Parky” was a pitcher (in his early years he played for the Jamestown Falcons in the 1940s; an umpire (he called balls and strikes for a half-century); and one of our national pastime’s best ambassadors.

And, sometimes, the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame inductee showed off all those skills within the confines of a single game.

How so, you ask?

Well, during his umpiring days it wasn’t unusual for him to call timeout, walk to the mound and offer instruction to a struggling pitcher, patiently showing the youngster how to correct a faulty delivery or how to successfully push off the rubber.

All the while, he did it with a smile.

If Parky were still with us, I’m guessing he would have been wearing an ear-to-ear grin the last two months as he watched the Jamestown Jammers — they of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League — play on his old stomping grounds.

The Jammers, who defeated Onondaga, 3-2 in 11 innings on John Conti’s walk-off single in a West Division playoff game Tuesday night, ended the regular season with a 35-14 record — second best in the league — and did so with a collection of talent that made a night at the ballpark an enjoyable one all summer.

For example, did you know:

That Christ Conley (Canisius College) ended the regular season with the second-best batting average (.382) in the PGCBL? Or that he was tied for third in home runs (five)?

Or did you realize that Conti (Canisius) finished sixth in batting (.345) and Chris Estrada (University of Texas-San Antonio) was third in RBIs (37)?

On the mound, the Jammers were just as impressive.

Dave Lyskawa (Niagara County Community College), the starter in last night’s game, was fourth in the league in victories (five) and second in strikeouts (53), while Bradley Griggs (University of Texas-San Antonio) was fourth in earned-run average (2.54).

But those weren’t the only members of Coach Anthony Barone’s squad to turn in fine seasons.

While the Jamestown native picked up talent from virtually every corner of the nation, he also received strong performances from local kids — Jamestown’s Collin Stack (University of Maryland-Baltimore County) and Westfield’s Nolan Hunt (Canisius). Returnee Ben Brookover (University of Texas-San Antonio) was an RBI machine as was college teammate Skyler Valentine, who was also back for his second year.

And, thanks to Conti’s heroics, the Jammers open a best-of-three playoff series tonight with Elmira as they continue their quest for a PGCBL championship. They won’t know for another week if that will become a reality, but sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination that is remembered most.

So, as I watched the first four innings from my perch in the press box last night, I was reminded of another time years ago when I covered a game from that vantage point. Accompanied by my then 6-year-old son, we climbed the stairs to the roof and found an open booth.

As I opened the window, Matthew climbed up on a chair, looked out at the beautifully manicured field and the royal-blue sky and said, “Dad, the view from up here is simply breath-taking.”

More than 25 years later, watching these college kids has been pretty awe-inspiring as well.