By Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
---- — The Cooperstown Dreams Park is still one of the reigning draws for people to visit Cooperstown. From the first week of June to the last week of August, youth teams participate in competitive baseball tournaments each week. As the 2013 summer season came to a close, CEO Mike Walter said the park has had a very good year.
“We’re full. We have had 104 teams a week and it has been very good,” Walter said.
Walter declined to compare this year to last year in terms of revenue, but he reiterated that this year had been a very solid year.
Walter did say that it costs $850 per participant to play in the tournaments for a week. Most teams have 11 to 13 members, so it costs about $10,000 per team to play in the tournament.
Some people have to budget very carefully in order to send their kids to the Cooperstown Dreams Park.
“We had to plan all year for this financially,” said Elaina Orlando of Long Island. Her son plays for the Bayport Blue Point Phantoms.
But people still arrive in droves every summer so their kids can play baseball.
Joe Orszulak of Ware, Mass., said there is no other place his 12-year-old son, who was participating in the tournament, would rather be.
“This is a dream come true for him. For a few years he has been talking about coming here and he has read all about it. He is loving it,” he said.
“My son always wanted to come here,” Orszulak continued.
Orszulak came to Cooperstown with his whole family: His wife, Patty, sons Travis, Tyler and Philip and his daughter, Chelsea, so that Travis could play baseball with the Ludlow Lions.
The family spent part of the week at a family camp in Oppenheim and the rest at the Holiday Inn.
This is their second time visiting Cooperstown as a family; last year they came to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Many families travel great distances to come to The Cooperstown Dreams Park.
“People come from all over the country, including Hawaii and Alaska,” Walter said.
For example, during the week of Aug. 24 to Aug. 30 there were teams from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Canada, multiple teams from across New Jersey and New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Louisiana and even 12 teams from California.
Kuuipo Cashman of Los Angeles, Calif., said on Monday the trip has been a huge event for her family. It marked their first trip to Cooperstown.
“But it’s been worth it,” Cashman said. “It’s been awesome.”
Her son, Cole Andavolgyi plays for the Del Rey Surf team and said he’s been having fun playing in Cooperstown.
“The highlight of our trip so far is my son hit two home runs today,” Cashman said. “He loves it.”
Cashman said she would recommend this experience to other families and that it would be nice to see more teams come from the West Coast.
Cashman said, “The park is a well oiled machine. They know what they’re doing.”
Cashman said she and her family flew into New York City, spent a few days there and then drove to Cooperstown. She said most of the Del Rey Surf team stayed in an eight-bedroom house right down the street from the park.
“There are eight bedrooms for eight families. It was really fun. We wake up in the morning and have coffee together. Just like the boys are having a sleepover, so are we,” Cashman said.
Most of the players from the Wantagh Hawks of Long Island said the best part has been playing baseball, except one athlete.
Eric Sedig, 12, said, “Pin trading is the best part because it’s a lot of fun.”
The players of each team are given 104 pins to trade with other teams during their tournament week.
Several other players also said they thought the pin trading was really fun.
“The best part is meeting all the teams from the other states,” said Anthony Badalamonti of the Bayport Blue Point Phantoms.