By Greg Klein STAFF WRITER
---- — Eann Cox is the first Cooperstown Hawkeyes player to receive Pitcher of the Year honors from the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
He could be the last one, too.
Hawkeyes president and majority owner Tom Hickey said Friday he’s considering a “serious offer” to move his PGCBL franchise to another upstate New York municipality after his summer college baseball team drew 599 fans per home game to Doubleday Field this past season.
“It has been increasingly difficult to do business in Cooperstown,” said Hickey, whose team completed its third PGCBL season July 31 and finished last in the five-team East Division with an 18-25 record (.419 winning percentage).
“A couple of years ago, I would not even have listened,” he continued. “But now it seems like the village has other things that are more important than having a team.”
Hickey then criticized historic Doubleday Field, which has hosted games featuring Major League Baseball players and alumni since 1940, for not being up to par with other PGCBL facilities.
“Doubleday Field is not what it needs to be,” he said. “No lights are really hurting us. Starting a game at 5 p.m. is not a good way to attract fans. It is not easy to draw fans at that time of day. If we could start at 7:10 pm., I think it would be much better for business.”
“In addition, we have no clubhouses, no showers, no office space,” Hickey continued. “And paid parking has made it more and more difficult, too. There’s paid parking in town and paid parking in the Doubleday Field lot. We asked the village if they would suspend it during Hawkeyes’ games and they said no. Well, where are you going to park for baseball games then?”
Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz offered a no comment when asked to respond to Hickey’s remarks.
Doubleday Field has never had lights, clubhouses, showers or office space. Additionally, the Cooperstown Crier reported May 27, 2010 that paid parking in the Doubleday Field lot was slated to start May 29, 2010. So paid parking at Doubleday Field already was in effect when Hickey brought the Hawkeyes to Cooperstown in 2010 as a New York Collegiate Baseball League franchise. Paid parking elsewhere in Cooperstown took effect before the start of the 2013 season.
Hickey also said the Hawkeyes’ rent to use Doubleday has increased from $8,000 to $10,000 and that he lost money this past season as the Hawkeyes spent about $17,000 to operate in Cooperstown.
“We can’t subsidize this team,” he said. “We have to at least break even.”
The Hawkeyes have one year remaining on their contract with the village. Fly Creek resident Hickey, who is a lawyer and a professor at State University College at Cobleskill, said he’s not worried about coming up with an exit strategy, if needed.
“It feels like keeping us here is not a priority for (Cooperstown),” said Hickey, who was quick to add that he appreciated the community for hosting players, filling seats and promoting the club over the last four seasons.
Hickey also was adamant in stating that a second consecutive losing season didn’t hurt attendance at Doubleday Field this summer.
“We had a good team,” said Hickey, whose team ranked seventh out of 10 PGCBL squads in home attendance this summer and averaged 463 fans last season. “We had a lot of good players. We got unlucky with injuries and it hurt us at the end of the season. We also play in a very tough league.”
Despite their sub-.500 finish, the Hawkeyes managed to produce the PGCBL’s Pitcher of the Year this season in Cox.
The NJCAA Division I Black Hawk College graduate went 6-0 with a 2.11 earned run average and led the league in strikeouts with 64. Cox also led the PGCBL in batting average against (.204), tied for the league lead in victories and finished second in ERA.
The PGCBL, which announced the award Monday, said Cox will pitch for Division II Lewis University this coming college season.
Cox follows Newark’s Dominick Ruscitti (2011) and Amsterdam’s Chandler Shepherd (2012) as PGCBL Pitchers of the Year.
Daily Star Sports Editor Dean Russin contributed to this report.