Will new minor league hurt Watertown Rapids?

New wood bat league formed

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The landscape of minor league baseball has changed over the past few months and that change could have a direct impact on both the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League and the Watertown Rapids

The Watertown Rapids and the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League will have some competition beginning in 2021 with Major League Baseball creating the wood bat MLB Draft League, awarding teams to areas that lost MLB affiliates when minor league baseball teams were downsized from 160 teams to 120 a few months back.

“What you’ve seen is the New York-Penn League has pretty much been dissolved into a wood bat league that’s now part of the MLB, so unfortunately that kind of hurt a lot of communities around the area,” Rapids general manager Nick Czerow said.

With both the PGCBL and the New York Collegiate Baseball League putting out the same product, many may view this as a blow to both leagues, but Czerow says he feels the publicity the new league sanctioned by MLB is getting will help both the Rapids and the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

“But what this is going to do for Watertown is bring a positive to us is this is something that our league has been doing for a decade now, it was founded in 2010,” Czerow said. We have 13 teams that we all retain for the next season so we’re pretty well established league and then what this is going to do is it’s just going to bring more light to what we already do and it’s going to give people that kind of ease of access to find us that live around this area and come see our product on the field.”

Another obvious concern with the new league would be attracting the same level talent of players and having a much smaller pool to choose from, but Czerow says as far as the 2021 Rapids roster is concerned, it’s been the opposite.

“Without as many minor league teams around, you’re going to have a lot more talent looking to find a place to play baseball, so this is only going to help us moving forward,” he said. “Our head coach, John Rizzo, who is coming back with us for next season, has already put together another phenomenal team for this year. He had to deal with the challenges of losing pretty much the entire roster from last year with COVID canceling the season and he’s put it all back together. We’ve seen an uptick in the talent we’ve been getting through recruiting with him and people reaching out just to Watertown in general.”

With vaccines already being administered and some indications of things returning to normal by summer, Czerow is optimistic about the Rapids having a season in 2021 and says behind the scenes, the team is gearing up for baseball at the Fairgrounds this coming summer.

“We’ve even continued planning anyways, beyond that so our league has been working on our COVID protocols whether a player tests positive or negative and then we’re also looking at our housing options for the future,” he said. “That’s something that we’ll have to think about and what to do with players that come in from all over the place, so pretty much it’s business as usual moving forward.”

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