Oneonta Outlaws Visit Hall of Fame

By Jim Gates

The Oneonta Outlaws, of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, enjoyed a visit to the Hall of Fame before their late-afternoon game with the Cooperstown Hawkeyes at historic Doubleday Field on Tuesday of induction week. The squads are battling for the Mayor’s Cup, a newly created contest between the two towns that both have a team in the PCGBL, which the Outlaws hope to keep in Oneonta for the inaugural season.

From left to right, Zac Johnson (Illinois State University)), Lucas Leifield (Grand Canyon University), Sutton Whiting (University of Louisville) each hold a bat from an historic era of major league history. (Milo Stewart, Jr./NBHOF Library)

Similar to the well-known Cape Cod league, the PGCBL is one of the NCAA-sanctioned development programs that permit college ballplayers to use wood bats in competition, many for the first time. This allows both pitchers and hitters to further develop their skills, while not sacrificing any eligibility time with their respective colleges. The players come from schools across the United States – with this year’s distance award going to Sheldon Lee of the University of San Francisco, whose hometown in Honolulu, Hawaii.

While visiting the museum, the team was treated to a special session in the Bullpen Theater. The collection’s staff was able to present three bats from different eras of major league history, each of which brought signs of amazement and smiles to the player’s faces. As they have been getting used to hitting with the wood sticks, the Outlaw hitters have been using a variety of size and shapes, but most fall into a fairly narrow range when compared to some early models.

Everyone on the team was awed by the Honus Wagner bat, which came in at a hefty 45 ounces, five more than their weighted warm up bat. The thickness of the handle is dramatically different than the modern bats, which helped explain how a player could use just one bat for the entire season in the early 1900s. This was followed by a lighter Ted Williams bat, and then by a modern thin-handled model used by Derek Jeter, a favorite player for many of the Outlaws.

The slow modification of the bat to the lighter, thin-handled version we see today helped the players understand a little more about baseball history, and their place in the evolution of the game. The PGCBL season will come to an end during the first week of August and the players will return to their home campuses, hopefully with improved skills in playing the game and a greater appreciation for the history of America’s National Pastime.

Jim Gates is the Librarian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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