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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
The New York Collegiate Baseball League will be coming to Horseheads this summer as the Mansfield Destroyers will now be rebranded as the Horseheads Hitmen.

Team owner Larry Gill made the formal introduction on Tuesday in Horseheads. Games for the Hitmen will be played at the Horseheads Babe Ruth Field.

For Gill, the tradition in the area was a big part of the draw for the team to come to Horseheads.

“It’s an exciting time,” Gill said. “The rich history of baseball in the region from Little League to Babe Ruth into high school, college and the Major Leagues. That’s the biggest reason why I choose Horseheads. I’m from Horseheads, I live there now. I grew up in Webb Mills. Coming back this way was a thought and when I spoke to Nate Nagle, who is the Village Manager about it, he was on board right from the get go. All the Village trustees were on board, the legislature for the Horseheads area was on ball, it started snowballing.”

The Babe Ruth field also has something that Mansfield didn’t have, which is lights. The lights and a tradition of supporting baseball was a big reason for the move.

“It’s the lights and the community support,” Gill said.

The move to New York will make trips a lot closer for the games against teams in the East and a little closer for games against teams in the West.

“Getting all the teams back in New York was a big thing too,” Gill said.

For Gill it’s definitely easier having the team where he lives.

“A lot more convenient for me,” he said. “That 45 minute drive when you are doing it every day in the summer. 42 games in 49 days, pretty much an every day thing. It’s going to be nice to jump in my car drive down the road 10 minutes and be at the ball park.”

There will be plenty of upgrades to the Babe Ruth field which will also benefit kids in the area.

“We will do a lot of upgrades there at the field,” Gill said. “The outfield fence, there is upgrades going on. There is supposed to be a new scoreboard coming in, new bullpens coming in, batting cages being put in. The lights, hopefully, will be retrofitted before the season starts with LED. A lot of exciting and fun things coming.

“This is the Babe Ruth field so all the upgrades I’ll be doing will also allow Babe Ruth to use these facilities. It will be able to improve their players by having the added things.”

One big thing about the team is that it will have a very local feel, with nine local kids signed so far from the surrounding area to be on the team. Players on the team will be released in the coming months as it gets closer to the June 5 start. The NYCBL plays from the beginning of June until the end of July.

There were some local players on the team last year when they played in Mansfield, including Ryan Scott and Dylan Ribble of Horseheads; Dylan Swartwood and Michael Brown of Edison and Grayson Saltzer of Corning.

Gill wants to make the games a family friendly atmosphere, and the admission will be just $5 a car load.

“Whether one person is in the car, or you have a car packed with eight or nine people it’s $5,” Gill said. “We are trying to make it affordable  for people to come out and enjoy baseball.”

Founded in 1978, the NYCBL is partially funded by Major League Baseball and a number of former players made it to the Major Leagues, including eventual all-stars JD Martinez and Hunter Pence. Tim Locastro, who played at Ithaca College, played in the NYCBL and is currently in the Major Leagues, playing for the Yankees this past season.

Former Horseheads star Kirt Manwaring, who earned a Gold Glove as a catcher in the Major Leagues, played in the NYCBL as well.

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