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A Winning Season Despite the Record

The skies darkened. The threatening clouds drew closer. A bolt of lightning flashed from the beyond the centerfield fence. After a summer of baseball two remaining ground crew members assumed their solitary work of covering home plate and the pitcher’s mound. The inevitable was just moments away. Soon the skies opened up, and Mother Nature

The skies darkened. The threatening clouds drew closer. A bolt of lightning flashed from the beyond the centerfield fence. After a summer of baseball two remaining ground crew members assumed their solitary work of covering home plate and the pitcher’s mound. The inevitable was just moments away. Soon the skies opened up, and Mother Nature had her way, washing away the bottom of the ninth inning and the Williamsport Crosscutters last chance for victory as what had been an exasperating 2019 season saw its final chapter end in a 3-3 tie with the visiting State College Spikes.

Perhaps Gabe Sinicropi, the team’s vice-president of marketing & public relations summed it up best when he described this summer at Bowman Field as “a tale of two seasons.”

Indeed it was. A team that began the season dreadfully by winning only ten of its first 37 games bounced back respectively to go 22-16 in the second half of the season. If fans thought they had seen two different teams dressed in Crosscutters colors, indeed they had. Of the roster that began the season only four position players and seven pitchers were still on the team for the rain-shortened Labor Day finale.

“Over the past few seasons player movement has been fairly consistent, but this year it exceeded the norm,” Sinicropi explained.

“The way the Phillies are working it now, similar to many of the other MLB teams, the team that we get on opening day is a team that is here to get the season started. Once the player draft is held in June, many of those players that were here will be sent down to the Gulf Coast League, and some may even be released as the draft picks are assigned to Williamsport.

“Previously, the Phillies would send many of their draft picks right to Williamsport once they had signed. Now, they send them to Florida. They work them out there for a few days; maybe even have them play some games in the Gulf Coast League. It gives them an evaluation process before a determination is made as to where the newly drafted players will begin their professional careers.”

This year’s Crosscutters team won 32 games; the same number won by the 2018 squad, fewer games won by any Williamsport team since 2012. From 2012-2017, the average per game attendance at Bowman Field was in the 1,700 range. Yet despite winning fewer games than any team since 2012, the Crosscutters showed an increase in per-game attendance the past two years. Last year the average attendance was 1,902. This year’s average attendance reached 1,944 despite losing five home dates to the weather, the most in team history.

“It was encouraging that the per-game attendance was up. While 42 fans a game is not a large increase, it is not a negative number,” Sinicropi added. “Many minor league teams are trending down, even in our league, so to be status-quo or above it is good. I think our jump in attendance over the past two years is because of the stadium improvements. It is more comfortable and a fun atmosphere to be here for a game.

“Minor League Baseball is more about the experience and less about is the team winning. For us, it is ‘icing on the cake’ when the team wins. Obviously, we’d rather have them win than lose. When they win, it makes life easier in a hundred different ways. But we want the fans to come out to the ballpark and have a good time. If people walk out saying they had fun and they don’t even know what the score was, that means that we ultimately did our job and gave them a fun experience at the ballpark.

“Despite our record, we had some exciting players. Corbin Williams led the league with 30 stolen bases. Kendall Simmons, who started out horribly, hit 12 home runs, the third-most in team history, and was selected as the team’s MVP. Logan O’Hoppe was somebody everybody loved and was voted the fan’s most popular player and volunteered for the most community service hours of anybody on the team and at 19 years old has a great future ahead of him. And following this year’s player draft the Phillies sent Bryson Stott, their number one overall all pick to Williamsport, and he had a good season. So we had some good players here for the fans to cheer for.”

Off the field, Sinicropi was upbeat about the recently completed season.

“Business-wise, it is gratifying that we are still trending up and people still like and appreciate what we are doing. It is incredibly satisfying to work as hard as we do and then to open the gates and see people having fun. To see the number of people in the stands that are wearing the team’s colors is heartwarming. If we succeed in helping them have a good time, but more importantly making memories with their family and friends, that is what it is all about.”

While things have calmed down a bit for the Crosscutters staff, plans for the 2020 season are already underway, and Sinicropi said he team’s relationship with the Phillies is on solid ground.

“We’ve been with them since 2007, and our relationship has gone better than you could have ever expected. The Phillies are an organization that takes you in, makes you feel part of them as much as they possibly can. We are the only team in the Phillies organization that they don’t own a piece of, but you would never know it. They treat us the same as everyone else, and it has always been like that.

“Things have changed over the years in baseball like they have in other businesses, and we’ve had discussions with the Phillies about things they may want to invest in regarding improvements in our facilities. Those discussions are on-going.

“In the next few months, some changes will be taking place. The visitor’s clubhouse will be redone and made bigger. The umpire’s facilities will be updated. On the players side the things we’d like to do included modernizing the home team clubhouse and providing a workout room, which MLB teams are pretty much requiring now. Currently, the team conducts many of their workouts at the Y, and the goal is to have a full workout facility on site.”

The recent field improvements made possible by MLB has resulted in making venerable Bowman Field one of the very best playing fields in Minor League Baseball.

“Even the Major League players that come in here for the Little League Classic game love the field,” Sinicropi related. “The field is taken care of in a slightly different way than even some of the Major League stadiums. They take good care of the field, and it is really pristine.”

While Opening Day 2020 is a long winter’s wait away it’s reassuring to know the Crosscutters remain a community treasure regardless of their won/lost record.

(Note: It is impossible to write this dateline without the remembrances of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, when the world as we knew it at the time changed forever. May none of us forget the innocent lives of those lost and the heroics of the brave men and women who continue their dedicated service to make our lives safe.)

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