When the Dodgers and Giants left New York, there was a baseball void to be filled. The Mets came on the scene, and now are celebrating their 60th anniversary as New York’s National League team. As the Mets chase their sixth National League pennant, another new team is preparing to join the New York baseball fraternity in 2022.
After the Staten Island Yankees played their last game in 2019, minor league baseball was done in the borough, and that began an active effort to bring the game back to replace the local team.
Next month, baseball will return to Staten Island after a two-year absence, as the Staten Island FerryHawks are ready to fill add another chapter in New York baseball lore.
Room For More Baseball In New York
New York once had three Major League Baseball teams, and minor league baseball has been successful in Brooklyn, where the Cyclones have consistently been leading the New York-Penn league in attendance. The Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball have been in existence since 2000, and according to the team’s website, they have led the league in attendance 15 times.
It has always been apparent that New Yorkers love their baseball at all levels, so there is certainly room for a rebirth of the game in Staten Island, at Staten Island University Hospital Community Park. Baseball will live again in Staten Island starting on May 3 at 6:30 p.m. ET, when the FerryHawks play their first-ever home game in the Atlantic League against the Lexington Legends.
The FerryHawks will begin their inaugural season on April 21 at Charleston, with former New York Mets second baseman and local legend Edgardo Alfonzo as the manager. He guided the Cyclones to the 2019 New York-Penn League championship.
Pitching coach Nelson Figueroa is a Brooklyn guy who realized a boyhood dream by pitching for the Mets as a Major Leaguer, and he was a star in the 2013 World Baseball Classic on the Puerto Rican National Team.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring professional baseball back to Staten Island,” Figueroa told The Game Day. “People like Edgardo and myself are going to ensure that this organization is going to be run as professionally as possible, and show everyone that winning is fun. There is going to be an exciting atmosphere with a high level of baseball that everyone can enjoy.”
The FerryHawks made national headlines this past weekend, signing Kelsie Whitmore, a standout from the U.S. Women’s National Team who won a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games and a silver medal in the 2014 Women’s Baseball World Cup. Whitmore, a pitcher and outfielder, became one of the first women to sign a contract with a league that is affiliated with Major League Baseball.
In late February, the FerryHawks’ first-ever signing was first baseman Kacy Clemens, the son of former Yankees Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series champion Roger Clemens. The Clemens signing came shortly after the FerryHawks announced honorary “signings” of all of Staten Island’s little league players. Youngsters were told to be on the lookout for FerryHawks team representatives at their local registration days for an opportunity to sign “futures” contracts and receive complimentary game passes.
The FerryHawks name was chosen by Staten Islanders in a fan ballot, and the logo features a hawk hitting a home run into the New York Harbor, which is a tribute to baseball legend Bobby Thomson, a Staten Islander who hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to win the 1951 National League pennant.
FerryHawks Fly Big Names Into Town
The team is already getting significant backing from some very prominent local figures. Two of Staten Island’s top celebrities, comedians Pete Davidson and Colin Jost are part of the team’s ownership group that also includes their Saturday Night Live buddy Michael Che. Yankees president Randy Levine is also part of the group, lending further credibility to the new ballclub.
After the Yankees withdrew from Staten Island after the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, the New York Economic Development Corporation worked with the Atlantic League to ensure that Staten Island would not be without professional baseball for long. In the summer of 2021, the team was officially approved to join the Atlantic League.
Staten Island Entertainment, the group that owns the FerryHawks, set out to make several renovations and upgrades to the ballpark that will be evident upon its re-opening. Most notably, there will be a new turf field and enhanced viewing areas. The remodeled ballpark is also expected to host many events such as concerts and festivals. So far, Figueroa said, there has been a very enthusiastic local response to the arrival of the FerryHawks.
“This is a great chance for the Staten Island community to embrace baseball, and the community at large has been very supportive,” he said. “Local businesses have expressed a lot of enthusiasm for baseball being back in Staten Island.”
The FerryHawks promise to deliver an atmosphere full of fun and entertainment, and to brighten up their refurbished ballpark with what is most important, winning baseball. Team president Eric Shuffler says that having Alfonzo leading the ballclub as its skipper will be the needed spark for victories.
“Alfonzo brings instant championship credibility. He is a proven winner, and popular with New York fans. His experience as a player and manager will attract top-caliber talent and his coaching skills will make our players better. He understands our core commitment to community engagement and Staten Island focus,” Shuffler said.