BY MICHAEL KELLY
SCOTIA — On the field, the goal of the Schenectady County Indians is a pretty standard one for an American Legion Baseball team.
“Districts is what we’re working toward,” said Kyle Pick, who will be a senior at Niskayuna High School come September. “We have the same goal in mind every year, and on the first day of the season we talk about winning districts.”
The district championships decide which local team heads to the state championships from the six-team group the Indians play in, referred to as District 3. The district championships start July 19 in Saugerties, and the Indians — made up of players from Burnt Hills, Niskayuna, Rotterdam, and Scotia — should be in strong position to do major damage; through July 5, the squad was 18-7-1 after going 2-1-1 in its own July 4-5 Monsters on the Mohawk Classic tournament at Collins Park.
“We’ve been having a lot of guys step up and make plays,” said Pick, one of four Niskayuna players on the team along with Joe Apkarian, Sean Connors and Tom Favata.
But the Indians’ real goal has little to do with on-field prowess. Head coach Jim DiMidio wants to help his players improve, but his real aim is to help make sure his athletes advance onto college — whether they plan to play baseball or not.
Joe Apkarian graduated from Niskayuna High School this past June and plans to play baseball for Castleton State College in Vermont next spring. He joined the Indians in 2014 and credits DiMidio — a Scotia resident who used to coach athletics at the former Linton High School — with helping him to find a place to play at the NCAA level.
“I went to the Indians not having any clue what I’d do for college,” Apkarian said. “[Figuring that out] was part of why I went to the Indians.”
DiMidio has been running the Indians for 18 years, and has a variety of contacts throughout the NCAA world that he uses to help find collegiate homes for his players. With the Indians, DiMidio creates attractive targets for college programs by finding strong students — players on this year’s team that are already in college go to schools like Cornell University and the Rochester Institute of Technology — and putting them through a baseball wringer.
“The coaches that are in touch with us, they know we practice or play every day,” said DiMidio, whose team’s schedule includes 47 games in roughly seven weeks. “So, that gives college coaches another [way to see] that our guys won’t bail on them if they can make it through what we do. The good coaches are looking for something to screen players with before they get them.”
Pick is a player that is not sure if he wants to play baseball in college. The rising senior, though, said DiMidio has helped him with his college search anyway.
“And I know if I do want to play, he’s the one that will help me,” Pick said.
When a new player joins the Indians, DiMidio has the athlete submit a list of 10 colleges he could be interested in attending. Pretty much all of his players do that, as few players come to the Indians knowing where they will be playing in college.
“We have a saying: if you’re that good, you don’t need us,” DiMidio said.
The Indians tend to take in overlooked players when it comes to the recruiting game — and it is not unheard of for players to leave the Indians with a much-enhanced reputation.
In the near future, the success story the Indians are trying to write is one about the team winning a district title. Regardless of whether the team can pull that off this summer, Pick said the team’s players won’t regret their summer with the Indians.
“Every weekend, we get four games and every weekday we get a game or a practice,” Pick said. “It’s really competitive and a lot of fun.”