Photo: Joseph Tassin (Bossier Parish C.C) has helped turn Geneva into one of the league’s top teams in 2017. ( photo credit: Travis Larner)
By Tiffany Seal, Perfect Game USA | Perfect Game Story Link
The Geneva Red Wings are off to a hot start coming into the third week of summer league play up in the Perfect Game League. With a 16-6 record, they sit tied with the Jamestown Jammers for the top spot in the West Division. It hasn’t always been this way for Geneva, who recently joined the PGCBL in 2015, after owner Bob Ohmann bought the team and moved it from the New York Collegiate Baseball League.
“The Geneva team has been a pleasant surprise this year,” said Ohmann. “Last year it struggled, and currently coach Shwam has the Red Wings in first place. He did a wonderful job recruiting, for years I have been watching him on the sidelines, and when a position became available, we jumped on him. Fortunately, he came to Geneva and turned the program around.”
At the helm of the turnaround is first-year skipper Dan Shwam. Shwam’s career in coaching baseball spans over 30 years, with 21 seasons in independent baseball— 16 of those as a head coach, while racking up 650 victories in the process.
“He’s an old-school coach and demands respect,” said Ohmann. “His players are unbelievably good citizens this year too. The Newark general manager remarked on how well behaved they were and how respectful. That’s really a positive thing toward him because he instills the discipline and work ethic.”
Two Red Wings at the top of the club making headlines on the field are Kenyon’s outfielder Mikey Arman and third baseman from Bossier Paris C.C., Joseph Tassin. Arman earned Player of the Week honors in the second week of the season, while Tassin continues to produce at the plate, owning a team-leading .364 batting average that is good for sixth overall in the league with a top-five 17 RBIs.
“[I’ve found success in] a consistent routine and just being confident going up to the plate,” said Tassin. “And also staying consistent with my work ethic and putting time in at the cages, and just every time I take the field being focused and ready to go.”
This is Tassin’s first experience playing collegiate summer ball, and will look to carry on his success at Southern Arkansas University in the fall.
“[I’m] mainly working on my defensive play, and being consistent and making all the plays there, and becoming quicker and faster. [I’ve] been going to the workout facility here and running a lot.”
The team has access to Hobart and William Smith’s athletic training facility, where they can put in extra time in addition to team workouts.
“I think [Arman and Tassin] have come in with the right attitude and wanting to improve their game,” said Shwam. “Their skill level is pretty good, and they have just gotten off to a good start. They are fundamentally pretty sound and they work hard. They are always in the gym in the morning and always getting their work done. Tassin is always taking ground balls, and trying to improve his defense.”
With Geneva bouncing back from a statically rough 2016, with a 9-40 record, this season’s early success is a breath of fresh air for the rigorous 50-game schedule of the PGCBL.
“Most of these guys aren’t used to the everyday grind, this is like a professional season where you play everyday,” said Shwam. “And on your off days, you still have to come to the yard and get your work in, just like a minor league system would be. It’s a grind here everyday, and all you’re asking these kids to do is [make] baseball a priority.”
Baseball looks to be the priority this season for the Red Wings, with additional standouts, right-hander Alex Bellardini leading the league with four wins, and righty Brian Reed owning a league-high 35 strikeouts, while in the top five ERA at 1.55 over 29 innings in four games.
“It’s hard for a lot of these kids, because it’s the first time they are having to grind it out,” said Shwam. “You start to look at their good points and bad points and how they handle their failure, because there’s a lot more failure than success, but how they handle that is going to be the key to how well they prolong their careers.”
The PGCBL welcomes players from coast to coast and ocean to ocean, as there are several international players in the Finger Lakes area this season. Several of those players are on Tuesday night’s opposition, the Newark Pilots, who have three players from Taiwan.
The matchup on Tuesday night was a family affair, as the Newark Pilots and Geneva Red Wings share the same ownership, with Ohmann having part-title in the Pilots.
“I got into the Geneva market because we needed a little bit of a closer team to play, because of how spread out the league was,” said Ohmann. “We’ve had a really good relationship with the two cities, and that’s what has made this thing even more positive.”
Geneva, New York is located 45 miles southeast of Rochester, New York. It is just a short 30-minute trip north to the Pilot’s historic New York-Penn League Colburn Park.
“We’ve been able to grow the market share in Geneva, it was fairly dead and now last year we tripled our attendance and we’ll probably triple this year also,” said Ohmann.
Prior to the inception of the NYCBL Red Wings, the closest PGCBL team for the Geneva area happened to be the Pilots.
“When I bought the team, we moved it immediately to the PGCBL,” said Ohmann. “The reason we did that is because Perfect Game has such a great reputation, and also, the perception is Perfect Game is one of the top collegiate leagues in the country. When we do recruiting, the Perfect Game name is a huge plus, because a lot of the guys we’ve had, have been to Perfect Game tournaments throughout the country.”
Both Arman and Tassin are former alumni of the Perfect Game circuit, attending tournaments in Georgia, Connecticut and the National Academic Showcase held in Fort Myers, Florida for prospects with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
With the program starting its sophomore season, winning has become a byproduct of the team’s new coaching staff and recruiting, but the organization’s goal has remained the same.
“I always tell the guys, it’s nice to win a championship here, and that’s always a goal, but the goal is for these guys to get better, that’s the ultimate goal,” said Shwam. “Each guy comes in with something they didn’t do very well this spring and they want to work on it, to where they get back to school in the fall and they are better. All I care is that these kids are better than when I found them, that’s our big thing here.”