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Batter up at Albany Institute of History and Art

February 4, 2015

by Lauren Sears

Baseball season may be hard to imagine under the 11.4 inches of snow in Albany now, but a new exhibit opening Saturday at the Albany Institute of History and Art is all about America’s summertime game. With 14 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training in warmer climes, the new Triple Play exhibit at the institute features much about baseball – with a local twist.

The exhibit features three different components – America’s Game, which celebrates baseball’s place in the American story in arts and letters; Play Ball, A history of Baseball in the Capital Region; and The Clubhouse, which features baseball memorabilia, including seats from both Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

David Swawite’s old wooden seats from Yankee Stadium/Lauren Sears

David Swawite’s old wooden seats from Yankee Stadium/Lauren Sears

Planning for the Triple Play exhibit began a few years ago, according to Tammis Groft, executive director of the institute. The exhibits are all community-based, meaning that the memorabilia, artifacts, and pictures, were all donated by residents in the region.

“I loaned two stadium seats from the old Yankee Stadium, when it was remodeled in the 1970’s,” said David Swawite, a New York City native and a lifelong Yankees fan.

Highlights of the exhibit include a bat used by Derek Jeter when he played for the Albany- Colonie Yankees in the early 1990’s; scorecards from the Albany Senators, a former minor league baseball team in Albany; autographed jerseys from Mariano Rivera, who  played for the Albany-Colonie Yankees, and from Ken Singleton, a former Orioles player,  who is now a YES Network announcer for the Yankees; an original World Series uniform from the 1917 Series, and artifacts from the late 1800’s.

“What a great place to just walk through to get a history of the game,” says Brian Sweeney of Yonkers who now resides in Clifton Park. Sweeney is a former Major League pitcher for the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres.

Derek Jeter’s bat from the Albany-Colonie Yankees/Lauren Sears

Derek Jeter’s bat from the Albany-Colonie Yankees/Lauren Sears

The Institute is will put on events for younger Little Leaguers during the exhibits, such as make your own baseball cards and a Lego stadium making contest.

“I would certainly encourage our (Little League) players and their families to visit and see the Triple Play exhibit. History is a deeply important piece of the fabric of Albany. It sounds like a great opportunity for our youngsters, and their parents, to learn and experience that history, right here in our own city. Indeed, they are part of that history by playing at National, which is great,” said Bryan Viggiani.  Viggiani is the president of National Little League of Albany, at the intersection of Partridge and Providence streets.

Brian Sweeney looking at his collection of MLB memorabilia at the Triple Play exhibit.

Brian Sweeney looking at his collection of MLB memorabilia at the Triple Play exhibit.

National Little League of Albany was founded in 1951.

“National is the City of Albany’s original Little League. We are affiliated with Little League International, the oldest and largest youth sports organization in the world,” said Viggiani. Opening Day at National is scheduled for Saturday April 18.

Sweeney said that novice players need to learn about America’s pastime.

“I think it is real important when you’re young sometimes you don’t understand what’s going on, but when you can see it, can touch it, and realize how important history was in the Capital District it really has an impact,” said Sweeney.

“Our league serves boys and girls ages 4 to 12 from several neighborhoods within the City of Albany. We are run by 100% volunteers who serve as Board of Directors members, managers and coaches.” says Viggiani. The season runs from April to June, seven days a week.

“There’s a lot of things they can relate to whether that’s a picture, a jersey, a ball, a lineup card, there’s something they can relate to,” Sweeney said.

The exhibit runs until July 26, and admission is free at the Institute on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and on the first Friday of the month. -30-

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