Niagara Power set to open 2018 season under new direction from Niagara University
By David Yarger
The Niagara Power collegiate baseball team entertained kids, families and fans at Sal Maglie Stadium from 2007-15. After two whole summers removed from the New York Collegiate Baseball League, the Power have come back home to Niagara Falls.
On Monday afternoon, representatives from Niagara University and the Niagara Power came together to announce the return of the Power.
Niagara Power baseball recruits college baseball players from NCAA Division 1 to junior college to come and play from June to July for a season of 42 games versus teams from all over New York. In their nine seasons at Sal Maglie Stadium, the team made the playoffs three times.
Under new ownership from Niagara University, the Niagara Power will open the 2018 season looking to support students looking to get hands-on experience in the management field, collegiate baseball players looking to get better experiences and to give the community something to look forward to. Niagara is now the first institution of higher education to own and operate a New York Collegiate Baseball team.
Several NU faculty members and students were in attendance to ring in the new era of Niagara Power baseball.
Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., NU president, spoke at the introduction. He said baseball has always been close to him and he's excited for students to get new experiences working with the collegiate team.
"As we celebrate the re-inauguration of the Niagara Power, we join a chorus of partners who made this possible. At the heart of this ... as a university, it's a wonderful opportunity to create a laboratory of real life learning," Maher said.
He added it's a great opportunity for students to gain internships, applied learning, experiential learning and to build their careers as they move forward.
Dr. Kurt Stahura, dean of students for the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, spoke after Maher. He said the college has three programs: hotel and restaurant management, event/tourism management and sports management and, "This initiative will touch on all three of those programs, which makes it special."
Student Kyle Barker spoke to the audience, as well. He stated his excitement for his, and fellow students, future endeavors with the Power.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for myself and for my fellow peers that we're going to be taking on here with the Niagara Power," Barker said. "This is the icing on the cake, in my opinion, for our terms of experience. We had great experiences on campus ... and now we're gonna be able to take it from the school year and we're gonna be able to make it a year-around experience for students at our university."
Dr. Patrick Tutka also spoke at the event. Tutka, the executive director for the Power and assistant professor at Niagara, got the ball rolling in collaboration with the Power. Tutka said the process began with a meeting with former Power owner, Cal Kern, and collaboration with Sal Maglie Stadium operator Neal Turvey.
"It started back in early spring. Me and Cal Kern met, because we had contacted Cal and asked him if there would be interest in the Power possibly coming back to Niagara Falls," Tutka said. "Cal reached out to us and then I reached out to (Kurt) Stahura and said there was some interest and is this something we could possibly do? We worked together and came up with a beginning business plan, along with the support of Neal Turvey at Niagara International Sports & Entertainment."
Tutka said the university, from top to bottom, has been very supportive in taking initiative in something that "isn't a guaranteed home run," and there's been a lot of work that has gone into make this happen.
Kern said he was happy to see the team come back, and NU's support is going to be a huge help going forward.
"I'm encouraged and excited, because of the Power, first of all, coming back and partnering and teaming up with Niagara University is a big part of what will be the next season of Niagara Power. It's gonna be a lot better and there will be more things happening, getting students involved, and it's gonna bring more excitement for the community of baseball here in Niagara Falls," Kern said.
Kern added, "They came to me initially if I wanted to get back in the game and I said, 'Sure, I'd love to get back into the game.' Love the sport, love Niagara Falls, love Sal Maglie Stadium, and I'm thinking, 'Gee, let's do this all over again with more support and more help. It means a lot to me, because it puts more energy into the game."
In Kern's first nine seasons with the Power, he was all over the place, doing everything and anything possible to keep the team's and day-to-day operations running smoothly. He's going to continue to recruit players and be the chaplin of the team, but now, he said he's looking forward to a new, laid-back role.
"I can kind of kick back and enjoy the game a little bit more. I can be more of a community relations guy, watch the game and be more involved with the fans, and let the students take over and do a great job. It'll be a more fun summer," he said.
Tutka said teaming up with the Power also reflects the university's pride in its Vincentian mission.
"For us, it's really for our students to get engaged within the community and working with the community leaders, such as Police Athletic League, and the Boys and Girls Club, all those types of groups. It also allows us to partner with the city to try and come up with a different way to get citizens of the city and tourists that come to Niagara Falls to be engaged in more than just the falls," he said.
Tutka added, "Tying it in with the students having the opportunity to work with the great leaders we have around here to be able to do things and to get a really cool experience for Niagara University, for our students and for everyone involved. Then, to really touch some awesome lives.
"There are some great people that are a part of this community that loved what the Niagara Power did for nine seasons and want to come out and be a part of it. We want those people to come back and be a part of it and we want to add more and more people to that. So, sitting in the middle of Hyde Park and the middle of Niagara Falls is a wonderful place to be for the Niagara Power and for this university."
The introduction ended with ceremonial first pitches from Dr. Cheryl Rode, Michael Gentile, Barker, Maher and Tutka. The five threw the pitch to various students in the College of Hospitality and Tourism.
Tutka said the season begins June 1 and he's looking for the team to make a playoff push in its first season back.