By JIM KEVLIN • Special To AllOTSEGO.com
WEST ONEONTA – Cooperstown Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary. Strike out.
Derek Jeter’s prospective Hall of Fame Induction July 26 in Cooperstown. Strike out.
Even the Baseball Hall of Fame is waiting in the dugout for now. For now, that leaves one Otsego County baseball institution in the game this summer: Cooperstown All Star Village on Route 205 here.
“We want to play baseball,” is how Marty Patton, All Star Village proprietor, explained his week-by-week strategy. “The kids want to play baseball. If it’s possible and it’s safe, why shouldn’t we have some hope?”
This week, he was sending letters cancelling play to the 70 teams sched-uled for what would have been the first week of the 2020 All Star Village season, beginning June 6.
For now, he said, the idea is to continue to cancel a month in advance, week by week, in hopes of being able to hold at least some of the tournaments later in the summer, depending on how the coronavirus threat plays out.
Patton, who was born and raised in Oneonta, took a markedly different approach to Dreams Park’s, the other youth tournament baseball camp.
Dreams Park, based in Salisbury, N.C., simply posted a message on its website Friday, March 20, announcing it was cancelling its season, to the dismay of restaurants and merchants in Oneonta and
Cooperstown, as well as hotels and dozens of property owners who rent out accommodations annually to hundreds of baseball families.
Patton said he enjoys the season, as do the kids, but he also took his neighbors and fellow businesspeople into account in making his decision.
Given his roots and Brenda’s, one of Oneonta’s Colones, “We could never walk out on the community or those wonderful people who are coming from all over to visit.”
On March 22, the weekend of Dreams Parks’ decision, he announced the week-to-week strategy. “Our reason behind this was, simply: we didn’t know enough back then (about how the COVID-19 threat was going to play out) to pull the plug,” he said.
So far, Patton said, “we’ve only had a handful of cancellations. It’s amazing. We’ve had many teams coming in June request to come in July or August. It tells you the strength of the Cooperstown brand.”
During their week, All Star Village teams visit the Hall of Fame and shop the souvenir and equipment shops on Baseball Mecca’s Main Street. “We also promote The Farmers’ Museum; it’s fabulous,” said Patton, who founded his tournament venue in 1996, three years after Lou Presutti Jr. started Dreams Park.
“We’re fortunate to have what we have in our community,” he said.
Some have said Dreams Park needed to decide early on whether or not to open,because it needed to hire staff.
Patton said, for him, that’s not a problem. “Seventy-five percent of our staff comes back every year,” he said.