In Binghamton, New York, there aren’t too many sporting events to attend.
On the west side, you can go onto the campus of Binghamton University, a Division I school. Downtown, at Floyd K. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, the AHL Binghamton Devils play and every late March the arena fields the final four of the New York State Men’s Basketball Championship.
Less than a mile walk from the arena is NYSEG Stadium, home of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies since 1992.
Binghamton has been a recurring host of professional baseball since 1877. But, with MLB’s proposed plan of eliminating 42 minor league baseball teams, the city may be left without a baseball team for the first time since 1991.
On Saturday, Michael Mayer of MetsMerized reported that the New York Mets would be losing two of their minor league teams, including the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Brooklyn Cyclones would be moving up to Double-A to replace them.
On Wednesday, Rumble Ponies President John Hughes said that the recent reports of their team being eliminated are “disingenuous.”
“This is nothing that hasn’t been out there forever… For it to be coming out as now shifting into fact and a closed deal is disingenuous.,” Hughes said.
On Tuesday, season ticket holders received an email saying that the recent reports were false.
“As of today, no news has been shared with the Rumble Ponies ownership or Front Office Staff in regards to the 2021 season. Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball continue to discuss the contracts that must be in place this September,” the email read. “However, please note at this time no decisions have been made.”
Whoever you speak to from the area, there remains one common denominator: Binghamton loves its baseball. From fans of all ages to the players themselves, it has always seemed like the baseball community in Binghamton has been strong.
On social media, the reaction was all consistent: pure devastation.
“If this actually happens and the Ponies leave Binghamton, I will probably leave this area because I have no reason to stay,” Binghamton area resident Tim Szczesny said. “Baseball is what keeps me going. It is my only down time and I will/would do anything for the team.”
Szczesny has been attending Bignhamton baseball games his entire 27-years of life.
He’s a member of the Binghamton Baseball Booster Club, which starts youth baseball charity events and other fundraisers, and has created t-shirts to show their support for the team. The club would create “welcome back packs” to give to players which had gift cards, coupons, and even snacks for road trips.
“[The loss of the team] would be a big impact. People in our area can’t always afford to travel to see MLB games. This is a way people can stay connected to the game and grow to love the game,” Szczesny said. “People don’t realize how important AA baseball is to the minors.”
If the Rumble Ponies are officially eliminated, the next closest minor league team would be the Syracuse Mets, over an hour ride from the Binghamton area.
“I think I’m going to miss just being able to watch the game for the cost. Being able to go to those games as a kid made me realize that I love the game and really got me into it,” Alfred State University student Dom Francavilla said. “Chances of meeting players and chasing foul balls as a kid on a hot summer and yelling at players was the best.”
It’s not just the locals who loved the team, the players had experiences that will last a lifetime.
“I lived in a house with 10 other guys. There were only three bedrooms. The rest of us shared the attic and slept in cots or sleeping bags. It was a fun and crazy experience,” former Binghamton Met and New York Met Josh Satin said. “Guys who lived there still talk about the experience to this day even though all of us are living in different cities and doing different things.”
Satin also commented on how fun the local bar scene was downtown and of course, like every Upstate New Yorker, loved his Wegmans.
In Binghamton, every Rumble Pony game is an event. If you ask anyone who has attended Binghamton baseball games over the past few years, they likely knew who David “The Yodeler” Spence was.
Spence was a season ticket holder for both of Binghamton’s baseball and hockey teams since 1982; he passed away at the age of 95 in April.
“He was a legend,” Satin said. “Someone I will never forget.”
Every time there was a double-play situation he would yodel “GeT a DdOoUubBlLlee Playyyyyyyee,” as Szczesny described it. In between innings, Spence would play his harmonica and play the spoons.
“Everyone knew him,” Szczesny said.
In Binghamton, it’s the personal interaction that makes the games so special.
“One of the staff members and I have become very good friends,” Binghamton native Nate Ostrander said. “All of the staff is very friendly, helpful, and kind.”
“They were always great to me,” Satin said on the NYSEG staff. “Always treated me and every other player with the utmost respect.”
Satin, who played with the New York Mets in parts of four seasons, spent the majority of his 2010 and 2011 seasons in Binghamton. Satin credits his success in making it to the majors because of his time in Binghamton. The fans in the area were something that stood out to Satin.
“Unlike most of the other Mets affiliates, most Binghamton fans were also Mets fans which I think made a huge difference in how much they supported us,” Satin said. “They were passionate about our team and the Mets organization and therefore were a lot of fun to play in front of.”
The fans always loved interacting with players. What made Binghamton so special was the fact that fans had many opportunities to create memories and meet players.
Karson Tofte, Owego native, said he would spend most of his summers from the age of 12-16 at games. He was around the stadium so much that in 2014 he created a relationship with current New York Met Steven Matz.
“Whenever he saw me around, he would be sure to say ‘Hey Karson, how are you doing buddy?’ At the time I was 12 years old, and that really meant the world to me,” Tofte said. “I grew up in a Yankee household. Without the experience of going to games in Binghamton, I wouldn’t be the huge Mets fan that I am today.”
Francavilla was a batboy for the Binghamton Mets from when he was 12 to 14 years old. Some of his fondest memories also include Matz, watching him pitch up close and joining in and running onto the field as they won.
“Pete Alonso was a great guy, always happy to see kids,” Ostrander said. “He would even give the batboy a high five when he hit a homer.”
It always felt like the players would always be a part of the Binghamton community. That one-on-one opportunity in Binghamton may not be a possibility again.