LAKE PLACID - The last time Rik Cassidy coached American Legion baseball in Lake Placid, he headed a team for eight years that drew plenty of talented young players who competed during the summer months.
But that run ended in 1996, and now Cassidy is forming a new team this year that will play in a wooden-bat league. With more than 40 years experience coaching baseball and hockey, Cassidy will be the head coach of the Lake Placid American Legion Post 326 team that will compete in the Next Level Baseball League (NLBL) for players ages 17 and under.
This marks the second year in existence for the NLBL, and with the addition of Lake Placid, the league now features 10 teams. Also competing are four teams from Vermont, as well as squads from Plattsburgh, Whitehall, South Troy, Saratoga and Montreal.
Rik Cassidy, left, accepts a $1,000 donation from Lake Placid American Legion commander Zay Curtis, center, and vice commander Bob Marvin last month to kick off a fundraiser for a new baseball team.
(Photo — Jenette Cassidy)
Cassidy said Lake Placid's team will draw players from across the Adirondacks and the Champlain Valley.
"The first couple of years I was beating the bush to get players," Cassidy said earlier this week. "I had to beg kids to play at the start, but it didn't take long until I had to cut players. It got to the point where I would keep the best 15 players each year.
"In the Adirondacks, baseball is kind of like the wicked step-sister to sports like hockey and skiing, but there are a lot of good baseball players up here," Cassidy added. "I want to let the kids know that if they want to play baseball, try this league out."
Cassidy said he likes the fact that the NLBL is a wooden-bat league that doesn't use composite bats that are proving to be more dangerous.
He said many of the players who were on his past teams moved on to compete in college, and six of his former players are currently coaching high school squads.
"Legion baseball is competitive," Cassidy said. "You're going to see some good players out there."
Post 326 will play a 32-game regular-season schedule that starts June 7 and runs through July 27, and is followed by playoffs. Cassidy said Lake Placid is fortunate this summer as most of its games will be at home on the North Elba Show Grounds diamond.
"We're pretty fortunate this year that most of our games will be at home," Cassidy said. "I guess teams are pretty excited to come and play in Lake Placid."
Compared to other teams where players have to pay to play, Cassidy said there won't be a fee to join Post 326. Cassidy is in the process of raising $7,500 for his team, and the Lake Placid Legion Hall kicked off the drive by donating $1,000. Tryouts will be held June 1 and 2 on the Lake Placid High School diamond at the North Elba Show Grounds.
For more information, call Rik Cassidy at 524-4951.