OLEAN, NY - The Major League Baseball season opened Sunday with matches between the Cardinals and the Pirates and the Blue Jays and the Rays, plus a World Series rematch between the Royals and the Mets.
On the Greater Olean homefront, May 28 is the day the Oilers, Olean’s New York Collegiate Baseball League team, will return to action, hosting the Hornell Dodgers.
The Olean Oilers are coming off a historic season. In 2015, the Oilers won their first NYCBL championship in front of a record-setting 2,525 fans at Bradner Stadium. This year, the Oilers players will be on a mission to repeat their championship run and to improve on their regular season record.
One of the players who helped take the Oilers to the championship level was shortstop Cole Peterson, one of four St. Bonaventure University varsity baseball players who spent the summer with the Oilers. At the end of the season, Peterson was awarded the both 2015 NYCBL Defensive Player of the Year and best offensive player of the championship series.
“I am returning this summer to play for the Oilers again,” said Peterson, who is finishing his junior year at SBU. “After winning it all last summer, it was hard not to come back and play for this town again as they gave us great support the whole summer.”
Last year, SBU had the largest representation of players on the Oilers. Among them was junior Aaron Phillips.
“I was actually supposed to play for a league around my hometown in Buffalo, but at the last second a spot opened up with the Oilers," Phillips said. "They said they would give me a chance to pitch along with another position so that was the best fit for me.”
Phillips stressed that the Oilers look to get the most out of their athletes and allow them to use their skills to their highest potentials.
“I have to make sure a summer team will allow me to both hit and pitch because at this point in my career I still do both effectively,” he said.
Throughout the 2015 regular season, the Oilers hovered around a .500 record. As the season progressed, the team began to play better together and finished the season 26-20 after winning eight of its last 10 games. From there, the team was able to make a playoff run and went on to sweep the championship series against the Oneonta Outlaws with two wins.
“To play for the owner, Brian O’Connell Jr., and the coaches again will be even better this summer after winning it all last season,” Peterson said.
Bringing players together and experiencing different cultures was one part of the experience that Oiler players enjoyed the most. Bubba Hollins, who plays third base for St. Petersburg College in Florida, had never been to Olean before and spoke about how much he enjoyed living here for the summer.
“First, I was questioning if I was going to like it or not," recalled Hollins, the son of former Major League infielder Dave Hollins. "I’ve never been in a small town like Olean before and didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that I loved the place and people; it felt like home.”
Winning the NYCBL championship was a big deal for fans and players alike. A part of the experience that cannot be overlooked were the memories made among Oiler teammates.
“While winning it all last year was an unforgettable experience, the best part of it all was meeting so many great people,” Phillips said. “Players from all over the country came together to represent the city of Olean, and spending every day with them was the best part.”
The Oilers will look to carry momentum from last season's championship ending into Opening Day of the 2016 season. Fireworks will follow the 7 p.m. opening game.
Season tickets to Oilers home games will be $20. Tickets per home game will be $3 each or two for $5. No admission will be charged for youths 17 and under.
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