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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2005

Knights of the diamond travel across the country

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Eating and sharing stories, sat these Knights of the rectangular table.

They sat at the Metro 20 Diner and ate a feast while re-living past glories. But, unlike King Arthur’s band of men, the Capital District Knights did not talk about war, they talked of battles on the baseball diamond and experiences with one of the most successful travel baseball teams in the area.

The Knights had returned from the Amateur American Baseball Congress World Series in Owasso, Okla. about 15 miles north of Tulsa.

Five players and three coaches — all from Guilderland — told tales of baseball glory and blunder, of good times, and of future goals.

The Knights were started four years ago by Guilderland resident Nick Colavito and, for two out of those four years, they have won the New York state tournament and advanced to the congress’s world series.

"Our philosophy, at every stage, is to play baseball at a high level," said Colavito. "We play tougher competition. Every one of these boys has aspirations of playing in college. And every one of them dreams of playing in the pros."

The Knights play in tournaments, mostly in the Northeast, but also have traveled to places such as Cocoa Beach and Tampa in Florida.

Seven Guilderland kids put on the black "NY" caps of the Knights. Nick Polsinelli, Ivan Plata, Jake Colavito, Drew Simpson, Nick Ranalli, C.J. Sohl, and Jason Westervelt represent the town.

Players from Niskayuna, Ballston Spa, Duanesburg, and Beckett, Mass. round out the 12-player roster.

Nic Trianni is from Duanesburg; Kevin and Kyle Baldani are from Ballston Spa; Chris Okonski and Ryan Kenealy are from Niskayuna; and Ken Bilodeau is from Beckett.

The Knights also took a couple of extra players to Oklahoma with them — John Shippee of Clifton Park and Travis Wilson of Stillwater.

World series

The Knights went 5-0 en route to winning the state championship and advancing to the AABC’s Mickey Mantle-level world series.

They were one of 12 teams from all over the country in the world series. Teams from New Mexico, California, Colorado, New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, two from Texas, a New York City team, and two from Owasso were also at the series.

The Capital District Knights play in the Eastern New York Travel Baseball League, which features 230 teams from different areas, and age groups ranging from 12-years-old to college-age players.

The Knights play teams from the eastern part of New York and go as far west as Utica and as far south as Poughkeepsie. They also play teams from Vermont and Massachusetts.

The Capital District nine have also played in tournaments in Florida and are hoping to take a trip to California.

Playing in tournaments helps them prepare for the world series.

"The best teams play solid defense," Jake Colavito said. "We pride ourselves on pitching and defense, but the other teams do it just as well as us. It’s tough competition.

"I was disappointed with the pitching of the other teams," he added. "But their defense was outstanding and the key for the good teams is to make plays."

"It’s good to see how kids from the South play," Ivan Plata said. "It was hot.

"It was 101 degrees normally and like 115 degrees on the field," Plata added. "It drains you when you’re from the North. You get tired quicker, and a lot of these teams play year-round."

The Knights also play for most of the year. They will play for a month or two in the fall and will play in tournaments in the South during the winter.


Nick Colavito started this team, he was inspired by the movie The Natural.

The movie is about a young man, Roy Hobbs, with a natural talent for baseball. He is about to become a big star in the sport when he is shot by a fan. Hobbs comes back years later and earns a chance to play for the fictitious New York Knights.

"The NY patch on our hats are similiar to the ones on the hats in the movie," said Nick Colavito.

"The Natural is the inspiration for the name," Colavito said. "Most teams in New York use the name, ‘Yankees.’

"Knights is a perfect name for this team," Colavito said. "These kids are all naturals."

The core members of the Knights team have been together since they were 12 years old and played in the Pee Wee Reese-level of the AABC. They all moved up to the Sandy Koufax level in the following two years.

The Knights have taken their natural talent on the road for showcase events in the Northeast and a pair in Florida.

They played in a tournament in Tampa that was organized by former Major League Baseball player Chet Lemon.

The Knights have also traveled to Michigan, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Cape Cod for tournaments.

"We’ve been to all those places and seen good competition," Colavito said. "We are working on going to California. We just need a sponsor to help us out."

A busy summer

It’s been a busy summer for Nick Polsinelli. The righty pitcher and infielder went from playing on the varsity team at Guilderland High School to playing with the Knights and even made the Adirondack Team at the Empire State Games.

"The thing about the Empire State Games," Polsinelli said, "is that a lot of the time, I knew I was being looked at by a lot scouts. It was a lot of pressure. There wasn’t that pressure with the Knights."

Games for the Knights just meant Polsinelli had a chance to play baseball with the friends he’s known since Little League.

"It’s great just to play," Polsinelli said. "It’s much more relaxed."

When he’s not on the mound, Polsinelli plays shortstop, but he already knows where his future lies.

"I have a better future at pitcher," he said. "I’ll be a pitcher in college, but I do like shortstop."

Polsinelli had to go from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. where the Empire State Games were held, to Owasso, Okla. for the world series.

"It was great," Polsinelli said of the world series. "It was a very nice facility and it was great to see teams from all over the country. We’ve played baseball all over the country, so it was great to see old rivals."

Polsinelli and his teammates have forged bonds while traveling across America and it shows in their play on the field.

Drew Simpson plays first base, right field, and pitcher. Jake Colavito can play third base, pitcher, first base, and at catcher. Ivan Plata plays in the infield — mostly at second base but also at shortstop when Polsinelli pitches.

"I love traveling with the team," Jake Colavito said. "We’re one of the elite teams in the area and we are looking for higher competition. We all want to go to college and play.

"We want to play the best and showcase ourselves and play in front of college scouts," he added.

Most of the players on the team have made sacrifices to play baseball year-round.

"They have given up other sports," Nick Colavito said. "These guys primarily play baseball and work on their baseball skills. They recognized what sport was their best."

Nick Ranalli is the only player on the team who continues to play three sports.

"We’re so serious," Polsinelli said. "We each love baseball and to give up other sports isn’t a problem. I love the game. My older brothers played and, since I was a little kid, I followed them. I started when I was three."

"I love the sport," Plata said. "It is so much fun, I enjoy everything about baseball. I’m so dedicated to the game."

But the players haven’t let their school work suffer.

"All the kids are A and B students," Nick Colavito said. "They are academically sound. We don’t have any kids on the team that fail."

The players on the Capital District Knights will continue to work on their baseball skills and will be filling diamonds in the area and all over the Northeast and Southeast during the fall and winter seasons, as well as next summer. And someday, the players on the Knights will be scattered all over the country, playing on college diamonds.

"Out of the 12 guys on the team," Nick Colavito said, "Ten will play college ball. They are all dedicated. You check back with me in four years and I’ll be able to tell you where they are all playing. They sacrificed a lot of fun to play. And that shows."

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