When most people think about baseball in New York, their minds drift toward the famous pinstripes of the New York Yankees or the nostalgia of Mets games at Shea Stadium (gone but not forgotten). The Adirondacks, better known for vast tracts of wild mountains and sprawling lakes, don’t usually conjure up images of hot dogs, home runs, and a sea of cheering fans around a diamond.
Take me out to the ball game
The River Pigs are part of the independent Empire Professional Baseball League. Before the Empire League, though, baseball was a familiar pastime in the Adirondacks. The very first baseball game took place in America in June 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Teams and clubs popped up all across the country after that. In the late 1800s, there were teams in the Adirondacks, especially around industrial communities, like Lyon Mountain in Clinton County for example. A variety of teams have played in Tupper Lake over the years. (Honestly, the history of baseball in the Adirondacks is better told by historians because it is so vast.)
Where did the name “River Pigs” come from? Well, that comes from another part of Tupper Lake’s history: logging. In the past, after a section of forest was logged, the logs were floated down a river to reach the next stage in their journey. A river pig was a person who “herded” the logs down the river, using the flow of the water to move the timber. It was incredibly dangerous work to stand on logs as they moved downstream, but nevertheless, it was an important job in the logging industry, and, thus, an important part of Tupper Lake.
Root, root, root for the home team
How did Tupper Lake end up with a baseball team? In 2019, the neighboring Tri-Lakes community of Saranac Lake got their own semi-professional baseball team. The Saranac Lake Surge were an inspiration for Tupper Lake locals to get their own team.
Eddie Gonzalez, president of New York's Empire League, met with officials in Tupper Lake toward the end of summer in 2019 to discuss another team in the area in addition to the Surge. Gonzalez, impressed with Tupper Lake’s Municipal Park, agreed, and after a year of COVID-hiatus, the Tupper Lake River Pigs played their first game in town in 2021.
The River Pigs inaugural season in Tupper Lake was nothing short of spectacular.
As suspected, a rivalry was born between the Surge and the River Pigs, and many edge-of-your-seat games were played. Here are some of the highlights from the 2021 season:
- Two River Pigs players (Drew Thomas and Edward Salcedo) competed in the 2021 All Star Game Home Run Derby contest held in Tupper Lake.
- The River Pigs clinched the 2nd seed spot in the playoffs.
- The Plattsburgh Thunderbirds ultimately eliminated the River Pigs in a wild wildcard game. (But that just means 2022 is going to be a year for redemption!)
- Brandon Sattenfield was named reliever of the year. He pitched 45.2 innings in 26 games while posting a (2-1) record with 2/2 saves and had a 2.56 ERA while striking out 31 batters.
- Robert Antuñez won MVP. He led the league in plate appearances (every game!), hits (53), runs scored (36), and runs batted in (42).
- The River Pigs won Organization Of the Year! This honor is given to the team with the best facility, best municipal support, best team community engagement, best game day operations, and, most importantly, best fans.
Just as 2021 was exciting, 2022 promises to be a great season for the River Pigs at the Municipal Park. The River Pigs home opener is on June 8, 2022 against the Japan Islanders. A full schedule can be found on the River Pig’s website.
And don’t forget about all the other fun events in Tupper Lake this summer, too!
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks
Ready to see a River Pigs game in Tupper Lake? Tickets are only $5 per person and can be purchased on site on game day. Be sure to follow the River Pigs on Facebook to stay current on events, schedules, and more!
When you’re ready to experience more of what Tupper Lake has to offer, make it an entire day by the water! Kids will love the Little Loggers Playground, adults will welcome the relaxed summer concerts at the bandshell, and all varieties of outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy unlimited kayaking, fishing, and boating on Big Tupper Lake. The best part? If you get tired from an awesome day in the sun, don’t worry - food and rest are close by in town. Just be sure to catch a sunset from the waterfront park. Trust us, it will be one of the best in the Adirondacks — a definite home run.