by Dave Warner

The Little Falls Community Outreach hosted their third lunch and learn event at the Cafe at Stone Mill. The program, which started in May, is designed specifically for senior citizens and is on the third Wednesday of each month through October.

Dr. Woolner, with the Woolner Family Eye Care in Ilion, was the first speaker and covered many of the eye care questions and topics that seniors might have. He told the group that eye exams can be covered under Medicare if you go to a medical facility “which we are,” he said.

He said that one eye exam per year is covered under Medicare. “Sometimes there is a co-pay, but with a majority of plans now, eyecare is considered preventative care and most of the Medicare insurance will now cover that.”

He reminded seniors to always bring in their Medicare card, and all insurance cards, as many plans “will also give you money towards glasses as well. It’s called the durable medical equipment allowance. Knee braces, walkers, canes, eyeglasses, those are all considered durable medical equipment and they are all covered under this provision,” said Dr. Woolner.

“Patients are shocked and surprised that these types of things are covered because you never read that big thick booklet that they send you.”

He went on to state that cataract surgery is also covered under Medicare. “We have patients that come in all the time worried that it is going to cost them thousands of dollars. Medicare does cover that surgery,” he stated.

Photo by Dave Warner – Tamara Razzano, Executive Director of Little Falls Community Outreach Center, introduces Dr. Woolner to the group.

Travis Heiser, owner of the DiamondDawgs was next to speak, and he went over part of his background, how he bought the team, and what it means to him to be the owner of the Mohawk Valley  Diamond Dawgs.

Heiser was born and raised in Canajoharie, went to school there and then went to play college ball in Boston. He came back home to the area and got a teaching job 18 years ago. “My full-time job, which pays the bills, is the teaching,” he said.

He went on to say that he got into the Diamond Dawgs “because I love the game of baseball. When I was coaching varsity baseball in St. Johnsville I got a call from the coach who was here at the time and I ended up volunteering to coach the team.”

He wanted to know if anyone had seen the movie ‘Bull Durham’. “The guy that the movie was based on owned the team in Little Falls before I bought it,” stated Heiser. “He was like the godfather of minor league baseball.” Heiser went on to say that he bought the team in 2014.

He said, “I bought it because if I didn’t, the team wasn’t going to stay in the area. I bought it to keep it here. We changed the name to Diamond Dawgs to play off the diamonds that are here. We revamped everything. Little Falls is a great city, but the reality for us was that we could not survive on the people just in Little Falls, so we added Mohawk Valley.”

That allowed Heiser to expand his area to market the team and gather fans and sponsors. “I have sponsors in Canajoharie and Syracuse now,” he stated. “It really helped us go from ten people in the stands to some nights last year where we had almost 3,000.”

A thirty-five-mile radius around Little Falls is what he considers to be his market.

“We really pride ourselves on affordable family fun. The average person can come to our games. We want people in the seats and give out probably 35,000 tickets a year. We want people there,” stated Heiser.

He feels like baseball today is a dying sport because of the high cost of attending the games. “They also put games on TV too late for kids to watch. So, we try to bring good competitive games to the area at a time where kids can attend and get involved.”

Heiser went on to talk about the strategy involved in the game and how he chooses the players that are on the team, not the coaches. “I recruit, what I like to call the blue-collar athlete. The Mohawk Valley is blue-collar. I ask the coaches two questions. First, can your kid play? If he can play, I’m interested. The second question is how’s his family, his parents, is he blue-collar, is he going to stick it out?”

“I’ve had kids that aren’t like that, and I just don’t work well with them,” he stated.

Heiser went on to say that they had won championships in 2015 and 2017. This year, the team is currently in second place, with only two weeks left in the season. “The best day in my life, was in 2015, when we won the championship at home, with my grandfather, my father, and my son and daughter in attendance. It was something I’ll never forget,” said Heiser.

Photo by Dave Warner – Travis Heiser, owner of the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs tells the assembled seniors a bit about his background and the team.

In August, the fourth lunch and learn event at the Cafe at Stone Mill will feature Steve Keiser as the speaker talking about educational opportunities for seniors, then Teri Chase will talk about gardening at the September event, and Frank Wilcox will be talking about art at the final event in October.