By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Mike Kane is a pharmacist professor at the Albany (NY) College of Pharmacy, a position he has held for the past 34 years. He was also voted into the Capital District MSBL Hall of Fame in 2020 and currently plays for the Whiz Kids in the 55+ division and the New York Giants in the 45s.
Joe Burns runs a code enforcement program in upstate New York, something he has fine-tuned for the past 30 years. He specializes in new buildings and fire investigations. Though their professions don’t coincide, their baseball passion certainly does. Joe is Mike’s teammate on both the Whiz Kids and the Giants, both league champions in 2021. Joe is in his 23rd year in the league and is also an inductee into the Capital District Hall of Fame, in 2019.
“When I started in the league in 2001, we were made up of guys I knew but hadn’t played too much over the years,” said Kane. “It started as a 38-over league and now amazingly I will be eligible for our new 62-over division next year. It’s been quite a journey!”
“I have played in the 30+ division with the Dodgers and we have won a lot of championships,” added Burns. “I left them about three years ago and started acting my age. I pitch and play middle infield now. Mike and I enjoy playing together and making memories.”
Like many of us, Mike played ball all day long as a kid. When the street lights came on, it was time to head home. He was all-conference in high school but when he was a junior, his counselor asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He said to be a baseball player. He was advised to maybe think of a plan ‘B’.
“Thankfully he steered me toward pharmacy school. He arranged for me to go hang out with some pharmacists and witness how things were done. I guess he was a pretty wise man!”
Mike’s life took hold for the next 22 years after high school and baseball wasn’t a part of it. He rarely played softball but got into running, including participating in the Boston Marathon. But during this baseball hiatus, he realized how much he missed playing and the camaraderie.
“My oldest son was a really good player so we built a pitcher’s mound in the yard and we took turns catching each other. When I was a teenager, I could always throw it by people but by my junior year everybody caught up to me so in my senior year I moved to the outfield. But when I threw some batting practice in my early days in the Capital District league after 22years, I found that I enjoyed it and had some success. Now all these years later I’m back on the mound!”
To put an exclamation mark on his decision to live life on the mound again, he threw a ho-hitter against the Dodgers in the playoffs about four years ago.
“I’m not a strikeout pitcher but I get a lot of grounders. They were good hitters, too. I really didn’t do much more than throw strikes. Everything they hit just happened to find somebody. I was more lucky than dominant.”
“Joe (Burns) is a hell of a leadoff hitter, he hits for power, and is also a valuable pitcher,” explains Kane. “He can play multiple positions and is also super-fast on the mound! Only a few seconds elapse between his pitches. The other team has to continually step out to slow him down!”
Mike’s profession keeps him from traveling to national tournaments but that day may be coming soon. Joe, however, is hopeful to make it to Florida this year for the Fall Classic or maybe to the World Series.
“I hope to retire in a couple of years so things may open up a little for me to be able to travel to Arizona or Florida,” said Kane. “At least the divisions keep getting older so there will always be somewhere for me to play.”
I asked them both if they had any final words to pass along.
“I appreciate what people have done over the years in providing an opportunity for us to continue playing, both in the league and in national tournaments,” said Mike. “Especially as we get older and can’t do the things we used to do. But we can still play ball. I look forward to being able to take part in the national tournaments that have been arranged for us. Thank you for organizing all of that!”
“Our league has become much more competitive and not as recreational,” explained Joe. “We have always had a good number of teams but now we draw teams from bordering states, like Massachusetts and Vermont. Being competitive is the key. John Reel (league president) has done a great job is keeping a competitive balance.
We will have an amazing six teams in our newest 62-over division next year. It’s wonderful knowing that there is always an age division just waiting for you!”