The start of the baseball season for the Oneonta Outlaws is set for Friday night with an away game at the Sherrill Silversmiths. The first pitch of the team’s home opener is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Damaschke Field.

First-year head coach Joe Hughes is excited to take on his new position after spending two years as an assistant. He’s no stranger to the head coaching ranks, however, and is the long-time coach of the Oneonta High School baseball team. He guided the Yellow Jackets to its first-ever state championship in 2012.

“I’m really looking forward to coaching the Outlaws this summer,” Hughes said. “I think we have assembled a strong group of players from numerous Division I schools, Division II schools and top quality Division III schools from across this country.”

Hughes said the strengths of this year’s team will be found in the pitching staff, as with any quality baseball program.

“We have 14 pitchers that are committed to us this summer,” Hughes said. “Pitching is always a mainstay of a team doing well.

Hughes added that the squad hopes to play in the New York Collegiate Baseball League Championship in August but that is not their only goal.

“If that happens that’s great but our players want to play as much baseball as they can to get better so when they go back to their college teams they’ll be able to compete for starting positions,” Hughes said. “Maybe one day some of them will get drafted into professional baseball.”

Although Hughes does not yet know which team will have the top talent, he has his eyes on last year’s defending champions, the Syracuse Junior Chiefs.

The biggest challenge the Outlaws will face, however, is adapting to such an intense season.

“Most of these players are not used to playing 40 games in 44 days,” Hughes said.

The coaching staff will look to teach its players how to mentally and physically prepare for so many games in such a short amount of time.

Pitcher Michael Calkins is optimistic about the Outlaws’ potential for success this season.

“Everybody seems to be doing pretty well,” Calkins said. “We got some young guys… but we have a good amount of juniors, so we are going to look like we have some age to us. I like our odds.”

Hughes said the players and coaching staff have all been brought to Oneonta with the same mission to get better and for their passion for baseball.

“We hope to bring quality baseball to Oneonta this summer and hope people come down to the ballpark and enjoy a nice summer evening of baseball,” he said.