February 2011

March Madness: Busy business, promos and a Spring Training celebration!

March has finally arrived! It’s a great month for so many reasons. Spring Training is in full swing, the weather turns warmer, the days get longer and the first day of Spring will soon be upon us. Which means there’s only a few months until the beginning of our 10th anniversary season.
In the office this time of year, there’s lots of business to be taken care of before Opening Day on June 17th. From acquiring corporate partners to finding groups to come out to the ballpark. From finalizing the 2011 promotional schedule to creating the 2011 pocket schedules. Not to mention the process of hiring full-time interns and over 200 part-time employees. 
The 2011 promotional schedule is coming along very nicely and there are going to be some very awesome giveaway items this season that everyone will surely enjoy, including two bobbleheads for sure. We’ll be releasing the promo schedule very soon. The production process on the 2011 Pocket Schedules is going very well and ahead of schedule this year and we should have them in house by the middle of March, hopefully by the 15th.
Here’s a photo of my desk while working on the pocket schedule:
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While the marketing materials such as the calendars, schedules, programs, etc. are being created, our sales team is working in overdrive looking for companies who might be interested in advertising at the stadium or having a company outing in one of our popular picnic areas or suites. We work with all the companies to find the best means of promoting their product and increasing their business. A company might not like our outfield fence signs, but would like to interact more with our fan base by sponsoring a night or having a table on the concourse. It differs depending on the goal of each company.
Here is one of our full time sales assistants, Mike Johnson, on the phone with a prospective group:

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Each Thursday our sales team picks out of a “goal bowl” with the objective of assigning each member of the sales team with a goal or task for the 2011 season. It could range from targeting a certain type of group, taking ownership of a promo date or finding a sponsor for one of our giveaway items. It keeps the team energized, focused and on track.
Chris Dawson picking from the “goal bowl”:
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Believe it or not, Opening Day tickets are going extremely fast due to the success of our 2011 mini-plan packages. There have also been a number of groups that have booked their outing on Opening Day as well. At this point, mini-plans, group outings and obviously season tickets is the only way to guarantee yourself a seat on Opening Day. Individual tickets will be going on-sale in the near future. We’ll make that announcement along with our promo schedule release. 
Click here for information on our 2011 Mini-Plans. Packages start at $30 and include tickets to six of our best games and a guaranteed giveaway item. 
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Every March for the past three years I have had the pleasure of attending Astros Spring Training, and this year will be the most special. Our 2010 ValleyCats championship team will reunite for the first time since they flew out of Albany the day after defeating Brooklyn. Since the ‘Cats won the championship, most of the players have been at home. Some of them work part time jobs and others even take classes to earn their college degrees, such as Brandt Walker. He attended classes at Stanford along with former ‘Cat and Astros starting catcher Jason Castro. Brandt recently had surgery on his knee and will rehab this entire season. We wish him the best of luck with a full and speedy recovery.

The Astros are currently holding a special mini-camp for certain minor leaguers and it began this past week. Former ‘Cats attending include Jake Buchanan, Bobby Doran, Carlos Quevedo, Andrew Robinson, Ben Heath, Chris Wallace, Tyler Burnett, Enrique Hernandez, Mike Kvasnicka, Marcus Nidiffer, Telvin Nash and Austin Wates.

The entire minor league staff reports on March 4th (pitchers) and March 5th (position players). 
On March 6th they will begin a spring game schedule where the Astros minor leaguers will play minor leaguers from other MLB teams. Games are played at home in the many backfields of Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee and also on the road at other Major League Spring Training facilities.

I’ll be in Kissimmee from March 18th through the 23rd, during which I will provide you with special coverage of everything going on at the backfields of the Astros Spring Training complex. I’ll catch up with all your former ValleyCats and introduce you to members of the new 2011 coaching staff. I’ll be providing Twitter updates, uploading photos and videos and blogging about each days activities right here on ‘Cats Corner. 

On the evening of March 22nd the Astros will hold a very special ring ceremony during a dinner reception at the Major League Spring Training complex. At that time, each member of the ValleyCats 2010 championship team will receive their rings. The entire minor league staff, major league staff and Astros front office will be attending the dinner, which will make for a very memorable night for everyone including myself. I will be covering the event and will post a recap of the night. Everything will be located in one spot on our VCN page. 

Have you got a request for us during Spring Training? Someone we should talk to or question we should ask? We’re taking suggestions through our Twitter page…Send a tweet to @ValleyCats and we’ll try to fulfill your request.

If you would like to follow everything else that’s going on at Astros Spring Training, social media guru Alyson Footer provides, in my opinion, the best coverage of any major league spring training. Click here for Alyson’s blog.

Last week our front office attended RPI Puckman’s 30th birthday celebration during the men’s hockey game in Troy. SouthPaw, Rowdy and the mayors were there to present Puckman with a huge birthday cake! Here are some photos from the night…
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SouthPaw Checking Puckman.jpg
SouthPaw was a mischievous cat on this night…
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SouthPaw_Guy On Phone.jpg
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What do you think of SouthPaw’s reporting skills?

108 days until Opening Day June 17th!

Renovation Celebration: 4 in 24 Fields Announced

Much time has passed since the idea for ‘4 in 24’ was first put on the table, until last night when the four chosen leagues came together to celebrate the official announcement. 

It started with deciding on a name for the program. We knew that we were going to renovate four fields in twenty four hours, but what were we going to call it? It had to be something catchy and with a good ring to it. ‘4 in 24’ seemed like the natural fit. 
Next step was to come up with a good eye catching logo. We decided that we’d like to incorporate a clock into the logo to designate the twenty four hour time span. Then to give it a baseball feel, we added the infield diamond and grass texture.
Next was to seek corporate sponsors, and were very grateful when Friendly’s, Price Chopper, CDTA and The Brickman Group “stepped up to the plate” to help aid the ValleyCats in this exciting project. With such great partnerships, the over one thousand children who make up the four leagues will be able to begin their 2011 baseball season with essentially a brand new playing surface. 
Applications were accepted from almost 40 leagues throughout the Capital Region, making for an extremely tough selection process.
“We received a great response from youth leagues all around the Capital Region and would like to thank them all for participating. After a challenging selection process, we have chosen four fields that we feel best fit the objective and scope of this project. Expanding our annual field renovation program is just the next step in our mission to provide safe and well-maintained fields for youth sports organizations throughout the community. As an ambassador for the great game of baseball, we will hold true to that mission for years to come,” ValleyCats Vice President/General Manager Rick Murphy said.

All leagues that were not chosen will receive an informational sheet on maintaining their field along with an instructional video on how to properly rebuild the pitcher’s mound and home plate areas. Also, this will definitely not be the last year that field renovations will take place and we encourage each league to apply again next season.

Without further ado, here is the list of the four chosen fields that will be renovated:

Westland Hills Little League

      LOCATION: 56 Lawnridge Ave, Albany, NY 12208

      TEAMS: 40-44  PLAYERS: 500-600  AGES: 4-16

      2011 Opening Day: April 23, 2011

      League President: Michael Patnode

      Facts:  – In operation for over 75 years and serves the inner city boys and girls             

                    – Offers scholarships to those that cannot afford to play


Ballston Spa Jr. Baseball League

      LOCATION: Malta Avenue, Ballston Spa, NY 12020

      TEAMS: 24-26  PLAYERS: N/A  AGES: 8-13+

      2011 Opening Day: April, 2011

      League President: Neal Hastey

      Facts:  – Relies solely on sponsors and league fees to run program/maintain facilities            

                    – Fields named after Abner Doubleday, who was born in Ballston Spa


Northside Little League

      LOCATION: Van Vranken Ave & Vandebogart, Schenectady, NY 12308

      TEAMS: 21  PLAYERS: 250+  AGES: 5-12

      2011 Opening Day: April 23, 2011

      League President: Tony Derenzo

      Facts:  – Located in a lower income community, it is a safe haven for local children          

                    – Established in 1950’s, league was once a crown jewel with a large 

                       enrollment and several district championships.


Scotia-Glenville Little League

      LOCATION: Collins Park, Schonowee Ave, Scotia, NY 12302

      TEAMS: N/A  PLAYERS: 300  AGES: 5-12

      2011 Opening Day: April 25, 2011

      League President: Joe Gatta

      Facts:  – Divisions consist of Majors, AAA, AA, Instructional and T-Ball

        – League has about 25 board members volunteering their time to keep the league


The announcement last night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy was made by members of the ValleyCats front office and title sponsor’s Friendly’s, Price Chopper, CDTA and the Brickman Group. Former standout athlete from the Capital Region and current New York State Assemblyman James Tedisco was also in attendance. Most importantly, each league had outstanding representation. League presidents, vice presidents, parents and children all showed up in droves.

Here’s a photo recap of the night:

Photo’s from past field renovation projects lined the countertop along with the ValleyCats championship trophy:


ValleyCats Media Relations Manager Chris Chenes kicked off the announcement by welcoming all in attendance:


Chris then introduced ValleyCats Vice President & General Manager Rick Murphy to make the formal announcement:



Each league brought a number of children, most dressed in their little league uniform shirts & caps:



Stadium Operations Manager Keith Sweeney was next to the podium to outline the strategy on how the four fields will be renovated in a 24-hr span and also what renovations would take place:



To outline what Keith mentioned, here’s how the renovations are going to happen. They will take place beginning the morning of Friday, April 15th and will be completed by Saturday morning April 16th. To begin the process, the ValleyCats will separate their crew into two groups. One will begin in Ballston Spa and one will begin at Westland Hills in Albany. After those fields are completed, all will diverge upon Schenectady and begin work at the Northside and Scotia-Glenville Little League fields. The ‘Cats front office, grounds crew, and many volunteers will work around the clock to get each field completed.

Assemblyman James Tedisco joined us for the announcement and we were very happy to have him. He grew up in the Schenectady area, was a standout basketball player growing up (he joked about just being able to see over the podium, but yes he was a great ballplayer), and he knows how important it is for the youth of the Capital Region to have good facilities to grow up on. 


Each of the title sponsors were represented as well, with each saying a few words. First up was Albany Branch Manager for The Brickman Group, Ryan Panarese:


CDTA Director of Marketing, Jonathan Scherzer:


Albany Market Manager for Friendly’s Restaurants, David Bailey:
Price Chopper Vice President of Public Relations & Consumer Services, Mona Golub:
At the end of the program, everyone came together for photos. As you can see, the turnout was tremendous.
The photo below is courtesy of J.S. Carras of the Troy Record. You can read their article written by Andrew Santillo on the ‘4 in 24’ program here.
Screen shot 2011-02-18 at 1.45.04 PM.pngWe’ll now coordinate with each league to come up with a detailed plan for April’s renovations and before you know it, Opening Day will be here.

Time to start thinking baseball!

On Saturday, February 12th, I attended open
registration for Saratoga American Little League at Walton’s Sports Store in Saratoga Springs. With
the Super Bowl over, the weather starting to turn slightly warmer and pitchers & catchers reporting to spring training, what better time
to start talking baseball? 

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Open registration ran from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. If you missed sign-ups, you can still register your
child online. Just go to the leagues website at http://www.saratogalittleleague.org/.
Registration for the 2011 season will conclude on March 18th, and
tryouts for minor and major league divisions will be held on March 19th
at the Saratoga High School gym.


Along with sign-ups for the league, parents were able to register their children for a special three day baseball camp to be hosted by the New York-Penn League Champion Tri-City ValleyCats in Saratoga this summer. Children who register for this three day camp will receive professional instruction from ValleyCats players, a FREE limited edition ValleyCats souvenir hat and 4 tickets to the July 31st ValleyCats home game at “The Joe.” 

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This three day camp will be hosted at the East Side Recreational Complex on July 27th thru 29th. For more information, please visit the Academy Camps section of our web page. Or call (518) 629-2287.


Giddy Up!

Check out the latest toys in the promo room! We’ll be debuting these as an added in-between innings contest. These inflatable horses come in a small size for kids and larger size for adults. 
Michelle has been busy this week going through the process of finding new items to feature in our team store, SouthPaws Den this season. Some new items include long-sleeve t-shirts, mesh shorts, home and away replica jerseys in adult sizes, new championship gear (including jackets) and much much more.


This week our parent club, the Houston Astros, began shipping equipment and gear from their ballpark in Houston to their Spring Training complex in Kissimmee, FL. Astros blogger Alyson Footer documents that here
Florida isn’t the only place the Astros are shipping things too. This week we received boxes of shorts and equipment for the players. Even though we don’t receive our players until June, we will constantly receive packages from the Astros to get ready for the 2011 season.
The Siena College Athletic Department will recognize the Tri-City ValleyCats 2010 New York-Penn League Championship during halftime of the Siena mens basketball game on Wednesday, February 16th at the Times Union Center in Albany. 

The ValleyCats will have a booth set up on the concourse displaying their championship trophy, handing out 2011 game schedules and giving away prizes. Fans will have the opportunity to sign up and win an authentic ValleyCats championship ring. SouthPaw will also be on hand entertaining Saints fans and signing autographs. 

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. as the Saints take on Saint Peter’s in a league matchup. Tickets will be available at the Times Union Center Box Office, online at www.timesunioncenter-albany.com, select Ticketmaster Outlets or charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000. The game will also be televised live by Time Warner Cable Sports on TW3. 


125 days until Opening Day!    

Remember the Titans

Over the past few weekends, the ‘Cats have lent their baseball knowledge to the Clifton Park Titans of the Clifton Park Baseball League. Under the assistance of ValleyCats General Manager & former Boston College baseball alumnus Rick Murphy, members of the team had the chance to come out to “The Joe” and receive 1-on-1 instruction, have their own locker and hit in the indoor batting cage. 

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Each player was also videotaped by ValleyCats Production Manager Chris Chenes in the batting cage and sent the video for a swing analysis. At the last session, the same players will be taped again to see their improvement. 

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Here’s some of the swings we’re working with:

The Clifton Park Baseball League has teams in the Cal Ripken Division (ages 5 thru 12) and the Babe Ruth Division (ages 13-15). They also field Travel and All Star teams from ages 8 thru 15 for kids looking to play baseball at a more competitive level. CPBL also fields a competitive Connie Mack, Mickey Mantle and Senior Babe Ruth team and a newly formed 22 under team. Their league is run completely by volunteers and they are always looking for individuals willing to lend a hand. 
For more information on the Clifton Park Baseball League, you can visit their website at http://www.cliftonparkbaseballleague.com/
We’ll keep you updated on their progress!

Mascots On Ice, Radiothon, Valentines, Snow

This past weekend was a busy one for the ValleyCats front office staff. Friday night was the 2nd annual “Mascots On Ice” during the RPI Hockey Game. Going into Friday night’s game, the Engineers hockey team was ranked 10th in the nation. After defeating Brown and then #1 Yale on Saturday, RPI now stands as the #8 ranked team in the nation. 
If you missed the Mascots On Ice performance, here’s the highlights from the night:

Special thanks to RPI Athletics Marketing and Promotions Director Sachi for helping us make this a memorable night. Sachi is pictured here with SouthPaw and Assistant GM Matt Callahan.
On Saturday, Ronald McDonald House of the Capital Region held their annual Radiothon at Crossgates Mall, and we were honored to be a part of it. Over $130-thousand was raised on Saturday, with the help of all those who donated to the wonderful cause.
For a $20 donation, people could enter “Autograph Alley” and meet wrestling superstars Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Carlito, member of the Baltimore Orioles and Queensbury native Brendan Harris and also Diamondbacks pitcher Brian Sweeney.
150_5573.JPGHere’s an awesome picture of SouthPaw and Hacksaw!
150_5556.JPGSouthPaw made his rounds during the day, meeting some great people!
WWE wrestler Carlito:150_5565.JPGD-Backs pitcher Brian Sweeney:150_5563.JPGRadiothon Volunteers:150_5575.JPGFly92’s Brian Cody:150_5577.JPGThe man himself, Ronald McDonald was also signing autographs:150_5578.JPGA huge crowd gathered on the lower level for a performance by Secondhand Serenade:150_5588.JPG150_5585.JPGBack in October, our front office spent a morning at the Ronald McDonald House cooking breakfast for the families.  
If you would like to donate your time or money to the Ronald McDonald House of the Capital Region, please visit their website at http://www.rmhcofalbany.org _____________________________________________________________________________
This week, in light of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, the ValleyCats unveiled a special package for couples that includes a very unique baseball experience. The package i
ncludes tickets to six of the ‘Cats best games, the ability to come the ballpark early and watch batting practice, get a tour of the stadium and have their picture taken on the field, which will then be printed and framed. 
Here’s a complete outline of the package:

Sweetheart Package

Tired of the same old Valentine’s Day
flowers, chocolate or dinner for two? If you’re looking for a unique
gift to give to your significant other for Valentine’s Day, the Tri-City
ValleyCats are currently offering the “Sweetheart Package.” Treat that
special baseball fan in your life to six of the best ValleyCats games
this summer at “The Joe” and receive some great additional perks.


Sweetheart PackageThis limited time offer can
be purchased for just $125.00 by calling the ValleyCats front office at
or in-person at the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium Box Office located on the
campus of Hudson Valley Community College. Offer ends on Monday,
February 14th.

Sweetheart Package


Finally, if you live in the Upstate New York area, or in most parts of the nation, you already know how bad of a winter we have had thus far. Almost 46 inches of snow has fallen this winter and we’re expecting about 25 more in the next two days. That will put us above the average snowfall amount of 63.9. And we still have the entire month of February! 

Local radio shows are even creating parody songs to mock the awful weather…like “Eff this..Winter 2011”.

Here’s a couple shots from the stadium on Tuesday afternoon:



Now for some GREAT NEWS!….pitchers & catchers report to spring training in 13 days! Astros will meet at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida. We’ll also be there at the end of March to catch up with some former ‘Cats including the members of the 2010 championship team. 

Here’s two warm spring training pictures to end with for something to look forward to: