July 2011

‘Cat Watch: J.D. debuts

Outfielder J.D. Martinez joined the Houston Astros at around 5 p.m. central time on Saturday, officially reaching the major league team. It didn’t take long for Martinez to see some action: he pinch-hit for reliever Aneury Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth inning, stepping to the plate for his first big-league at-bat.

Martinez took the first pitch for a strike and then swung at a low fastball, driving it deep to center field. The ball short-hopped the fence off the warning track two panels to the right of the 400-foot mark in dead center, going for a stand-up double that scored Humberto Quintero from first base.

(VIDEO: Watch Martinez double in his first big-league at-bat)

ValleyCats manager Stubby Clapp was Martinez’s hitting coach at two stops on his way up the minor-league ladder – at Rookie-League Greeneville in 2009 and at Low-A Lexington in 2010. He was not surprised to hear how Martinez debuted.

“That’s baseball as usual for him,” Clapp said. “That’s what he does – he hits. I’m very happy for him, he’s worked hard to get to that point and I hope that he has a solid career.”

Martinez, who played for the ValleyCats in 2009 and led the New York-Penn League in hitting, was called up to replace another former Tri-City player, Hunter Pence. When the outfielder batted for the first time, he became the 23rd former ValleyCat to reach the big leagues.

“It was definitely exciting,” Martinez told MLB.com. “You go up there to the plate and my mind was just, ‘Hit something hard. Don’t embarrass yourself.’”

Clapp spoke glowingly of Martinez’s drive and work ethic.

“He’s a consummate professional,” Clapp said. “He’s teachable. When you get a player that will come to you and ask their own questions, that’s special. Sometimes players are scared to ask questions, but J.D.’s not scared – no matter how small the question is, he’s going to come ask it.”

Martinez made his first career start this afternoon, drawing a walk in four plate appearances.

Kevin Whitaker

 

Hall of Fame Night

Saturday was Hall of Fame Night at “The Joe,” as some special guests joined us from Cooperstown. The Frank and Peggy Steele Interns from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum visited the ballpark and enjoyed a pre-game presentation that featured ‘Cats president Bill Gladstone, vice president/general manager Rick Murphy and field manager Stubby Clapp.
 
The Hall of Fame display on the concourse included some great game-used artifacts such as Derek Jeter’s bat, Pedro Martinez jersey, and Craig Biggio’s batting gloves. The items that were closest to home were a glove and cleats used by Troy native Johnny Evers. It was amazing to see how much the equipment has changed since the early 1900′s.
 
Best Fire was the game sponsor and set-up a patio display on the concourse. Those seats looked great by the Hot Corner and would probably be even better in someone’s backyard.
 
The Exxon Mobile Tour was also in the house again with giveaways, prizes and the Dizzy Dipstick race.
 
Our friends John and Regina Cole from Cole’s Collision Centers were good-natured participants in the “Know Your Partner” game between innings.
 
Despite eleven hits by the offense and a solid start from Nick Tropeano, the ‘Cats dropped a tough 4-3 decision. They will be back at it on Sunday for game two against the Auburn Doubledays. MVP Health Care presents another Sunday Funday as we pay tribute to the men and women who keep the Capital Region and beyond safe with Community Heroes Night.

Brandon Meredith slides into second with a stolen base in the second inning.

Nick Tropeano battled through five innings, allowing two runs and striking out six batters.

Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Viva Italia!

Spaghetti, baseballs, home runs, fireworks, and a bit of rain … this game had it all!
Italian Night at “The Joe” is always a festive occasion and tonight was no exception. The pre-game ceremonies were highlighted by simultaneous first pitches from both of Troy’s mayoral candidates, Carmella Mantello and Louis Rosamilia. Thank you both for joining us tonight and best of luck with your campaigns.
Tonight’s game was sponsored by the U.S. Army and included a ceremony to swear in several new soldiers on the field. The Army’s Humvees participated in the t-shirt toss and Staff Sergeant Pedro sang the national anthem.
As part of the ValleyCats Night of Champions program, several teams from Twin Town Little League were recognized on the field for their accomplishments this season.
For the second night in a row, the Cats’ bats put at least eight runs on the board. Even a 55-minute rain delay couldn’t slow the offense down as Matt Duffy, Miles Hamblin, John Hinson, and Drew Muren all homered to power the 8-1 victory. Adam Champion went four-and-2/3rds innings in relief to earn the win.

Matt Duffy hits his first professional home run in the second inning, giving the 'Cats a 1-0 lead.

Right fielder Drew Muren was named the South End Tavern Player of the Game. Along with a South End gift certificate, he earned a pie in the face courtesy of Charlie.

Drew Muren went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs and took a pie in the face after being named the South End Tavern Player of the Game.

Fans seeking autographs enjoyed a special treat after the game as ‘Cats manager Stubby Clapp joined Bubby Williams to sign on the concourse after the always-amazing Price Chopper fireworks.
Saturday’s game will mark a very special visit from the Hall of Fame as they display artifacts from all-time greats such as Derek Jeter and Troy native Johnny Evers right here at “The Joe.” Join us for the game and this rare opportunity to see these items outside of Cooperstown.
Photos by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Notebook: Busting slumps

Entering last night, the ValleyCats had scored eight runs in their last five games. Five games, spanning 135 outs.  On Thursday, they matched that total with only one out, as the first eight runners reached base and scored.

Entering last night, it had been more than a week since a ValleyCat drove in a teammate with a base hit. On Thursday, three ‘Cats did so in the first inning, and Matt Duffy did it again with one out in the second.

So, what happened? Why the offense?

Beyond the usual explanations of baseball being a funny game, you can look to the opposing starter for some clues. Stetson Allie entered the season as arguably the best major-league prospect in the NYPL, but he hasn’t shown it this year. The righty, who has thrown 100 mph in the past, was only around 91-93 last night, reportedly in line with his other outings this season.

Allie paired his diminished stuff with horrible command, not a good combination for a pitcher. After he got ahead 0-2 on John Hinson, Allie threw only six of his final 19 pitches for strikes, allowing a clean double to Hinson on a full count and eventually hitting consecutive batters with the bases loaded. With the ‘Cats up 2-1 and the bases loaded, Allie left the game without an out to his credit.

Manager Stubby Clapp said after the game that Allie’s wildness helped the hosts’ hitters beyond the results in the box score.

“He wasn’t really around the zone, and it gave our guys a chance to settle in and see some pitches before they needed to hit,” he said. “When pitchers attack the zone real quick, it puts the guys in swing mode, and sometimes they’re not swinging at good pitches.”

A lineup that has struggled to bring teammates home this season had no such trouble in that first inning, as the bottom of the order greeted Vince Payne with four consecutive singles. Duffy, a first-pitch line drive into left to plate two; Drew Muren, a perfectly-placed bunt single dropped down the line; Kellen Kiilsgaard, a clean line drive into left field that scored two, his first hit in nearly two weeks; and Neiko Johnson, a soft flare off the end of his bat that found green behind the first baseman, scoring Muren. Hinson, batting a second time, capped the rally with a sacrifice fly, the first of 24 outs that the Spikes needed.

Duffy floated a double into the right-field corner with one out in the second inning, scoring Brandon Meredith all the way from first with the Cats’ ninth and final run.

Will this break the ‘Cats out of their slump? Stubby wasn’t sure. “We’ll find out tomorrow,” he said. “One day’s good; let’s see if we can get it two days in a row.”

Some other notes:

-Neiko Johnson was 2-for-4 with a stolen base – he’s 11-for-13 in that department, incidentally, the only ValleyCat to steal many bases at a high rate – but may have been more impressive in the field. Playing shortstop for the first time in three weeks, Johnson was not only errorless in five chances, he made two highlight-reel plays. With two on and nobody out in the second inning, Kirk Singer hit a hard smash up the middle; Johnson dove to his left, snared the ball and flipped with his glove to Hinson, a spectacular force that nearly became a double play (pictured below). He went to the dirt for another ball to his left in the sixth inning, helping Travis Smink get out of a jam.

“It was a pretty tough play…it kind of skidded off the mound,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I was going to get there, but I did, and I just made a good flip to Hinson.”

Johnson is penciled back into the lineup at shortstop tonight. Jacke Healey had a Web Gem on Wednesday, getting a good jump on a grounder up the middle, diving to his left and adjusting to a rough hop on the fly before throwing the runner out at first.

-Jonas Dufek had another sharp outing on Wednesday, getting hung with a tough loss. He struck out a season-high five batters, throwing his curveball more often than usual to go with his usually sharp two-seamer. Both runs came in the second inning on a walk, two seeing-eye grounders and a wild pitch.

-Dayan Diaz was electric as always on Thursday, picking up Quezada in the second inning and pitching into the sixth. He was 93-94 with his fastball, blowing it by several hitters and getting a couple of his seven strikeouts with the occasional secondary pitch. Diaz is now tied for second in the league with four wins and has fanned 37 batters in 26 innings, the third-best K rate among relievers.

We hope to be back at it tonight for the rubber match; the forecast is not ideal but the tarp is off now and there’s a spot of sunlight. As always, listen live on tcvalleycats.com and follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the game.

Kevin Whitaker

Going Green; Girls of Summer

Wednesday was the ValleyCats 4th Annual Going Green Night. The concourse at “The Joe” was populated with all kinds of educational displays.
National Grid taught fans about how much energy old appliances consume in comparison to new ones. Fans were invited to autograph an old energy-hogging refrigerator to help illustrate the point.
The U.S.D.A. and D.E.C. educated fans on the importance of containing the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle and not allowing it to spread into unaffected areas of the northeast. This message carries a special significance to baseball, as this bug destroys ash trees, a major source of wood for baseball bats. A unique display on how a bat is made was included as part of their exhibit. For more information on this threat, go to: http://www.stopthebeetle.info/ and remember, DON’T MOVE FIREWOOD!
Gallivan Companies was on hand for the second consecutive year to showcase some of their lawn care and landscaping services.
Prior to the game, Tech Valley Recycling collected old electronics in the parking lot. This was a great opportunity for fans to dispose of old electronic devices in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.
At the gates, fans received re-usable grocery bags as they entered the ballpark.
NYSERDA, Culligan Water, John Ray & Sons, Eco Water, Waste Management, the E.R.C. Community Warehouse and Bath Fitter were also on hand to inform fans on ways to save energy and live a greener on a day-to-day basis. Our Going Green mascot, Zoggy, was also involved throughout the game, teaching fans how to recycle.
On the field, the team took a tough 2-1 loss despite another strong outing from righty Jonas Dufek.

____________________

Girls of Summer Night took place at “The Joe” on Thursday, with women from the Capital Region honored for their accomplishments in business and the community. The theme featured a pre-game networking event in the Time Warner Cable Picnic Pavilion and an awards ceremony on the field prior to the first pitch.
ValleyCats Vice President/General Manager Rick Murphy presented four women with awards as part of the festivities. The recipients were:
Denise Dubois from Complexions Spa for Beauty & Wellness
Carrie Hillenbrandt from BBL Hospitality
Julia Chiarello from GE Renewables
Alicia Germano from 3t Architects
The Girl Scouts participated in pre-game activities on the concourse as part of the Girls of Summer Night. Baseball Buddies was transformed into Softball Buddies, as players from Pine Bush Girls Softball, East Greenbush Girls Softball, Latham Lassies and the West Albany Athletic Association joined the ‘Cats on the field for the national anthem.
Between the lines, the ValleyCats crossed the plate eight times in the first inning, which would be all the runs they would need en route to a 9-5 win. Everyone in the lineup reached base safely and Matt Duffy earned South End Tavern Player of the Game honors for his two-hit, three-RBI performance. Dayan Diaz earned his fourth win, giving him the team lead and tying him for second in the league.
The homestand continues on Friday with Italian Night, presented by the U.S. Army. Come out to the game with your paisanos and stick around for post game fireworks, courtesy of Price Chopper!

Brew Fest Bash!

With almost 1,000 people in attendance, the 2nd Annual Capital Region Craft Brewers Festival was a huge success. Craft beer fans enjoyed an afternoon of sampling and live music at “The Joe.”
Local band, The Stray Dogs performed throughout the day and provided a great soundtrack to the event.
Over 26 different craft brewers from all over the northeast participated in this second year event. New York was strongly represented including a number of brewers from the greater Capital Region. Brown’s Brewing Co. was joined by Adirondack Pub & Brewery, C.H. Evans Brewing Co., Chatham Brewing, Davidson Brothers, and Olde Saratoga Brewing Co.
Blue Point Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Brooklyn Brewery, Butternuts Beer & Ale, Crossroads Brewing Co., Ithaca Beer Company, Keegan Ales, Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Saranac, and Roc Brewing Co. LLC were the other participants from the Empire State.
For the second year in a row, Vermont was also well represented with Long Trail Brewing Co., Madison Brewing Company, Otter Creek Brewing, and Wolaver’s Organic Ale in attendance.
The rest of New England also had a strong presence with Cape Ann Brewing Co and Wandering Star crossing the border from Massachusetts, Smuttynose joining from New Hampshire, and Cottrell Brewing Co coming over from Connecticut.
A bit farther north, La Brasserie Unibroue made the trip from Quebec as the first international craft brewery welcomed to the festival.
Hennessy Homebrew Emporium was back again to demonstrate how consumers can brew their own beer with The Ruck and Hoosick Street Beverage participating for the first time this year.
Despite the steamy temps, a good time was had by all and people found some good ways to beat the heat . . . including the sprinkler that was set up toward the end of the concourse.
Thank you to all the brewers and craft beer fans who attended. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s festival!

Scenes from the road: Staten Island

After playing three games in two days at Connecticut, the ValleyCats traveled down to the city to face the Staten Island Yankees this weekend. Richmond County Bank Ballpark is one of the best stadiums in the New York-Penn League, and offers unquestionably the nicest view:

The players appreciated the stadium and its location, a nice treat in a league with ballparks that vary greatly in quality.

@ThisIsNJJ: This stadium is sick right behind centerfield is the city pics coming soon … Staten Island http://t.co/6VlUYX9 http://t.co/ttSUfjA http://t.co/kyiXqfm

After playing five games in four days against the Connecticut Tigers, including a 13-inning marathon in Troy, the ValleyCats’ pitching staff was tired entering the series. Murilo Gouvea, a member of last year’s championship team, was sent down from Class-A Lexington to make a spot start. Gouvea showed off his impressive curveball, but the Yankees jumped on his fastball, racking up five hits for three runs in the first inning.

The ‘Cats got eight hits for the game but converted them into only one run. Richard Martinez beat the ValleyCats for the second time in one week, throwing five strong innings in the 6-1 Yankees victory.

The game was followed by a fireworks show in front of the Upper Bay and the Manhattan skyline.

The ValleyCats returned to RCB Ballpark for the second game of the series, a 4 p.m. Sunday start.

Nick Tropeano got the start for the ValleyCats and had plenty of support in the first-base bleachers. The Long Island native and Stony Brook University student was able to pitch in front of friends and family, and he came through for them with his best start of the season.

Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell also pitched well, but he was outdueled by Tropeano in a 2-0 ValleyCats win.

Manager Stubby Clapp walks out to the third-base coaches’ box:

Justin Gominsky came home on a grounder by Matt Duffy in the first inning, which would prove to be all the scoring that the ‘Cats would need. John Hinson added in insurance run in the fifth, leading off with his first home run of the season, a fly ball that carried well over the right-field fence.

Brandon Meredith went 1-for-4, collecting one of 11 ValleyCats hits.

Meanwhile, Tropeano had it going on. He finished with a season-high nine strikeouts, consistently getting the Yankees to swing over the top of his changeup, and allowed only three baserunners in six innings.

Jacke Healey and John Hinson turned a 6-4-3 double play to get Mitch Lambson out of the eighth:

Lambson and Ryan Cole closed out the game with a combined three scoreless innings, giving Tropeano his first professional win.

The view across the water from behind the center-field fence:

And one more picture from the press box, taken during the national anthem before Monday’s early start:

The ‘Cats got six innings of one-run ball and eight strikeouts from Juri Perez and tied the game 1-1 on another Duffy grounder in the sixth inning. But Cito Culver’s infield single in the eighth inning gave the Yankees another lead, and despite Zach Johnson’s ninth-inning double, the hosts held on to win 2-1 and even the season series at three apiece.

The ValleyCats now stand at 15-22 on the season, 4.5 games behind division-leading Vermont. After a league-wide break today, they return to Joe Bruno Stadium for a six-game homestand against Pinckney Division foes State College and Auburn. The ‘Cats have played better at home this season (10-9 at “The Joe,” 5-13 away), and with 15 home games in the next 19 days, they could make a charge towards the top of the Stedler Division.

Kevin Whitaker

Game Story: Tigers Sweep ‘Cats in Doubleheader

The ‘Cats fell to 3-11 on the road in last night’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of Connecticut. Tri-City’s averaging just over three runs per game in the 14 road games so far this season. That’s especially discouraging considering the ValleyCats averaged almost seven runs per game in the most recent five game homestand.

Perhaps it was just a worn out team coming off the 4:40 game Tuesday, and Connecticut was just a tad better.

Manager Stubby Clapp put it simply before the team got off the bus last night, “There’s still a lot of baseball left on this road trip”.

He’s right.

Matt Appel and I will be back on the broadcast tonight from Norwich in the final meeting of the season between Connecticut and Tri-City. We’ll start the pregame show at 6:50, first pitch is set for 7:05. Euris Quezada goes for the ‘Cats, coming off his first win of the season. Below is last night’s game story.

Tigers Sweep ‘Cats in Doubleheader

NORWICH, Conn. — After it took four hours and 40 minutes to play one 13-inning game at ‘The Joe’ yesterday afternoon, Tri-City and Connecticut completed a doubleheader in just three hours and 27 minutes.

In total, it was just over eight hours to forget for the ValleyCats.

Tri-City fell in both games of Thursday’s doubleheader 4-2 and 3-2 and dropped to 13-20 on the season.

In game one, right-handed starter Jonas Dufek was spotted a 2-0 lead in the second but had his scoreless streak snapped at 21.1 innings when the Tigers touched him up for three runs on four hits in the second inning.

Second baseman John Hinson was the only ValleyCat to record a multi-hit game. The ‘Cats got the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Miles Hamblin lined into a double play, ending any threat.

(Game One Box)

In game two, the ‘Cats fell 3-2 despite another solid pitching performance by lefty Kyle Hallock. The southpaw tossed five innings and allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits, three of them infield singles.

Designated hitter Jason King delivered the game-winning blow in a 1-1 game in the 5th inning. With two on and one out, King roped a two-run double down the left field line.

The ‘Cats managed to get one run back in the sixth on a Matt Duffy infield RBI single.

Trailing by one in the seventh, Zach Johnson struck out looking with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.

(Game Two Box)

With the two losses, Tri-City falls to four games out of first place. The ValleyCats face the Tigers for the final time of the regular season Friday night at 7:05 before heading to Staten Island for a three game series with the Yankees.

Erik Elken

Notebook: Weird baseball

If you quickly saw the final score of yesterday’s game, and saw that Connecticut won 15-9, you might assume that there wasn’t a whole lot of drama. And boy, you would be wrong. Let’s try to make some sense of what happened…

-Even as of the third inning, this was a pretty remarkable game. The ValleyCats, breaking a recent trend, jumped out to a first-inning lead and kept hitting the ball well, eventually racking up 10 hits in their first two times through the order. Jacke Healey, who came into the game with two hits in 45 at-bats, matched that total in the first three innings with a homer and a double in his first two times up. But the ‘Cats scored only five runs, leaving the maximum six in scoring position (seven total).

Also in the third inning, Bubby Williams did this to our press box window:

Allow me to describe what we were thinking: “Oh, hey, he fouled that ball right towards us.” *thud* “Oh, wow, that hit the window.” [one second passes] “Oh, crap, the window’s falling.” The ball didn’t shatter the window – it bounced back onto the concourse – but it did dislodge it from the frame, sending the pane down right above my usual seat. I was standing on the other side of the room at the time – marking down a pitching change on the whiteboard (see later), because Connecticut went to the bullpen after only two innings – or else it would have come down right on my head.

This could not have happened on any other day. During games, we always open the press box windows to get a better feel for the sounds on the field. If the window had been open, the pane would have been blocked and could not have fallen into the press box. But because yesterday’s start was during the middle of the day, and because it was a sweltering 96 degrees outside, we kept the windows closed to preserve a bit of cool air in the press box. And of course, it was the one day a foul ball came up.

-That might not have even been the weirdest play of the game. In the sixth inning, some poor ValleyCats baserunning turned a single into a 4-5-2-6-5-2-1 double play – and the pitcher made both putouts.

With Matt Duffy on second base, John Hinson hit a grounder well to the second baseman’s left. Colin Kaline (yes, the grandson of the famous one) gloved the ball but could not get it out in time to retire Hinson at first. But Duffy took a very wide turn at third base and then lost his footing a bit; Kaline threw over to third and the runner was hung up.

Duffy – not the most nimble runner on the ValleyCats – stayed alive long enough to force five throws as Hinson rounded the bases. Pitcher Rayni Guichardo eventually tagged Duffy out going back to third, looked up and saw John Hinson about 30 feet from the bag, trying to advance during the rundown. Guichardo never broke stride, ran over and tagged out Hinson for a double play that I am sure I’ll never see again.

-Compared to that play, the fact that the ‘Cats ran themselves out of the 11th inning with a 1-3-2-5 caught stealing was trivial. A two-out rally put men on the corners, with the game-winning run on third, but submarine righty Daniel Bennett used a third-to-first move to pick off the runner at first and start the wild play. Making things even more interesting, both runners were Johnsons (Neiko at third, Zach at first).

-There was a sellout crowd of 4,686 fans on Wednesday – quite an attendance, given the 11 a.m. start. But the vast majority of the fans were camp groups on a fixed schedule, which had to leave by the time the game went to extra innings. The oppressive heat, as high as 96 degrees, understandably drove some other fans away, so by the time the 12th inning rolled around, there were only a handful of spectators in the park. Jeff Holm – who did not start and only entered the game as a defensive replacement in the 11th inning as part of a double-switch – naturally took the first strike he saw well over the left-field fence, giving the Tigers their first runs in five innings and a 9-7 lead.

Matt Duffy and Brandon Meredith reached base to lead off the Cats’ half of the inning, but after two quick outs, it looked like the game would finally end. Drew Muren worked a 2-2 count and fouled two pitches off. With absolutely no energy in the ballpark – it felt more like the late innings of a blowout amateur game – Muren capped a four-hit night with a line drive double to right field, tying the game.

-And, of course, the final score looked more like a blowout, as Kristian Bueno allowed four walks, three hits and a grand slam in a six-run, 44-pitch 13th inning.

-The game took a total of four hours and 40 minutes, which we believe is a ValleyCats franchise record. It was the longest game played in the New York-Penn League in more than a year, going back to a 4:48 15-inning Williamsport-Vermont contest on July 6, 2010.

-Entering the game, the Tigers and ‘Cats ranked 11th and 13th in the league, respectively, in batting average. So naturally, they each racked up 19 hits on Wednesday. (Connecticut jumped over five teams with yesterday’s outburst.) It was a season high for both teams, and the most for the ValleyCats since reaching 20 in a 17-9 victory over Hudson Valley on 7/31/08. And I probably don’t have to tell you that it was the most hits ever for the ‘Cats in a loss.

-Miles Hamblin, a left-handed hitter, pinch-hit in the 12th for Kellen Kiilsgaard, a left-handed hitter who pinch-hit for designated hitter Hector Rodriguez in the ninth. If you’re counting, that’s three players who occupied the DH slot.

-Through nine innings, the ValleyCats drew three walks. All three were earned by Neiko Johnson. Johnson, who added two singles in the game, only batted leadoff because Justin Gominsky was scratched about a half-hour before game time. His walk rate is through the roof – 17 BBs in 88 plate appearances – and if you look at his college numbers from Kentucky, this is no fluke.

-Meanwhile, the ‘Cats issued 11 walks of their own, blowing by their previous season high of eight. Tri-City entered the game allowing just 3.46 walks per nine innings, the fourth-best rate in the league. 10 percent of the ValleyCats’ walks so far this season came last night.

-The ValleyCats sent 65 hitters to the plate, Connecticut 69.

-Today was the first time in more than four years that the ValleyCats allowed 15 runs in a game (7/16/07 at Mahoning Valley).

-Williams had four singles and reached scoring position three times, but he never scored. The ‘Cats stranded 17 runners for the game – 12 in scoring position – and had three others killed on the bases. (Connecticut left 15 on base.)

“Too many walks and not enough clutch hitting. That’s what lost it for us,” Muren said.

And the best part is: after playing nearly eight hours of baseball in a 21-hour span, the ‘Cats and Tigers get to do it all again, traveling to Norwich for a doubleheader today before finishing the season series on Friday.

Still, they may be playing for less time in today’s doubleheader than they did in a single game yesterday. Williams, who caught all 13 innings and 253 pitches for the ValleyCats, said that he lost seven pounds of water weight during the game.

“It was warm back there behind the plate. A couple of those innings got long,” Williams said. “But I guess I’m just used to it…I live in Kansas City, and in August, it’s 110 degrees all the time there.”

“There’s worse places [to play], trust me,” Muren said. “Down in Florida…I’ve heard nothing but horrors from down there. You drink a lot of water and Gatorade, and you’ll be fine.”

Both bullpens will be taxed during tonight’s twin bill. The two sides used a combined 13 pitchers on Wednesday, adding to seven lineup changes that created a complicated scorecard:

A couple other notes from the series:

-One of the most interesting revelations of the first 31 games is Brandon Meredith’s speed. He doesn’t look like a fast guy – 6-2, 225 lbs. is not a sprinter’s frame – but he covers the gaps really well and can turn it on from first to third. Meredith tripled again on Tuesday (his fourth of the season, tied for third in the league) and scored from first on Muren’s double last night.

Meredith said he’s aware that people don’t peg him as a speedster. “I love it. That’s why I always go for triples,” he said. “When it’s in the gap, I’m going for three for sure.”

-Ryan McCurdy was hit by a pitch on consecutive at-bats on Tuesday. If that were to happen to anybody, of course it would be McCurdy, who was pegged three times in 27 plate appearances in 2010.

Two games in Connecticut tonight, starting at 6:05 p.m. Listen to Erik and Matt on the broadcast on tcvalleycats.com, with a chance of hearing Erik descend into madness if one goes deep into extra innings.

Kevin Whitaker

Capital Region Brewfest Roster

The ‘Cats are on the road this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that “The Joe” will be quiet. Saturday marks one of our biggest events of the season: the second annual Capital Region Craft Brewers Festival. At the celebration of craft brewing, which starts at 2:30 p.m., fans will be able to sample some great beer, meet the brewers and enjoy a fun-filled afternoon with other beer lovers. Check out more information at the Brewfest website or buy tickets now at a discount from the gate price.

27 brewers will be participating in Saturday’s event, ten more than we had last year. Here’s the roster:

Adirondack Pub & Brewery

Brown’s Brewing Company 

Blue Point Brewing Company 

Brewery Ommegang 

Brooklyn Brewery 

Butternuts Beer & Ale 

Cape Ann Brewing Co. 

Chatham Brewing 

C.H. Evans Brewing Company 

Cottrell Brewing Co. 

Crossroads Brewing Co. 

Davidson Brothers Brewing Company 

Ithaca Beer Co. 

Keegan Ales 

La Brasserie Unibroue 

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery 

Long Trail Brewing Co. 

Madison Brewing Co. 

Magic Hat Brewing Company 

Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. 

Otter Creek Brewing 

Smuttynose Brewing Co. 

Saranac 

Roc Brewing Co. 

Switchback Brewing Co. 

Wandering Star Brewing Company 

Wolaver’s Organic Brewing

Notebook: Quality starts

Despite a blowout loss last night, the ValleyCats’ home series against the league-leading Staten Island Yankees ended about as well as they could have expected: with two victories in three games. The biggest reason was starting pitching, as Jonas Dufek and Euris Quezada combined for 11.1 innings of one-run ball in the wins.

For Dufek, this was nothing new: with six scoreless innings on Saturday, the righty has not allowed a run in 20.1 frames, the last 18 of which have come in three wins at home. This most recent start was his best yet; in six innings against one of the league’s best offenses, Dufek allowed just two walks and two hits – both grounders, one of which stayed in the infield. In past starts, Dufek had been working in and out of frequent jams, but on Saturday he was just great.

In particular, Dufek worked out of the zone frequently, getting a lot of swings and misses. The Yankees rank near the bottom of the league in walk rate; Dufek said after the game that he knew they were going to be aggressive, and he exploited it well.

The more surprising start came from Euris Quezada 22 hours later. Up to that point, Quezada had not put together any particularly good outings; in his first five starts, he never recorded more than 12 outs and never allowed fewer than three runs.

But Quezada came out looking very sharp in the first inning on Sunday, and maintained that performance until hitting a bit of a wall with two outs in the sixth. Quezada had a tick more velocity than usual, up in the 91-93 range. But most of his damage was done with the slider, which probably accounted for more than half of his 62 pitches. The 83-84 mph offering, usually thrown over the inner half to righties, generated four or five of his strikeouts and allowed Quezada to retire 11 straight hitters during his second time through the order.

Quezada lowered his ERA nearly two runs to 7.04.

Some other notes from the weekend:

-John Hinson made a great play in the third inning of Saturday’s game, leaping to grab a high line drive and doubling off Jhorge Liccien by inches at first. He also turned a fantastic double play in the ninth inning on Monday, making a lightning-fast exchange to get Shane Brown by half a step at first.

-The ValleyCats’ outfield defense was on display again on Sunday. Neiko Johnson took a couple games to get readjusted to the outfield, but he made a great read to come in on a low line drive by Mason Williams. Three innings later, Justin Gominsky robbed Williams of an extra-base hit, flying all the way from the third-base side of center to the right-field gap to run down a high fly ball.

-Stubby Clapp put nine righties in the lineup against southpaw Evan DeLuca, who came in with the league’s fourth-best ERA. It worked out well, as the ‘Cats racked up 12 hits in the game, including five off DeLuca and two when the Yankees followed with a left-handed reliever.

-The Cats’ outburst on Sunday could have been even greater – they scored eight runs in eight innings despite having three runners caught stealing.

-Brandon Meredith has such sneaky speed. He absolutely flies from first to third, and then you look at him (6’2”, 225 lbs.) and you just think, how did he do that? He hit a gapper to right-center in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game and Stubby held up a stop sign as he headed towards second; Meredith never slowed down and slid into third without a throw for his third triple of the season.

-Though his final line was ugly, Dayan Diaz looked great on Monday. He retired the first six batters he faced in order, striking out four with even more electric stuff than usual. His fastball, usually at 95, ticked up to 96 a couple times and even hit 97 in a big spot, going up the ladder to strike out Mason Williams with the bases loaded in the sixth.

Diaz’s fastball isn’t just fast, it has some life too, most noticeably when it ran back to the inside corner to send the left-handed Williams down looking in the fourth. I wouldn’t worry too much about the rocky sixth inning; he’s thrown three innings without faltering before, and with a reliever’s frame and a reliever’s arsenal, he’s likely to have shorter and shorter outings as he climbs the professional ladder.

-Tip for any Yankees fans that read this: former first-round draft pick Cito Culver can’t hit from the left side. I’m far from the first person to say this, but his swing there is not pretty and the numbers have backed it up – he’s 19-for-113 (.168) from the left side in the NYPL in the last two years. Manager Stubby Clapp said after the game that he left a tiring Diaz in to face Culver in the sixth because he wanted to keep Culver on that side (which worked out okay for the Yankees, as Diaz issued a seven-pitch RBI walk). On the flip side, he can mash lefties (20-for-45), as Adam Champion found out when he gave up a double to the center-field wall in the first inning.

Division rival Connecticut is in town tonight and 11 a.m. tomorrow. Listen to the game live, as usual.

Kevin Whitaker

“Joe to the Show” Night Recap: Pence Bobblehead giveaway

Monday July 18th was “Joe to the Show Night” at the ballpark and featured a Hunter Pence bobblehead for the first 1,000 fans through the gate. After playing for the ‘Cats in 2004, Pence was named to his 2nd MLB All-Star team earlier this month. Hunter is having a great year as he leads the team big club in home runs and RBIs. He’s also batting a stellar .321 on the season.
 “Joe to the Show Night” was presented by the Rensselaer County Department of Health, who helped educate fans on emergency preparedness. Their table provided important information and several lucky fans received emergency preparedness go-kits. These contained important supplies that you may need in case of a disaster. County Executive . . . and ValleyCats bobblehead alum, Kathy Jimino, was on hand for the event and threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Brian Sinkoff from ESPN Radio, 104.5 the Team, joined us for a live remote broadcast and the Sound-Off Sun Drop-Off contest.

Sinkoff with 'Cats GM Rick Murphy

Sinkoff MC’d this exciting on-field promotion that awarded a lucky winner a $1,045 gas card courtesy of Mobil and SunDrop. Two contestants winged baseballs at bottles of SunDrop in a carnival-style game. The winner knocked all four down in a :30 period to claim the prize.
The New York State Firefighters Convention was also in attendance. They provided a color guard for the national anthem along with a pipe and drum escort.
Also participating in the pre-game festivities were eleven student athletes who were honored on the field courtesy of NYCapitalsports.net. Check out their site for the story: NYCapitalSports
 Between the lines, the ‘Cats dropped a 12-4 decision and will look to get back on track against division rival Connecticut on Tuesday. Gates open early at 5:00 pm for our popular Tunes for Tuesday concert series. Country Music Night will be presented once again by 104.9 The Cat with Skeeter Creek performing for the 2nd year in a row. Tomorrow is also a Kraft Singles Tuesday Tickets Night where fans can take advantage of a buy-one-get-one free ticket offer by presenting a Kraft Singles Wrapper. In the concession stands, we will also be offering two-for-one beers on this Two-for-Tuesday.

Here are more photos from Monday night. Please also visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera photo gallery where you can download high-resolution photos for free, or purchase them on a souvenir item.

Pretty in Pink

It was another Sunday Funday at “The Joe” as the ValleyCats downed the Staten Island Yankees 8-2 behind a strong start from Euris Quezada. Quezada struck out five in 5 2/3 innings, while allowing just one run. The offense was led by South End Tavern Player of the Game, Brandon Meredith, who finished a home run short of the cycle. Catcher, Ryan McCurdy, also chipped in with three hits.

Brandon Meredith earning Player of the Game honors

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Night, the ‘Cats debuted a new look on the field with pink jerseys. These unique jerseys were auctioned off, with some help form Miss New York City, Brittany Jasenski, and Miss New York City Teen, Marisa Matzen.
The proceeds went to the Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer (CRAAB) and the auction winners received their jerseys directly from the players on the field following the game.
The front office staff showed their support as well with pink t-shirts, ribbons, and even pink grass . . . courtesy of the grounds crew.
A pre-game ceremony honored breast cancer survivors on the field with Lori Young throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Special thanks to NYSUT for their support of this initiative.
Earlier in the day, the ValleyCats partnered with State Farm for a Baseball 101 Clinic. This event offered mothers and their sons/daughters the opportunity to learn the basics of the game from the pros. The clinic included on-field activities, a lesson in keeping score, a ballpark tour, and a personalized baseball card. Over 100 people participated in this first-time event.
The ValleyCats will go for the sweep tomorrow night as they take on the Staten Island Yankees for the final time at home this summer. Tomorrow is also “Joe to the Show Night” with Hunter Pence Bobbleheads. The game is presented by the Rensselaer County Department of Health with tickets still available for the 7:00 pm start.
For more photos from the days’ events, please visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera photo gallery where you can download high-resolution photos for free, or purchase them on a souvenir item.

Star Wars Night Recap: Evil Empire in town at “The Joe”

On Saturday night, in a galaxy far, far away, the ValleyCats took on the Staten Island Yankees. Ok, so “The Joe” is not far away at all but the the game certainly had an outer space feel to it.
The “Evil Empire” was in town for the ‘Cats first game back home . . . and no we don’t mean the Yankees. Members from the Garrison Excelsior of the 501st Legion joined us for Star Wars Night with Darth Vader tossing out a ceremonial first pitch.
Along with Vader, members of the Garrison included Storm Toopers and Boba Fett. For more information on the Garrison and their community appearances, check out their website at: www.garrisonexcelsior.com
Fans and members of the staff dressed as their favorite Star Wars characters to get into the act as well. Light Sabres were a popular souvenir item and fireworks where a perfect way to cap the evening.
On the field, the ‘Cats were led by another outstanding pitching performance from Jonas Dufek. His six shutout innings extended a personal string of scoreless innings to 20.1.
6,052 fans watched the ValleyCats hand the first-place Yankees just their 6th loss of the year. The attendance figure marked the 10th largest crowd in franchise history and the 3rd largest of the season. Zach Johnson and Bubby Williams each homered to pace the offense in this 5-3 win.
The ‘Cats try to make it two in a row on Sunday as they don pink jerseys for Breast Cancer Awareness Night. They will once again take on the Yankees with the normal Sunday Funday activities as well as a jersey auction to benefit Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer. Fans are encouraged to wear pink as well to show their support.
Here are some more photos from the ‘Cats victory on Star Wars Night:

Jonas Dufek is currently the hottest ValleyCats pitcher

Mitchell Lambson comes in to close out the game

To download or purchase high-resolution images of the pictures seen on this blog, please visit the Seton Health ‘Cats Camera.

Hall of Fame Field Trip

Many of the ValleyCats interns and front office members took a field trip to Cooperstown yesterday to visit the birthplace of baseball. As lifelong fans, most of us had visited the Baseball Hall of Fame one or two or twenty times before, but that did not make the trip any less special.

We carpooled down I-88, entered the Hall of Fame and started the day in the “Bullpen Theatre.” Brad Horn, the Hall’s senior director of communications and education, greeted us and briefly introduced the museum’s mission. Horn talked about how the minor leagues – especially short-season teams – and the Hall can bookend a player’s professional lifetime: all players start their careers in the minors, the best of those reach the majors, and the top 1 percent of that group will be great enough to end up in the Hall of Fame.

He also brought along All-Star Game MVP Prince Fielder’s jersey, which he had received from Fielder immediately after the Midsummer Classic two days earlier. A small dirt stain was still visible on the lower back, showing how the jersey was, as Horn said, a representation of that moment in time.

For the past two years (ever since the formerly-Oneonta Tigers moved to Connecticut), the ValleyCats have been the closest minor-league team to Cooperstown, and we have enjoyed a very strong partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame. We got to meet and mingle with the Hall’s interns, who have recently been very busy preparing for next week’s induction ceremony, in which Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick will be enshrined in the Hall.

The Hall’s team of interns will come up to Joe Bruno Stadium on July 30 for Hall of Fame Night, a chance to watch some great baseball. They will also show off some historical artifacts with a Capital Region flavor, which we had a chance to see:

A glove and cleats used by Troy native and Hall of Famer Johnny Evers, who was immortalized in one of baseball’s two most famous poems, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”

Derek Jeter’s Louisville Slugger-model bat from the 2000 All-Star Game. Jeter would become the only player ever to be named the MVP of the All-Star Game and the World Series in the same year.

Chris Chenes, who has a knack for appearing in our pictures, talks alongside Pedro Martinez’s 1999 All-Star Game jersey. Pedro was named the game’s MVP for striking out five of the game’s best players in two scoreless innings.

Afterward, we were able to explore the museum. We got to see some new exhibits alongside the old standbys, including the most famous area of all, the Hall of Fame itself:

‘Cats broadcaster Erik Elken listens to an exhibit featuring some famed radio voices from the past.

Afterwards, we took in the beautiful blocks surrounding the Hall and browsed some of the local shops. One store carried a wealth of Minor League Baseball hats, including a 2010 championship model of the red ValleyCats hat. The shopkeeper was probably surprised to see 13 people enter the store, rush over and excitedly point at it.

If any of our Tri-City followers (or baseball fans from anywhere in the country) have not visited the Hall of Fame, we strongly encourage you to make a trip down to Cooperstown – it’s well worth the drive. And come to “The Joe” for Hall of Fame Night on July 30!

Kevin Whitaker

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