August 2012

History in the Making

by Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

I wrote about a month ago how this year’s team might be the greatest in ValleyCat history. The other two teams that even come close to comparing to this squad are the 2004 ‘Cats and the 2010 version, and each for different reasons.

The 2004 team was stacked with Major League talent (well, stacked in terms of that type of talent on a Short-Season A team). The two most successful Tri-City alums, Ben Zobrist and Hunter Pence, went on to be Major League All-Stars for both the American and National Leagues. Zobrist has cemented himself as one of the most versatile players in the Majors today. He’s the new Mark DeRosa, but better than DeRosa ever was. Pence, even though he has played for a handful of teams in the past couple of teams, is still one of the most productive and hardest working corner outfielders in the game.

Oh, I almost forgot…that team also won 50 games that season!

In terms of historical records, the ’04 team ranks first in ‘Cats history in the following categories: runs scored (425), home runs (63), on-base percentage (.352), slugging (.400),  on-base plus slugging (.752), and total strikeouts by a pitching staff (667).

But that “super-team” failed to bring home the gold. They lost in the New York-Penn League championship, a colossal failure.

The 2010 team has not produced any Major League talent… yet. They had a great clubhouse, some decent prospects (Austin Wates, Ben Orloff, Kike Hernandez, Bobby Doran, Jake Buchanan), but they were more of a team that caught fire at the right time.

Tri-City that year went 17-11 in August, 3-2 in September, and 4-1 in the playoffs. How did they do it? Pitching, what else. In July the ‘Cats posted a 14-14 record, but that was thanks to a .267 average as a team. The pitching staff gave up an average of 5.2 runs per game (that’s with unearned runs factored in). That kind of production simply is not going to win you too many ball games. But the pitchers kicked it up a notch when the calendar turned to August. They propelled the team the rest of the way, sporting a 2.56 ERA in August (down almost two full runs from the previous month) and giving them a chance to win the division.

They did that and much more, as they went on to capture the first, and only, NYPL Championship in franchise history.

Where does this year’s team fit in?

Well, they just captured the 50-win mark with a handful of games to go. It’s safe to say that they will take that record shortly (knock on wood).

In terms of offensive numbers, the 2012 ‘Cats are either close to, tied with, or have already broken numerous offensive and pitching records (they have a new season-high in stolen bases).

They were the first team to win their respective division, which is impressive two-fold. One, Hudson Valley has been elite all season and Auburn is just now starting to fall apart. Two, the ValleyCats were so good against their division this year the three other teams spent the majority of the season behind by double digits in the loss column.

The ValleyCats have a couple of potential elite prospects playing for them currently (plus two that have already been called up). Outfielder Preston Tucker, catcher Tyler Heineman, former outfielder Andrew Aplin, pitchers Aaron West, Vincent Velasquez, Brady Rodgers, Travis Ballew, and Kenny Long have all drawn rave reviews from scouts one way or another.

But let’s not kid ourselves here. This season could totally be wiped out if Tri-City falters at all during the playoffs. Anything short of a championship will be considered a failure.

This team has been a joy to watch and a pleasure to cover for the three-plus months they have been playing. Previous results indicate that this team should be the favorite to win the whole thing. But there’s a reason why the games are played on the field and not on paper. Tri-City has a few more hurdles to jump and a steep mountain to climb if they want to finish this season the way they started it.

Girl’s Night Out at “The Joe”

The latest installment of Sunday Funday was Girls Night Out and the annual Diamond Dig promotion, presented by Jewelry by Don Cook.
Prior to the game, Anthony Gargulai and the AG Dance Crew performed outside the main gates and then on the field as part of the pre-game festivities.
The Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York were also on hand for a “cookie rally” early in the afternoon.
The ‘Cats completed the sweep with a 9-4 victory over the reeling Lake Monsters. M.P. Cokinos’ two-run homer paced the offense with Dan Gulbransen chipping in three RBI as well. The team travelled to Lowell on Monday and will visit Connecticut and Vermont before returning home to close out the regular season against Hudson Valley.
The action continued following the game as 120 women took the field for their chance to win a pair of diamond earrings courtesy of Jewely by Don Cook! Congratulations to Marissa who took home the sparkling prize. Special thanks to all the women who participated and of course Don Cook for providing the diamonds.
Following the Diamond Dig, fans tossed their tennis balls as part of the Ball Launch and then enjoyed the amazing Price Chopper fireworks. Sunday Funday concluded with kids running the bases and balloons courtesy of Noble Gas!
The three remaining home games are against the Hudson Valley Renegades and will likely determine playoff seeding as well as home field advantage. Don’t miss your chance to catch the ‘Cats before the post-season!
– Monday, September 3rd – 5:00 PM – Labor Day Cookout and post-game FIREWORKS!
– Tuesday, September 4th – 7:00 PM – Irish Night with a pre-game concert by Hair of the Dog at 5:00 PM!
– Wednesday, September 5th – 6:00 PM – Fans for Life Night and post-game FIREWORKS!
Purchase your tickets for the last regular season homestand here!

Summer Reader Night

The ‘Cats kept up their winning ways with an offensive outburst that featured three home runs. Catfish Elkins and Jarrod McKinney each launched long solo shots but it was Preston Tucker’s grand slam that put things out of reach. Tucker went three-for-five to earn player of the game honors.
Saturday was also Summer Reader Night at “The Joe” presented by NY’s 529 College Savings Program.
As part of this promotion, ValleyCats players, staff, and SouthPaw have been visiting local libraries throughout the summer. Each library received tickets courtesy of the 529 College Savings Program to be distributed as an incentive for kids who complete their reading list.
Save-A-Lot Grocery Stores were also on hand to present a check to the Regional Food Bank prior to the game. They joined the ‘Cat Pack on the field for some in-game promotions and provided giveaways throughout the night.
The ValleyCats will go for the sweep on Sunday Funday as they conclude this brief three game homestand. This action packed Sunday is Girls Night out presented by Jewelry by Don Cook and will include a post game Diamond Dig. The night will be capped off with a fireworks display!
There are only four games left in the regular season. Don’t miss your chance to join the fun this summer!

Home Improvement Night at “The Joe”

On Friday, August 24, the ValleyCats faithful welcomed the 2012 Stedler Division Champions onto the field for the very first time at “The Joe.”
Rich and Matt Ruotolo helped with the celebration as they created a division championship pennant on the sidewalk outside the main gate. Make sure to take a look as their artwork will be on display throughout the weekend.
Friday night was also our annual Home Improvement Night with Trustco Bank on hand as the game sponsor. Trusty joined SouthPaw on the field for a ceremonial first pitch. Our friends at Country True Value also participated in the concourse home show with one lucky fan winning a special certificate prior to the game.
One of the most unique first pitches in recent memory was actually a “ceremonial first roll.” Jen Adams, from WAKA Kickball, fired one in with SouthPaw trying to show of his boot. Keep your day job, big guy! For more information on their upcoming season, visit their website at:
We would also like to extend a special thanks to the United States Navy for presenting the colors last night! Thank you for your service and for joining us at the ballpark!
The ‘Cats kept the celebration going on the field as Jarrod McKinney blasted two home runs. Preston Tucker and Jesse Wierzbicki added two hits apiece to help fuel a 7-4 victory.
The team is home again on Saturday for NY 529’s Summer Reader Night with tickets still available. The homestand concludes on Sunday Funday with the Diamond Dig presented by Jewelry by Don Cook. Ladies, join us at the ballpark for your chance to dig up a pair of diamond earrings following the game!

Stubby Session #4

ValleyCats Broadcaster talks with Tri-City Manager Stubby Clapp about the team’s playoff aspirations, pitcher Joe Bircher, outfielder Preston Tucker, and much, much more! Leave your questions for next time in the comments section!

Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night at “The Joe”

The first bobblehead of the Heritage Series presented by Berkshire Bank featured Derek Jeter in an Albany-Colonie Yankees’ uniform. When the line began forming at 1:00 PM, it became evident that this highly-anticipated giveaway would be the most popular in ValleyCats history.
Some fans waited up to five hours and braved the rain for their chance to claim a bobble. Sammy Baseball and several of the Mayors attempted to entertain the lines out front with juggling and giveaways. Thank you to all who waited for your patience as the response to this giveaway was enormous. For those fans who did not receive a bobblehead, be sure to visit your local Berkshire Bank branch for a chance to win one!
The scoring began early and often as Dan Gulbransen and Preston Tucker provided three hits apiece. Unfortunately, Staten Island had the last laugh scoring an 8-7 victory in a rain-soaked extra-inning battle.
The ‘Cats are on the road in Brooklyn for the next three days before returning to “The Joe” on Friday to take on the Vermont Lake Monsters for a three-game set. Friday is Home Improvement Night presented by Trustco Bank and will feature post-game fireworks. With only six games remaining in the regular season, don’t miss your chance to see the ‘Cats in action this summer! Tickets are still available for all three games over the weekend.
In other news, the ValleyCats Magic Number to clinch a playoff berth is down to three and: PLAYOFF TICKETS ON-SALE NOW!!!

Pre-Game Meal: Staten Island (8/20/12)

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

Hey everyone! I know Matt is gone, but because of the overwhelming popularity of this “segment” on ‘Cats Corner I have decided to try and continue “Pre-Game Meal”.

The team had to axe batting practice outside this afternoon because of the inclement weather, but I still have a few tidbits to share with you.

1.) There is an article about Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hanging in the clubhouse. The article details how, despite his superstar status, McCutchen is one of the Major League’s best hustlers. Most hitters, no matter who it is, when they hit a sharp ground ball to the infield give more of a “courtesy jog” than a full-out sprint. Andrew McCutchen is not one of those players. He runs out everything using at least 95 percent of his speed. He understands his speed is one of his biggest tools, and that by running out ground balls he puts pressure on the infield to make clean plays to try and get him at first. You can see that Manager Stubby Clapp is trying instill that kind of mentality onto his players. Hustle out everything, because you never know what can happen on a measly ground ball.

2.) Ping pong has to be the most popular game played by the guys in the clubhouse, and Aaron West seems to be the king of the table. Juri Perez and Vincent Velasquez have had some matches, however, that should be shown on ESPN Classic or ESPN 8 “The Ocho”. And the two players have significantly different attitudes when they play. Perez is laid back, usually barefoot, and is listening to music, while Velasquez is more focused and vocal. Jarrod McKinney has clearly found a loop-hole in the rules (well, the rules the team plays by). When facing game point, the server cannot lose if the serve does not hit the table. McKinney will keep on serving until his serve just barely hits the corner, making it almost impossible to return it. I had the pleasure of playing Stubby Clapp in one match. He cleaned my clock, 21-10. Hey, at least I scored in double digits. The rematch is coming.

3.) It is Derek Jeter Bobblehead Giveaway Night here at “The Joe”, which officially kicks off our Capital Region Baseball Heritage series. Jeter played here in the Capital Region in 1994 as a member of the Albany-Colonie Yankees. He played in 34 games for the Yankees, who played their home games at Heritage Park in Colonie from 1985-1994. People started lining up outside the gates at around 1 PM. Here’s the picture of what it looked like outside the gates at 5 PM, 45 minutes before the gates opened.

Here is tonight’s lineup:

Sclafani – SS

Elkins – 2B

Tucker – RF

Cokinos – C

Batista – 1B

Gulbransen – DH

McKinney – LF

Dineen – 3B

King – CF

RHP – Brady Rodgers (6-2, 2.37 ERA)

NFL Night at “The Joe”

Are you ready for some football? Well, we hope to have some extended fall baseball first, but Sunday night was a preview of things to come on the gridiron.
Sunday was NFL Night at “The Joe” with fans and staff donning their favorite jerseys to watch the ‘Cats take on the Staten Island Yankees. There were some interesting showings that included “throwbacks”, rivals, and as expected quite a few New York Giants colors.
The on-field promotions featured some NFL inspirations including the Mayors calling an audible, a QB sneak in the Hot Dog Race, and some end zone dances during the fifth inning drag. Two lucky fans competed in a field goal kicking contest in between innings that left fans clamoring for the return of Scott Norwood.
Our friends from AT&T were on hand as the game sponsor and offered fans a chance to win a great prize at their table . . . a set of Beats Audio Headphones. Congratulations also to James McNab who was selected in-store as the AT&T VIP Experience winner. James received four tickets, early entrance to watch BP, a ceremonial first pitch, and an opportunity to call an inning of play-by-play on the air!
On the field, the ‘Cats rebounded in a big way as they crushed Staten Island by the score of 11-0. Joe Bircher limited the Yanks to just two hits in six scoreless innings. Preston Tucker crushed a long home run and several other ValleyCats had two hits apiece including Sclafani, Wierzbicki, Elkins, and King.
Following the game, Aaron’s presented the TV Dig on the warning track. This offered the boys a chance to dig for a 32-inch TV as a prelude to next week’s Diamond Dig, presented by Don Cook Jewelers.
The team will be in action again at 7:00 PM on Monday night as they attempt to take the series. Don’t forget to be one of the first 1,500 through the gate to receive your Derek Jeter Bobblehead, the inaugural item in the Heritage Series which is presented by Berkshire Bank.

Pregame Meal: Sunday August 19th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

A good Sunday afternoon to you, ‘Cats fans! It’s “NFL Night” here at The Joe, as the ValleyCats and Staten Island Yankees will do work in the second of three between the two teams. Tri-City comes in with a rare two-game losing streak after dropping last night’s affair 5-2, behind the first bad performance, or at least sub-par, from Aaron West. It’s also Sunday Funday at the ballpark, and the ValleyCats are only 1-2 on Sunday home games this season. It’s up to Joe Bircher to right the ship for the home team. He’ll face Tim Flight, a fellow southpaw, for Staten Island.

-It’s frankly been very weird to see this team play like they have the last two nights. They just haven’t really looked themselves at all. It begins at the plate, where the patience has been missing over the past two ballgames. Way too many times hitters have gone down within the first two pitches of an at-bat, which doesn’t really give you a good look at what the opposing pitcher is throwing. Patience is a huge part of what Stubby Clapp preaches to his team, so the past two nights must have been a little frustrating for him as well. Additionally, the fact that in back-to-back nights, Brian Holmes and Aaron West have had their collective worst starts of the year does not help the winning cause. It’s safe to say that those two won’t have repeat outings the next time through the rotation.

-One bright spot from the last two nights is that Tyler Heineman just keeps on hitting. The ‘Cats catcher last night drove in the only two runs of the ballgame for Tri-City, and raised his league-leading average to .369. Heineman has also done a great job behind the plate the last two games, handling a lot of breaking balls in the dirt and doing his best to control the runners on the basepaths. The ValleyCats All-Star catcher is in the lineup and DH’ing tonight.

-The ValleyCats, as most teams do, play better when they play errorless ball. The ‘Cats did last night, and for only the second time in 2012, lost when that happened. The defense played solid, and in a complete 180 from the previous night, the bullpen did its job as well. Jeremiah Meiners pitched 3.1 scoreless relief after allowing an inherited runner to score in the 6th. Over the past two nights, Stubby Clapp has only used four guys out of the pen, so most of the relievers should be ready to go if need be today.

-No batting practice today, so we can’t have a Batting Practice Hero. But look for a big game from Preston Tucker, who is hitting an insane .455 against left-handed pitchers. Tim Flight, the starter for Staten Island, has been knocked around in his last two outings and for the majority of the season, so he might be in for a rude awakening from the former Florida Gator.

-Tonight’s my final game with the ValleyCats, as I head back to school this week. It was been a truly great opportunity covering this team this season, and an honor bringing all the info I can to you faithful ‘Cats fans that read ‘Cats Corner every single day, or even just occasionally. A majority of the time this season, this hasn’t even felt like work because I love doing what I do. I hope you fans have had as much fun watching this team as I have writing and talking about them. Gear up for a very exciting stretch fun, folks, because this team is the real deal.

Tonight’s lineup:

Sclafani SS

Johnson 3B

Tucker RF

Wierzbicki 1B

Heineman DH

Elkins 2B

Cokinos C

McKinney LF

King CF

Bircher LHP


“You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too.”

-Roy Campanella


Star Wars Night Recap!

The ValleyCats were visited by “The Evil Empire” on Saturday night and we are not talking about the Staten Island Yankees. August 18th marked the ‘Cats second annual Star Wars Night with appearances by Darth Vader, a storm trooper, Han Solo, and even Yoda.
Darth Vader used the dark side of the force to command a ceremonial first pitch and the many Jedi in the crowd created a unique display with their light sabres later in the night.
The dark side had a strong presence throughout the night as they influenced the Mayors Race and prevented relish from earning an easy victory later in the game.
Star Wars Night was presented by our friends at Cole’s Collision and they were on hand to join the fun.
This theme has quickly become a fan favorite and we would like to extend a special thanks to those who dressed up to participate in the promotion. And as always, the video board graphics kept with the theme.
The post-game fireworks kicked off to Star Wars-themed music and Tennis Ball Man made his first appearance of the summer for the Ball Launch.
The ‘Cats dug themselves an early hole and were unable to climb all the way back. The Baby Bombers dealt the them their 2nd straight loss for the first time since August 1st. The boys will look to rebound on NFL Night which marks another Sunday Funday at “The Joe.” Wear your favorite NFL jersey to the box office to receive a $1 off your ticket purchase!
The team is also home on Monday as they wrap up the series against Staten Island with a Derek Jeter Bobblehead Giveaway as the innaugural member of the Heritage Series which is presented by Berkshire Bank. Don’t miss your chance to see the first-place ‘Cats before they head back out on the road!
To view more pictures from Star Wars Night and other games at “The Joe,” visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page. You can also download them for free and even have one printed.

Pregame Meal: Saturday, August 18th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

May the force be with you, ‘Cats fans! It’s my favorite night of the year: Star Wars Night! I’ll spare you the embarrassing amount I know about Star Wars by saying I’m very excited, and it’s typically a promotion the fans get really into. As for the team, they’ll face the Staten Island Yankees in the first of three here tonight. These teams head into this series with completely different outlooks on 2012. The ValleyCats are the presumable favorites to go all the way, and are virtual locks for the playoffs. The Yankees, on the other hand, can’t get this season over with soon enough. Staten Island is a New York-Penn League-worst 17-39, and would be 24.5 games behind Tri-City if the two played in the same division. The ‘Cats will try to get back to their winning ways after dropping last night’s walk-riddled affair 12-4 to the Cyclones.

-It’s behind the team at this point, as it should be, but the 9th inning of last night’s game was just about as bad an inning as this team has had this year. And I think that says a lot. Last night’s 9th was one of the very few, and I mean very few times, that this team has really struggled to get outs. The fact that Travis Ballew, a reliever with typically impeccable control, walked two batters and hit two others is an indication to chalk that frame up to a fluke. We’ve all been spoiled by the way this team has played so far, and it can be tough to remember that sometimes teams don’t look perfect.

-I don’t think there is one player on this team that routinely takes advantage of the coaching advice around him like M.P. Cokinos does. Almost every round of batting practice, M.P. is either talking to hitting coach Mark Bailey, or whatever Astros instructor is currently with the team. When Astros rover Ty Van Burkleo was here a few weeks, he was really trying to get M.P. to stay in with his front side more, and it immediately paid off, as Cokinos has been pretty hot ever since, and his power has picked up.

-Astros Minor League Coordinator Paul Runge is in Tri-City this week working with the players. Today during BP, Runge was very vocal during the third round, which consists of Jarrod McKinney, Dan Gulbransen, Emilio King, Catfish Elkins, and Preston Tucker. Runge made sure every player got down a bunt that would, as he put it, be “good in the 7th game of the World Series.” He also had Catfish bunt two or three times every round, to stress to the second basemen that his ability to bunt for a hit is something he needs to utilize more. It was great seeing Runge interact with the players by being tough on them, but also encouraging them on what they need to do to be the best ballplayer they can be.

-Not really a ton of long balls in batting practice today, but by far the best of them was an opposite field shot Emilio King hit during his final round. Emilio tends to go to right field a lot in the cage, and he got one up that just kept on going until it disappeared over the Valvoline sign in right-center. On the very next pitch, Emilio hit a very similar ball that hit off the very top of the wall.

-Aaron “0 ER” West goes tonight for the ‘Cats. The former Washington Huskie has been the best pitcher in all of the NYPL this year, and has gone at least 6 inning in five straight starts. West doesn’t walk any batters, and doesn’t really give up any hits, which as far as I’m concerned, is a pretty good combo. In his 50 innings, West has allowed just 5 earned runs (!!!!), and also has issued just 5 free passes. He’s been amazing, and I think just about everyone knows that by now. But what you might not now, is that Aaron is also a sensational ping-pong player. He and Preston Tucker had a great rally during a game in the clubhouse around 1pm today, and West, without fail, returned the best Tucker had to offer. From what I can gather, West and Juri Perez are the two best players on the team.

-Batting Practice Hero: This might be the most unconventional BPH we have the rest of the year. Today’s award goes to Catfish Elkins, for not hitting home runs, but laying down some of the greatest BP bunts I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying players don’t taking bunting in BP seriously, but it’s typically not their main focus, which is understandable. With Paul Runge behind the cage today, however, the pressure was on. When Catfish got in the cage, Runge yelled, “two down the third base line, one down the first. Go.” Elkins preceded to execute the bunts to perfection, and garner a compliment from Runge, which doesn’t appear to be easy to do. Catfish continued to lay down beauties throughout his round, and for that, the ‘Cats second basement gets today’s nod.

Today’s Lineup:

Sclafani SS

Batista DH

Tucker RF

Wierzbicki 1B

Heineman C

Elkins 2B

Dineen 3B

Gulbransen LF

King CF

West RHP

Do or do not. There is no try.”

-Yoda, Jedi Master

Christian Moronta, who had two hits in his team debut last night, taking some extra swings before batting practice Saturday.

First Annual “Blizzard in August” at “The Joe”

The forecast called for whiteout conditions on Friday night as the ValleyCats hosted their first-ever Blizzard in August. The first 2,000 fans through the gate received white t-shirts to commemorate the event and the Cat Pack made it snow with 1,000 rally towels tossed into the stands as part of the 3rd inning t-shirt toss. We hope to cool things down every August as we look to make this an annual promotion. Unfortunately, Mother Nature provided the wrong kind of precipitation as steady rains delayed the start of the game by approximately 35 minutes. Hats off to Head Groundskeeper, John Hudson, and his staff for getting the field ready for play. The white rally towels were waving as the ‘Cats mounted a late-inning comeback bid before ultimately unraveling in a 12-4 loss. Check out some photo highlights from the night:
The ValleyCats will look to start a new winning streak as they welcome the Staten Island Yankees to town on Saturday.
Saturday is Star Wars Night (presented by Cole’s Collision) at “The Joe” presented by Cole’s Collision. Join us and some friends from “a galaxy far, far away” and don’t forget to stick around for the post-game fireworks! Berm/GA Seating is still available with great views of all the action on the field as well as the fireworks.

Pregame Meal: Friday, August 17th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

A very happy Friday, ‘Cats fans! It’s been a long week, so get ready for a hearty Pregame Meal before this third and final game between the ValleyCats and Cyclones. Tri-City will go for the sweep and try to inch even closer to wrapping up the Stedler Division. It’s Brian Holmes for the ‘Cats and Gabriel Ynoa for Brooklyn, in a matchup of two starters with very low ERA’s both making their 10th starts of 2012. It’s “Blizzard in August” night at The Joe-fans will be given white rally towels and given white t-shirts. With that theme in mind, the ‘Cats will try to blank the Cyclones in the series.

-Despite a seemingly ordinary game, last night’s 4-2 win had a lot of positives to take away for the ValleyCats. Lance Day won his 4th straight start to improve to 5-0, and has quietly become a very reliable cog in the rotation. The bullpen, which has game-in-and-game-out been a huge part of the team’s success, pitched a dazzling 3.2 scoreless in relief of Day, including Blake Ford getting his league-leading 14th save of the year. Above all, Emilio King had a tremendous game. King had a two-run homer in the 5th, and then a lead-saving catch in center the next inning. King has struggled for a majority of the season, and last night might be the start of a turnaround for Emilio. We also want to wish Emilio a very happy 23rd birthday from all of us here at the ‘Cats Corner. Also, a belated happy birthday to Jeremiah Meiners, who turned 24 yesterday.

-It’s only been two batting practices and one game, but so far I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from infielder Jean Batista. Batista has a good looking, easy swing from both sides of the plate, and can appear to be able to hold his own in the field. He did drop a pop-up in the 6th last night, but he said after the game that he lost it in the lights, so as he gets adjusted to the lighting here in Troy, I wouldn’t expect to see that too often. He added a line drive double down the right field line and picked up his first stolen base with the team right after. He is again in the lineup tonight, and moves over to short after playing third last night.

-I mentioned above that the ‘Cats are attempting to sweep the Cyclones tonight. Should they be successful, it would be their eighth of the season, wayyyyy more than any other team, not like that really needs to be said. If they win tonight, the 24 wins they would have gotten in those series would surpass or equal 5 teams total victory count so far this year. Ironically, the only series loss the team has suffered this year was a sweep at home versus the State College Spikes. That remains the only series Tri-City has lost this year, which is hard to believe considering we’re now more than half way through August.

-Brian Holmes takes the mound, in the midst of a streak that is just as strong as any pitcher has had in the league this year. He has won his past 5 starts, going at least 6 innings in four of them and not allowing more than one run in any of them. The All-Star lefty has been the arguably the best pitcher on this team (in the non-Aaron West division) over the last month, if not the whole year. In my opinion, the “Big Three” of West, Rodgers, and Velazquez, is now definitely the “Big Four” with the addition of Holmes.

-Aaron West’s pitching credentials speak for themselves. But he made the play of the year in batting practice today. On a ball hit to the outfield, West appeared to be gearing up to make a routine catch of a line drive. Boy, was I wrong. He did a quick 180 and caught the ball with his glove behind him, as he was facing the wall. Doesn’t get much better than a no-look, behind the backer. I went up to Aaron after BP had ended and I asked him if he actually caught it, because frankly I couldn’t believe me eyes. He told me he did, but made it seem so nonchalant, as if it were a normal drill. Oh, to be athletically talented….

-Batting Practice Hero: I thought I would be writing to you ValleyCats fans today that I had to induct Preston Tucker into the Batting Practice Hall of Fame, after dominating again. But the former Florida Gator was upset today by Jesse Wierzbicki. Jesse has been a great BP guy throughout the year, as the ball really takes off after contact. Great opposite field power too, which is always nice to see in the cage. Wierzbicki today hit a ball that, off that bat, I thought had warning track power. But it just kept on going and going and going until I didn’t see it anymore, because it had been deposited in the deepest part of the park in left-center. It was a long home run for a guy that hits a ton of them before and sometimes even during games. Runner-up goes to Jarrod McKinney. McKinney, on his second to last swing of BP, swung through a Stubby Clapp fastball that gave everyone a good chuckle, including McKinney himself. In a glimpse of true redemption, J-Mac (decent nickname, right?) tattooed the next pitch well over the Tri-City ‘pen in left field to go out on a high note.

Tonight’s lineup:

Johnson CF

Batista SS

Tucker LF

Wierzbicki 1B

Heineman C

Elkins 2B

Dineen 3B

Christian Moronta DH (his position his catcher, called up on 8/10)

King RF

Holmes LHP

“There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, you can lose, or it can rain.”

-Casey Stengel

Last night’s player of the game Emilio King taking in BP before he hits

Hot Rods and Home Runs/Dunkin Donuts Night

Tonight was our annual Hot Rods & Home Runs Night with a special focus on Stopping DWI. The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the DMV provided some displays along the concourse and also coordinated a pre-game parade with local law enforcement.
Rensselaer County Stop DWI Coordinator, Jim Gordon, was on hand for the event and joined us on the field for the pre-game ceremonies.
New York State Assemblyman, Steve McLaughlin, was honored with a ceremonial first pitch as well.
The Titanics, participants in the ValleyCats Got Talent search, provided some great entertainment as fans arrived outside the main gate.
Our friends from Dunkin’ Donuts were also in the house giving a lucky fan the chance to win FREE COFFEE FOR A YEAR…as long as the ValleyCats hit a home run in the bottom of the fifth. ‘Cats outfielder Emilio King did not want to disappoint. He crushed an 0-2 fastball over the ValleyCats bullpen, thus giving Don Roberts free coffee for an entire year courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts.
King’s homer keyed the offense and the ‘Cats got another solid start from the rotation. Lance Day scattered five hits in five-plus innings as he earned a 4-2 victory over the visiting Cyclones.
The ValleyCats will go for the sweep on Friday night with the forecast calling for blizzard-like conditions at “The Joe.” Fans are encouraged to wear white as we host the first “Whiteout” in team history. The event will also include a t-shirt giveaway for the first 2,000 fans through the gate. Tickets are still available . . . Don’t get left out in the cold!

Pregame Meal: Thursday, August 16th

Hey ‘Cats fans! It’s good to be back after almost a week and a half away. Since the last time we sat down for a Pregame Meal, the ValleyCats have gone 7-1, to extend their league-leading record to a incredulous 41-14. Magic number down to 8, folks.

-Thanks to a little tip, we found out today that ‘Cats catcher M.P. Cokinos, on occasion, keeps his bats in a freezer before game time. I thought for sure there was some reason, or some superstition, or even some scientific evidence as to why M.P. does this, so I decided to find out for myself. Well, I really couldn’t have been more wrong. He told me that it’s just something he does once in a while, for no real purpose. Not if he’s hitting well, not if he’s hitting poorly. Just if he thinks the bat needs a good freezing. Ironically, M.P. has been red-hot recently with his chilled bat. He’s hitting .438 over his last ten games, and has an 4 multi hit games in that span, including 2 home runs.

-The ValleyCats are currently on a 5-game winning streak. That in itself is impressive, but when you take into account that this is their 4th such streak of the season, it becomes that much more remarkable. One of the previous three stopped at 5, but the other two went lengths of 11 and 7, and this one has a good shot of going farther.

-Preston Tucker was named New York-Penn League Player of the Week during the All-Star Break, and certainly backed up that recognition. Last night he had 3 RBI’s, and in just 22 games this year, he has 23 runs knocked in. He’s been the best extra-base hitter the ‘Cats have had since he joined the team. I asked him before BP if when he’s hot, does he at all alter his pre-game BP routine. He told me “Not really, it’s just a routine. If I’m feeling a good, I’ll take a few less reps, if I don’t feel good, maybe a few more.”

-Going through notes before the game today, I saw that Tri-City is 35-11 in night games, clearly very good. Then I took a look at the standings of the New York-Penn League. If the “ValleyCats At Night” were a team, they would have the second most wins in the league, just one behind Hudson Valley. I’m beginning to run out of ways to show the different ways that this team is just far superior to every other team in the league.

-Tonight’s starter for Brooklyn is Matthew Bowman, who is making his first start of the year, after pitching out the ‘pen up to this point in 2012. Bowman pitched at Princeton, so he is a Ivy League product just like ‘Cats shortstop Joe Sclafani. I asked Joe for a scouting report on the righty Bowman, and even though he told me he had never faced him, he told me Bowman has “a 90-92 fastball, and a good curve. He also throws like Tim Lincecum does.” Sclafani told me that Bowman was Princeton’s number #1 guy, so we’ll see if we can invoke “The Freak” tonight and try to shut down the ‘Cats.

-Batting Practice Hero: One more time, and I have to retire this guy. Preston Tucker put on the show to end all shows today in BP. He hit 4 straight home runs, all longer than the last, in one round. If you’ve been to the park, you’ve probably noticed the bulls-eye in deep right center on top of the hill. Tucker barely missed that. It was remarkable. His hands are so quick that once he makes contact, it’s pretty much a lock to be a line drive hit hard somewhere, and probably deep.

Tonight’s lineup:

Sclafani SS

Elkins 2B

Tucker RF

Wierzbicki 1B

Henieman C

Cokinos DH

Jean Bautista 3B

Gulbransen LF

King CF