September 2012

Thank You Fans!

Thank you to all the ValleyCats fans who created great memories at “The Joe” in 2012! It was another record breaking season in terms of attendance, and the team put up the most wins in franchise history with 51. None of it would have been possible without the great support from YOU the fans, the best fans in Minor League Baseball!

We have tons of offseason activities planned and will share them with you throughout the upcoming months. Thanks again for another great season of fun and excitement at “The Joe!”

Video thank you message from the 2012 ValleyCats front office, players, and staff:

Pre-Game Meal – ‘Ship Edition: Game 3 (9/13/12)

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

So it all comes down to this. This will be the last game of the season, regardless of what happens. The New York-Penn League playoffs have been fantastic all the way around. It’s a shame that someone has to walk out of Dutchess Stadium a loser, but that’s why they play the game. Both teams have fought hard all season long (it’s why they are here), and I do not expect anything else in game three.

Tidbits from today:

1.) Hitting Coach Mark Bailey was talking to a lot of the players about his experience as the Houston Astros’ bullpen coach in 2005. The Astros made the World Series in 2005, but it was not easy. After the memorable Chris Burke home run in the bottom of the 18th inning against the Atlanta Braves, the ‘Stros took on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Most of you will remember that series for the towering home run Albert Pujols hit off of Brad Lidge in game two. Bailey talked about how dejected the plane ride to St. Louis was after that game. Everyone was down. But they remained calm and rattled off three wins in the next four games to get to the World Series. The motto for today: Stay calm, have fun.

2.) Besides being an outstanding hitter, Preston Tucker also knows how to play the guitar. He has been playing an axe since eighth grade. Favorite type of guitar? Ibanez. He owns a few of them.

3.) Aaron West last night was sensational. He was perfect through five innings, kept the fastball down and got a lot of swing and misses on the slider. It was arguably his best start of the season, which is extremely impressive considering how much he has pitched this year college and pro-ball combined.

4.) For all of the Yankee fans that read this blog, the ValleyCats fans in attendance will be doing the “roll call” when the ‘Cats first take the field. For those that do not know what I am talking about, the fans are going to chant every single fielder’s name until they are acknowledged by that particular player. Click here to see what I am talking about.

Batting practice hero: Jean Batista. Really swung the bat well. He hit a couple of monster home runs and a ton of screaming line drives.

Tonight’s Lineup:

Sclafani – SS

Elkins – 2B

Wierzbicki – 1B

Cokinos – DH

Heineman – C

Tucker – RF

McKinney – LF

King – CF

Johnson – 3B

SP – Joe Bircher (LHP)

#VamosGatos!

 

Pre-Game Meal – ‘Ship Edition: Game 2 (9/12/12)

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

Welcome to “The Dutch”, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades! I don’t know about you guys, but between the last two games I think I have cut a few years off my life span. Talk about drama. Game three might have been the most incredible baseball game I have ever seen live. Four ties and five lead changes? That’s pure madness. And as for last night, what a way to shut down “The Joe” for the 2012 season (there will be other events held there, but that was the last ValleyCats game in Troy this year). Tri-City picked one heck of a night to register their first walk-off win.

But enough of that. Here are the tidbits from today:

1.) It has become glaringly evident that ‘Cats first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki is the unofficial captain of this team. Him and Stubby Clapp are attached at the hip. Clapp asked Wierzbicki yesterday whether the team should leave for Fishkill right after the game or wait until the next day. Without hesitation Jesse said the next day. It gave the ValleyCats a chance to sleep in their own beds. Jesse is one of the “veterans” on the team. This is his second year of professional baseball.

2.) For those of you that were not listening to the game or following our Twitter page (@ValleyCats), Vincent Velasquez made his first appearance in over a month last night and was sensational with the exception of one pitch. The second-round draft pick had a lively fastball (93-95 mph), which he kept down in the zone, a good change-up, and featured a sweeping slider. I asked a couple guys about the right-hander’s return. All responded with some form of: “It was great to see him out there battling again.”

3.) I asked a couple of guys over the past couple of days how they “enjoy” playing in cold weather. It has been chilly the past two nights from “The Joe”, with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees after the sun goes down. Elkins told me it’s frustrating because it could end up ruining the most important part of a baseball player’s body: the hands. Cold weather can numb your hands on the field, making it almost impossible to grip the baseball right. Plus, when you break your bat in the cold it sends a stinging jolt through both arms, and that feelings tends to linger for a while.

4.) I want to wish a Happy Birthday to Stubby Clapp’s son, Cooper!

Batting Practice Hero: Jesse Wierzbicki. He hit a 400+ ft. home run to dead center off Stubby. That’s impressive.

Pictured below: Last night’s hero, Preston Tucker.

 

 

Here is tonight’s starting lineup:

Sclafani – SS

Elkins – 2B

Tucker – RF

Wierzbicki – 1B

Heineman – C

Cokinos – DH

Gulbransen – LF

King – CF

Dineen – 3B

RHP – Aaron West

Oh, and one more thing…

 

NYPL Championship Game 1 at “The Joe!”

On a day of reflection upon the  September 11th attacks, 11 years to the day, the ValleyCats provided a bright spot, as they collected their first walk-off win of the season, edging out the Hudson Valley Renegades in Game One of the championship series 5-4.

Photos:

NYPL Semi-Finals Game 3 vs. Auburn

The Tri-City ValleyCats and Auburn Doubledays squared off Monday night in game three of a best-of-three series with the winner hosting game one of the Championship series on Tuesday. The game did not disappoint. Four ties and five lead changed later, the ‘Cats came out on top 16-7 thanks to an 11-run outburst in the seventh and eighth innings.

Here are a few photos from the night:

Game Two at “The Joe”

The first round of the New York-Penn League Playoffs resumed at “The Joe” on Sunday night with the ValleyCats taking on Auburn for game two.
Old friend, Sammy Baseball, was on hand to toss out a ceremonial first pitch and to help get the crowd fired up.
The teams were introduced with ceremonial lineups prior to a great rendition of the National Anthem by Lucy Gladstone. Her sister Haley provided a beautiful performance of God Bless America later in the game as well.
The ‘Cats were not sharp out of the gate as Auburn plated three in the top of the first inning. Tri-City had their chances to climb back into the game but left the bases loaded in the bottom of the first on their way to leaving a whopping thirteen men on base.
After finally breaking though in the fifth, the ‘Cats cut the deficit to one in the sixth on back-to-back hit-and-run plahs. Unfortunately, they would get no closer as Auburn pulled away for a 5-2 victory.
The third and final game of the series will take place at 6:00 PM on Monday at “The Joe.” Show your support as the ValleyCats look to advance to the championship series for the second time in three years.

Pre-Game Meal – Playoff Edition: Game 2 (9/9/12)

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

Afternoon folks! Welcome back to “The Joe” on this opening week of the NFL season. ValleyCats getting ready to take on Auburn Doubledays for game two of this best-of-three series. Here are the tidbits from today:

1.) The ValleyCats and Doubledays have faced off in the playoffs once before. In the 2006 opening-round series the ‘Cats swept Auburn by the scores of 1-0 and 4-3. Friday night marked the third one-run win for Tri-City against the now-Nationals affiliate.

2.) Shortstop Joe Sclafani has a mild ankle sprain on his left ankle. He sprained in during the five-hit game against the Hudson Valley Renegades on September 4. It doesn’t seem to be bothering him too much. He’s 2-9 with the mild sprain, including his first career home run as a professional. He put in multiple good rounds during today’s batting practice.

3.) Fatigue is starting to really take a toll on everyone, but the casual baseball fan wouln’t notice. Catfish Elkins explained to me that he’s not necessarily “tired”, but he says his bat speed has regressed just a hair.

4.) Dan Gulbransen loves to leave on a high note. Each batter gets three swings in the final round of batting practice. Gulbransen hit a solid line drive to the opposite field and immediately left the cage. Why? He believes that batting practice should end on a high note, and as soon as he puts a good swing on it he will call it a day.

Batting Practice Hero: How could it not be Dan Gulbransen? He did hit two line drive home runs, but that last swing was a thing of beauty. He left me wanting more. Kind of like some other guy I know. His name is George Castanza. Props if you get the reference.

Pictured below: Jarrod McKinney

 

 

Today’s Lineup:

Sclafani – SS

Elkins – 2B

Tucker – RF

Wierzbicki – 1B

Heineman – C

Cokinos – DH

Gulbransen – LF

Dineen – 3B

King – CF

RHP – Rodgers

Pre-Game Meal – Playoffs Edition: Game 1-9/7/12

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

Greetings from Leo Pinckney Field at Falcon Park located in Auburn, NY. The ValleyCats are getting ready for their first playoff game since 2010, and I think we all know how that ended. Here are the tidbits from today:

1.) If you had blindfolded me, put me in the car, not told me where we are going, took off the blindfold while I was in the press box, and asked me where I thought I was I would have told you we were at Dwyer Stadium, home of the Batavia Muckdogs. The stadiums are eerily similar. Why is that? They are designed by the same architecture group (Highland Associates).

2.) I asked red-hot Joe Sclafani what game meant more to him: the five-hit game or the game where he hit his first home run as a professional? It took a while for him to give me an answer, but he eventually responded with the five-hit game. Sclafani understands that home runs are not going to come along too often so he wanted to savor the moment (which was evident by the GIANT smile he had on his face as he rounded third base). The five-hit attack against the Hudson Valley Renegades in a 9-3 victory marked the second time in his career he had collected five hits in a single game. The other time? He was a junior in college. Dartmouth crushed UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County) 17-2 on March 24, 2011. He was 5-6 with three singles, a double, and a triple.

3.) Some of the ValleyCats players and coaches believe the team never should have gotten no-hit. Tucker claims he had a hit in the middle innings that was changed to an error after the inning was completed. As an official scorer, I understand the dilemma of making that kind of call. Given the situation, I might have done something similar.

4.) Talking with some of the hitters in the last group of batting practice (Elkins, Gulbransen, Tucker, King, McKinney) they all mentioned how hard it is to hit off Manager Stubby Clapp. His pitches might not look like much, but everyone remarked how his fastball has a lot of late sink to it. They all said he is the hardest to hit out of all the coaches by far, especially with fatigue starting to set in.

5.) I asked Tyler Heineman for a scouting report on Auburn DoubleDays’ starting pitcher Brett Mooneyham. He told me he has a lively fastball but really no secondary pitch, which explains the low strikeout total (29 K’s in 42.1 innings).

Batting Practice Champion: M.P. Cokinos.

Here’s the lineup for game one:

Sclafani – SS

Elkins – 2B

Tucker – RF

Wierzbicki – 1B

Heineman – C

Cokinos – DH

McKinney – LF

Dineen – 3B

King – CF

RHP – Aaron West

Picture Below: Jean Batista

Pre-Game Meal: Special Edition (9/6/12)

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti)

The ValleyCats held a special practice today before getting on the bus and heading to Auburn to play game one of this first-round series. Here are some tidbits from the two-hour practice today:

1.) Half of the practice was spent going over situational drills in a game called “27 outs”. Manager Stubby Clapp simulated different game situations by yelling out the number of men on, the inning, the score, and by randomly hitting it somewhere to see if the defense could make the correct play. One of the few hiccups came “in the ninth inning” with runner’s on first and second, one out and the ValleyCats were up two runs. Stubby hit a single to center field and Emilio King came home with the throw. It was a good throw and it maybe gets the runner (knowing how good King’s arm is it probably would get a runner), but Stubby was not happy with it. In that situation you want to go to second with the ball instead of home. Yes, you sacrifice the run, but the throw into second keeps the game-ending double play in order and you maintain the lead.

2.) Tri-City took batting practice as well. The batting practice hero goes to M.P. Cokinos. In his third round he hit three home runs in five attempts.

3.) Now that the season is finally over, we can finally proclaim Tyler Heineman as the 2012 New York-Penn League batting champion. Heineman hit .358 in his first season of professional baseball, absolutely crushing the competition in that category. But like he does most of the time, Tyler steered the attention towards his teammates. He thanked his teammates for giving him good counts to hit it in by getting on base in front of him.

4.) Lastly, I want to take the chance to thank all of you readers and ValleyCats/Astros fans. In the most recent MLB.com Blogs Central publication, ‘Cats Corner ranked 24th in terms of total viewership for the month of August among all the professional blogs (there is a difference between pro blogs, fan blogs, and beat writer blogs). Last month, ‘Cats Corner ranked 42nd. It’s an honor to be ranked in the top-50 to begin with, never mind squeaking inside the top-25. When Kevin Whitaker and I created this blog in 2010 I don’t think either of us fathomed this kind of popularity. We made a huge jump this month, our best month ever, and it’s all thanks to you guys! You’re the best! I’ll make sure we still produce the same quality of material you have grown to expect from us.

Fan Appreciation Night at “The Joe”

Wednesday’s final game of the season was our annual Fans for Life Night with a special 6:00 PM start time.
Players greeted fans as gates opened . . . posing for pictures and signing autographs.
TD Bank was on hand as the game sponsor, with giveaways including drawstring backpacks. There were giveaways for fans throughout the night as we emptied the Promo Room for the T-Shirt Tosses. Our friends from Black & White Taxi were also on hand to help provide transportation during the tosses.
Prior to the game, BlueShield of Northeastern New York presented a check to the Capital District YMCA as part of the season-long K’s for Kids Campaign. BlueShield donated $10 for every strikeout that ValleyCats pitchers recorded at home this season, which translated into $3,040! Special thanks to Kate Otis, Regional Communications Manager from BSNENY, and Patrick Ciraulo, District Executive Director Greenbush Area Branch for the YMCA, for their participation on Wednesday night.
Andy James and the folks from Rensselaer Honda were also on hand for a special presentation to the Northeast Regional Food Bank later in the game.
The ‘Cats dropped a close game by the score of 3-2 to conclude a memorable season both on the field and in the stands. 159,966 fans visited “The Joe” this summer to establish a new attendance record for the 9th consecutive season! Thank you to all the fans for your continued support and we look froward to seeing you for the playoffs.
The team will travel to Auburn for game one of their playoff series against the Doubledays on Friday night. Game two will take place at “The Joe” on Saturday with the ‘Cats hosting game three on Sunday if necessary. Tickets are on sale now as we look to give the team a true home field advantage!
Get your Playoff Tickets here! 

Irish Night at “The Joe”

“The Joe” was painted green on Tuesday for our annual Irish Night, presented by Irish 2000 Music and Art Festival.
Members of Hair of the Dog kicked off the festivities with a pre-game concert behind homeplate and several Leprechauns were on hand to greet fans as they entered the stadium!
The Columbia & District Pipe Band played prior to the game, a tradition on Irish Night, and then again on the dugout at the end of the 2nd inning.
The Farrell School of Irish Dance showcased their talents on the field during the middle of the seventh. This has also become an Irish Night tradition with the boys and girls performing every year. Special thanks to all of these groups for helping to make Irish Night one of the most popular themes on our promotional calender.
On the field, the ‘Cats rebounded in a big way to earn a franchise-record 51st win of the season! Dan Gulbransen kicked off the scoring with a three run shot in the second inning. He would later add a second home run to go along with big nights from M.P. Cokinos, Tyler Heineman, and South End Tavern Player of the Game, Joe Sclafani. Juan Minaya pitched six strong innings for his second win of the season.
Wednesday’s game is shaping up to have major playoff implications as the winner will earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs! Come root on the ‘Cats on Fan Appreciation Night at “The Joe!” This is your last chance to see the team before the playoffs.

Pre-Game Meal: 9/4/12

I apologize that I have not had the chance to continue this feature of our blog, but I simply have not had time. I worked hard last night to make sure that I could fit this in because I honestly enjoy writing it.

Today’s game comes with a threat of inclement weather (some of the remnants of Hurricane Isaac). I am not a meteorologist in any fashion, but according to my understanding of weather.com it looks like the game will start on time. As for whether we finish it, that I cannot say. Let’s hope the rain stays away.

As for some of the tidbits from today:

1.) The team is on their worst losing streak this season, the worst since a five-game stretch last year spanning from July 30-August 3. As a coach there are a couple of ways to try and motivate your team to maybe jump-start them. Some might be harsh, but Manager Stubby Clapp, Hitting Coach Mark Bailey, and Pitching Coach Rick Aponte have decided to keep it light. In his speech with the pitchers today, Aponte reminded the group how could they are and have been this entire season. Clapp gave some guys extra rips in the cage to try and relax everyone.

2.) Some people use vaseline to break in their baseball gloves and keep the leather “healthy” and soft. M.P. Cokinos uses Barbasol shaving cream (insert advertisement here). He told me it is a trick he learned from his dad years ago, and considers it another part of his ritual (much like putting the bats in the freezer).

3.) The ValleyCats have struggled to score during this losing-streak. In these five games the league’s best offense is averaging only 1.8 runs per game. Hitting with runners in scoring position has clearly been the biggest problem. During this stretch, the ‘Cats are 1-40 with RISP (.025), by far their worst stretch. They are still ranked third in the New York-Penn League in that category.

4.) Brian Holmes has simply dominated the Hudson Valley Renegades this year. In two appearances the former-Demon Deacon has pitched 14 scoreless innings, has allowed one hit and one walk, while fanning 13. He has a 0.14 WHIP against the ‘Gades. Is it too soon to send him back out there?

5.) Hitting Coach Mark Bailey took time to congratulate Tyler Heineman for winning the NYPL Batting Title. Even though there are two games to go, Heineman holds a firm 21-point lead over Auburn’s Shawn Pleffner. Unless Tyler goes 0-25 in the next two games, he is going to win that distinguished honor. Heineman shrugged off the compliment by simply saying, “I need to be a better catcher.” Last ValleyCats player to lead the league in batting? J.D. Martinez (.326)

Here is tonight’s lineup:

Sclafani – SS

Elkins – 2B

Tucker – RF

Wierzbicki – 1B

Heineman – C

MP Cokinos – DH

Dineen – 3B

Johnson – CF

Gulbransen – LF

P – Minaya (1-2, 4.99 ERA)

Labor Day at “The Joe!”

The ‘Cats returned home on Labor Day to take on the Hudson Valley Renegades in front of a packed house. It was a playoff-like atmosphere at “The Joe” as the two best teams in the N.Y.P.L. squared off in an extra inning affair.
ValleyCats pitching, led by Brian Holmes (7 innings, no hits, 7 K’s), shutdown the Renegades after a first inning home run. The offense finally broke through to tie the game in the eighth with a bases loaded walk by M.P. Cokinos. Unfortunately they could not sustain the momentum and dropped the game on a passed ball in the eleventh. Tough loss but a possible indicator of some great baseball ahead in the post season.
4,384 fans celebrated the unofficial end to summer at “The Joe” with many attending Capital Region’s Biggest Labor Day BBQ in the Time Warner Cable Picnic Pavilion.
HomeBrewed provided the pre-game entertainment with a concert on the concourse and Brent braved the dunk tank once again.
Congratulations to Matthew Burke who was the winner of the inaugural ValleyCats Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby! He was one of three finalists to make it onto the big field and bested the competition with a walk-off blast into the bullpen. We look forward to growing this event in the years to come!
The team looks to rebound on Tuesday night in game two of the series against Hudson Valley. Tuesday is also Irish Night, presented by Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival with a 5:00 PM concert by Hair of the Dog kicking off the festivities. Join us at “The Joe” for some corned beef and cabbage!
For more photos, shot by Greg Fisher of Sports Through the Lens, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera library.
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