Pregame Meal: Opening Day Edition
By Matt Appel
A very happy Opening Day ‘Cats fans! At long last, the 2013 ValleyCats season is set to begin in just a matter of minutes. We are very pleased to bring back last year’s “Pregame Meal” segment of ‘Cats Corner to you Tri-City faithful. Here’s anything and everything you’ll need to know before the first pitch of this 2013 season comes in at 7:05:
-While the seven All-Stars from last year’s team will certainly be missed, there is still a great deal of talent on this year’s squad. The headliners on the current roster are this year’s 4th and 5th round picks of the Astros, 1B Conrad Gregor and 2B Tony Kemp, who were teammates for the last three seasons at Vanderbilt. Kemp was this year’s SEC Player of the Year, after hitting .391 with 34 stolen bases. Gregor stole 21 bases himself and had a .440 OBP for the Commodores. It will prove to be one of the biggest story lines of this year, as the right side of the infield for Vandy has traveled north and relocated in Troy, NY
-The pitching rotation for the ‘Cats, at least for the time being, is an unorthodox one to say the least. The Astros’ organization is trying out a system of “piggybacking” their starters; what this basically means is that the starters are teamed together in tandems. Tonight’s starter is LHP Evan Grills, a pitcher from Whitby, Ontario, in his 4th season with the Astros organization. His “tandem” hurler is Kevin Comer, who was a first round pick of the Blue Jays (57th) overall in 2011. The starters will throw no more than 3 innings under this system, according to new pitching coach Doug White, and then at some point in the game, the other starter will throw no more than 3 innings, but at least 1, given their pitch count doesn’t exceed whatever threshold has been determined. Unorthodox, yes, but the point is to give the team a look at as many pitchers as they can without damaging the pitchers coming from college who have already thrown many innings this year.
-In 2012, for those of you new to the program, the ValleyCats captured their 4th Stedler Division Championship after winning a team record 51 games. In the previous three years post-Division Championship, the ‘Cats failed to make the playoffs all three times. That is certainly a trend that new manager Ed Romero will try to buck in 2013. Romero has made it very clear so far that his managing style centers around the idea of aggressiveness. He told me to expect this team to run often, take the extra base; basically anything to put the pressure on the opposing defense. For those fans unfamiliar with Romero, he was a utility infielder from the late 1970′s till 1990, and played on many of the more memorable playoff teams from the 1980′s, namely the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers and the 1986 Boston Red Sox.
-Those of you from the Capital District might recognize the name Christian Garcia. Garcia was a 2009 graduate of Saratoga Central Catholic High School, where he pitched and played first, and will come out of the bullpen for Tri-City this year. His place on the roster has already been a topic of great attention by the local media, and it will be interesting to see how Garcia thrives back at home, where he says his some of his friends and family haven’t seen him pitch since graduating high school.
-For a brief time this afternoon, this game appeared to be in great danger of not being played. At around 3:30, the closest thing I have ever seen to a monsoon came through the area, tossing everything in its path aside. This included the tarp and the grounds crew. If any of you have ever seen clips on ESPN of Major League grounds crews losing complete control of the tarp during a wind/rain storm, that is exactly what is resembled. I have to tell you, it’s not nearly as much fun witnessing it from the field as it is from the comfort of my TV.
-Because of the storm, no on-field batting practice was held today. However, that does not mean we can’t hand out 2013′s first Batting Practice Hero award. From what I have seen over the past few days in BP, Jon Kemmer will be hitting for a great deal of power here at The Joe. Kemmer played at NAIA Brewton Parker College, and slugged at a .717 clip this year, so power is certainly part of his game. He might need to close up his stance to avoid racking up strikeouts, but when he gets a hold of one, the second row of signage here at The Joe will be the likely resting spot for the ball.
2B Tony Kemp
SS Jose Fernandez
CF James Ramsay
1B Conrad Gregor
C Ernesto Genoves
RF Ronnie Mitchell
DH Dan Gulbransen
LF Jon Kemmer
3B Ryan Dineen
LHP Evan Grills
“A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings”