March 2014

Front Office Friday: Welcoming our newest staff member, Ben

Baseball season is officially back! Two Major League teams opened the season in Australia, with the Los Angeles Dodgers sweeping a short two-game set from the Arizona Diamondbacks last weekend. Official Opening Day for the rest of the league comes Sunday through Tuesday, dependent upon which team you like.

Our season doesn’t begin for another few months – exactly 11 weeks from today! With some new faces in the front office and some familiar ones, we decided to introduce everybody to you in our new feature called Front Office Friday. We’ll be interviewing our front office staff with some interesting questions so that you, our fans, can get to know us on a more personal level.

We’ll start off with our newest full-time employee, Ben Whitehead. Ben joins us from one of our NYPL rivals, the Lowell Spinners. He interned in Lowell last summer and connected with the ’Cats at the Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar in Louisville, Ky. We hired Ben as an Account Executive in October and he made the trek from Oklahoma City – which happens to be the site of the 2014 Promo Seminar – where he lived the past five years.

Ben is excited to be a part of the ValleyCats team and can’t wait for his first game at “The Joe!”

Ben is part of a team with us that handles group sales, advertising and marketing efforts, as well as some media, promotional and production planning. He grew up in South Carolina, pitched for a Division II school (Erskine College) and finished out his academic career at Clemson University. He’s a baseball fanatic and is a 10-game mini-plan ticket holder with the Boston Red Sox. He and his wife, Kelly, are enjoying their time in Upstate New York and excited for what this summer and the baseball season will bring.

Let’s get to know Ben a little better…

Q) If you weren’t working for the ValleyCats, what would you be doing?
A) Either working for another team within Minor League Baseball or coaching baseball somewhere. I love this game and am making it my life goal to spread my passion to all who know me.

Q) Who is your favorite MLB team?
A) The 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox!!!

Q) What is your favorite sport other than baseball and who is your favorite team in that sport?
A) Gotta be college football and my Clemson Tigers! The atmosphere on game day in Death Valley is unlike anything else!

Q) What are some of your hobbies?
A) I enjoy golfing and traveling. I usually plan my travel trips around a sporting event, so if I go somewhere, it’s usually for a game and then to visit the area. I’ve been to six of the 30 MLB parks and plan to visit all of them in the near future. I also recently started collecting mini baseball helmets, you know, the kind you get your ice cream in. So far, I have five (Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Pawtucket Red Sox, Lowell Spinners and a Fenway 100th Anniversary helmet).

Q) What’s your favorite genre of music?
A) That’s easy – Country! Nothin’ better than a George Strait song!

Q) What’s your favorite meal to eat?
A) My wife would tell you I like to eat ribs and ice cream – which is true! – but my favorite meal is fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and mac ’n cheese.

Q) What’s your favorite pet or an ideal pet?
A) A dog. Most specifically, my five-year old puggle, Teddy Bear!

Q) What’s your favorite movie?
A) This is tough because I love sports movies. Baseball classics like Bull Durham, Major League, Angels in the Outfield and Little Big League are great. But I think my favorite sports movie is Miracle. Non-sports movie: The Shawshank Redemption.

Ben and his wife, Kelly, are happy to call Upstate New York home.

Q) What’s been your favorite moment at “The Joe?”
A) Well, since I haven’t seen a game here yet, I would say stay tuned…

Q) If you could have one super power, what would it be?
A) To be able to make unlimited ice cream!!!

Q) What position would you play if you played for the ValleyCats?
A) Pitcher. I’d like to be the closer.

Q) What song would you choose for your walk-up music?
A) “Blow me away” by Breaking Benjamin

Q) What’s your favorite quote?
A) Another tough one … I always fall back on “Hope is a good thing; maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” –Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption

Q) Who is your all-time favorite baseball player?
A) All-time: Ted Williams. Player I’ve actually seen: Pedro Martinez.

Q) If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
A) Jackie Robinson, Abraham Lincoln and my wife!

Q) If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
A) I would give a good portion of the money to charities and research groups, buy my mom her dream house on the beach, probably get a few nice things for myself and my wife, travel the country (with sporting events in mind) and the world, and make sure I have a enough saved up for my future kids.

If you see Ben around the Tri-City area, stop him and say hi! He loves striking up a good baseball conversation with folks and is anticipating another great summer at the ballpark!

Mark Appel makes his 2014 debut, and more from Astros spring training

On Friday, Mark Appel made his 2014 debut following a emergency appendectomy this past January. Appel, who began his pro career with the ‘Cats this past season, was a bit rusty in his first outing back, but mentioned that it was nice to get back on the mound and face live hitters.

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Astros pitching coordinator Dyar Miller and roving pitching instructor Doug White stand behind Morgan Ensberg during Appel’s start.

Appel drew a large viewing audience:



As always, it was great to catch up with some former ‘Cats. We were able to snag this photograph of members from last year’s championship team:


Kyle Westwood, Brett Booth, Tyler White, Ronnie Mitchell, James Ramsay

We were able to catch up with 2013 ‘Cats infielder Tony Kemp and pitcher Andrew Thurman, who shared their thoughts on playing at “The Joe”, last year’s team chemistry, and the pitching staff. Kemp also shared his thoughts on winning two rings, one with Quad Cities and one with the the ValleyCats.

Thurman mentioned that he had gained a bit of muscle in the offseason, and it shows. The other day, Thurman was hitting 96mph on the radar gun!

Some other photos:

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2012 ‘Cats, Dan Gulbransen and Catfish Elkins

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‘Cats former pitching coach, Rick Aponte speaking to Astros Assistant Director of Player Development, Allen Rowin.

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Jack Mayfield

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Chan Moon

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Astros’ 4-time All-Star / Greeneville hitting coach Cesar Cedeno.

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Former major league pitcher, Dyar Miller serves as the Astros Pitching Coordinator.

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Former Astros, Adam Everett and Morgan Ensberg speak with Field Coordinator Paul Runge.

Special thanks to Dan Carubia for helping me out with the interviews and for taking all the great photos you have seen thus far!

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Dan Carubia with former ‘Cats hitting coach Joel Chimelis, a.k.a “Brooklyn.” (Notice how the picture is blurry because Dan did not take this photo?)

2013 ValleyCats receive their NYPL Championship Rings

Greetings from Houston Astros spring training camp in Florida! It was a special night for the Astros organization, and the 2013 Tri-City ValleyCats in particular, on Wednesday when the team received their New York-Penn League championship rings.

The Astros have gotten used to hosting ring ceremonies for their minor league affiliates, with Class-A Quad Cities receiving 2013 championship rings this past weekend, and Class-A Lancaster capturing the league title in 2012.

On Wednesday night, the Astros hosted a ceremony for the 2013 ‘Cats, who captured the organization’s second NYPL title in four years. It was all done under the leadership of first year skipper, veteran Ed Romero:


Romero receives his championship ring from Astros Director of Player Development, Quinton McCracken, as Field Coordinator Paul Runge looks on from the back.

McCracken,ValleyCats President Bill Gladstone, and Romero all delivered fantastic speeches to the team:


Prior to the presentation of the rings, the team, staff, coaches, and front office all enjoyed a buffet style dinner:


(From L-R) Ronnie Mitchell, Adam Nelubowich, Tony Kemp, Jake Rodriguez, Ernesto Genoves, and Chan Moon.


(From L-R) Kevin Comer, Randall Fant, Kyle Westwood, Chris Cotton, Tyler Brunnemann, and Adrian Houser.


(From L-R) Troy Scribner, Jack Mayfield, Brian Holberton, Chris Munnelly, Andrew Thurman, Krishawn Holley.


Tony Kemp and Chan Moon filling their plates!


Following dinner, a highlight video from the 2013 season was played and the room shared many laughs.  Then the entire coaching staff and team was called up one by one to receive their rings.


Pat Christensen


Ernesto Genoves


Evan Grills


Jon Kemmer


Gonzalo Sanudo


Chan Moon


2013 ValleyCats field staff: athletic trainer Michael Rendon, pitching coach Doug White, manager Ed Romero, and hitting coach Russ Steinhorn.

Following the ceremony, we were able to catch up with skipper Ed Romero, infielder Conrad Gregor, and pitcher Kyle Westwood, to reflect back on the 2013 season.

Here’s a group photo of the ValleyCats championship squad:


2013 New York-Penn League champions!

Here are a few more photos from your former ‘Cats at Astros spring training camp:



Austin Wates


Tony Kemp


Kyle Westwood, Kevin Comer, Chris Cotton


Tyler White


Pitchers looking on during minor league spring training action


Jason Castro


Tony Kemp with his former Vanderbilt teammate, and current Nationals prospect Taylor Hill.


M.P. Cokinos


Chris Cotton


Jesse Wierzbicki


Jake Rodriguez


Astros minor league instructor, and former major leaguer Vince Coleman


Tyler Heineman


Some of the Astros Latino players seek shade.


Former ‘Cat Jorge DeLeon, who made his Major League debut last season with the Astros!

‘Cats Care: Community Roundup

Education has always been a big part of the ‘Cats Care campaign, and on March 3rd, schools across the nation celebrated Read Across America Day. SouthPaw spent that morning reading to students at Carroll Hill Elementary School. SouthPaw also took some time to read to students at Gardner Dickinson Elementary and Milton Terrace Elementary.

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SouthPaw with his friends from Milton Terrace Elementary School!


At Menands School, SouthPaw attended their Cultural Fair, as their gym was transformed into a global arena with family run tables representing different countries and cultures, from around the world and within the United States.

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Menands School has posted more photos online, and they are available by clicking here.


SouthPaw also attended Gardner Dickinson’s Jump Rope for Heart event on February 28th, which is an exciting fundraising event where kids learn jump rope skills while raising money for the American Heart Association. The program also incorporates lesson plans and resources to help teach students about living heart healthy lifestyles.

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The school was able to raise over $5,800 for the American Heart Association, and 47 people were trained in Hands-Only CPR.


An exciting event each year for SouthPaw and the ValleyCats staff, is the Hannaford Kidz Expo at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. There were tons of activities for kids and their parents, including live performances, and information on everything from summer camps, health care, sports clubs, photographers, dance studios, amusement parks & more.

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Keep checking our Facebook page for updates on upcoming community appearances, and photos from each event!

Also check out what the ValleyCats have planned for their first ever Education Day at “The Joe” on June 17!

What a Recovery!

If you live in the Capital Region and are a sports fan (or maybe not even a sports fan), chances are you have been to a Recovery Sports Grill, which have seven different locations locally.

The chain of restaurants began in 2007, with the “Recovery Room” next to Albany Medical Center. Since that time, a lot has changed including technology. BBL Hospitality, who owns the chain, decided that the Albany location was due for an upgrade. They remodeled the entire restaurant/bar, and added tons of brand new TV’s, including 90″ flat screens.

The trademark for each and every restaurant, is the local flavor they add as decor. You won’t find a spot on the wall that doesn’t include a photo or piece of memorabilia that reflects Capital Region sports.

Below are some great photos of the brand new look. Check out the ValleyCats themed wall and menu!

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“The Joe” is featured as the background image for the burgers page!

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Be sure to stop by and check out the new and improved Recovery Room in Albany, which is located at 62 New Scotland Avenue right next to Albany Medical Center. And tell them SouthPaw sent you!

Recovery Sports Grill also has locations in Troy, Colonie, Guilderland, Malta, Rotterdam, Queensbury and Amsterdam. They routinely hold trivia nights, and have great drink specials. For more information, visit their website at, or check out their Facebook page at