As the school year comes to a close for most kids, we were happy to give students an unofficial start to summer yesterday at The Joe with our annual Education Day game. What better way to kick off summer than with 25 schools and over 4,200 people in attendance for a morning baseball game baseball?
The ValleyCats hosted the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game League (a summer league for collegian players) in the first ever exhibition game at “The Joe” and in the spirit of good sportsmanship, both teams sat down for a post game picnic
after the ValleyCats’ 6-3 win.
Thanks to our partners at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Noble Gas, Transfinder and St. Peter’s Health Partners Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program at Samaritan Hospital, students were treated to a day of learning by covering topics like Math, Geography and Science in an interactive pre-game curriculum.
Students helped SouthPaw calculate his concession stand bill, find the distance to the new West Virginia Stadium, determine player statistics and figure out state capitals. They also got a dose of character development by joining Sammy Baseball, SouthPaw and friends in taking an anti-bullying peace pledge before the game. They also had an opportunity to sign the ‘Cats Peace Pledge, which will be displayed at the stadium throughout the summer.
While the Dutchmen were able to grab a 2-0 lead in the first inning, it wasn’t enough to keep the ValleyCats down. By the bottom of the fourth, the ValleyCats had a 3-2 lead over the Dutchmen, thanks to an RBI double from Keach Ballard, an RBI single by Johnny Sewald and a sacrifice fly by Drew Ferguson.
At the plate, Cesar Carrasco went 4-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Johnny Sewald took the Player of the Game title after his RBI, hit and stolen base. The Play of the Game went to Keach Ballard’s fourth inning double off the right field wall that led to the ‘Cats’ three run rally.
While a day of baseball is always fun, it wouldn’t be a ValleyCats game without the in-between inning events. Students were randomly selected to participate in on field games like the Deli & Brew Pizza Toss, Transfinder Bus Race, Pony Hops, T-Shirt Tosses, and more!
After a great day of learning and baseball, the ValleyCats are ready to kick off their regular season on June 19th in Connecticut. The ‘Cats will be back in town after a six-game road trip for their official home opener against the Staten Island Yankees, at 7 P.M. on Thursday, June 25.
Another week of baseball is in the books, and that means yet another set of games that have seen strong performances by former Tri-City ValleyCats. Here are a few highlights from this week’s action in another addition of “The Joe to The Show,” presented by Curtis Lumber.
This past Sunday, RHP Michael Feliz (’13) became the 36th former ‘Cat to reach the Major Leagues, making his debut for the Houston Astros against the Chicago White Sox.
Entering the game in relief to start the top of the ninth inning, the 21-year old right-handed pitcher allowed a double to White Sox second baseman Carlos Sanchez, but buckled down and retired the next three batters, capped off by an inning-ending strikeout of Adam LaRoche to strand Sanchez on third.
Feliz was sent back down to Double-A Corpus Christi following the game, as the Astros aim to continue his development as a starter. So far this year, the native of Azua, Dominican Republic holds a 1-2 record with a 4.20 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 40.2 innings over 10 games (five starts) split between Corpus Christi and Advanced A-Lancaster.
Another former ‘Cat currently excelling at the big league level is Kike Hernandez (’10), who is contributing to the Los Angeles Dodgers as a utility player, making starts at all three outfield positions, as well as second base and shortstop. Offensively, Hernandez has carved out a spot in Los Angeles’s lineup thanks to his defensive versatility, as he has started the last five games, while playing three different positions during that span. During those games, Hernandez has six hits in 17 at bats, with a home run, two runs scored and two runs batted in. In 23 games overall with the Dodgers this season, 23-year old is hitting .273 with two homers and five runs batted in.
Brandon Barnes (’07) has also been on a hot streak lately, as the Colorado Rockies outfielder has six hits through his first four games in the month of June, bringing his season batting average up to a robust .348 (16 hits in 48 at bats). Since being recalled by the Rockies on May 20, he has progressively settled in as a temporary starter in left field due to the injury to Corey Dickerson, but if Barnes continues his hitting tear, it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup once Dickerson becomes healthy.
In the Minor Leagues, it certainly has been a good week to be a former ValleyCat playing for the Advanced-A Lancaster JetHawks. This past Saturday, OF Derek Fisher (’14) broke a 61-year old California League record with 12 runs batted in, hitting three home runs (two of them grand slams!) and a double in a 4-6 night, helping the JetHawks to a 16-3 victory over the High Desert Mavericks. To make the night even sweeter for Fisher, the game was his first at that level, as he got promoted to Lancaster from Single-A Quad Cities the night before.
Fisher homered again one day later against High Desert, but somehow he was upstaged in the game by another former ‘Cat, as Alfredo Gonzalez (’14) hit two home runs in ONE INNING, to cap a 10-run frame for the JetHawks. The two long balls hit during the sixth frame were the first two of the year for Gonzalez, who is hitting .295 with six extra-base hits and 16 runs batted in through 28 total games played between Quad Cities and Lancaster.
Not to be left out of the Lancaster hit parade of the past week was the versatile Marc Wik (’14). Defensively, the 22-year old has started at second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field in 26 games for the JetHawks thus far this season. And just like the aforementioned Kike Hernandez, Wik has used his defensive versatility to stay in the lineup, and saying that has paid off for him would be a gross overstatement. The Fremont, Calif., native has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, posting a .463 batting average (19-41) with two home runs and six runs batted during the streak. The highlight of his season thus far, came this past Tuesday, when he went 4-4 with a double, a triple, and a home run to become only the seventh Minor Leaguer in 2015 to hit for the cycle.
The performances by Feliz, Hernandez, Barnes, and the trio of Lancaster sluggers were just a few examples of standout performances by former Tri-City ValleyCats throughout the Minor and Major Leagues, and there are plenty more! So check in again next week to read about them in a new “The Joe to The Show,” post presented by Curtis Lumber!
June is only a few days away, and that means that before you know it, the Tri-City ValleyCats will be starting their defense of their 2014 Stedler Divison Title. But although New York-Penn League baseball has yet to begin at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, we continue to take a weekly look at how ‘Cats alums are performing in the Major Leagues, and in the higher rungs of Minor League Baseball in “The Joe to The Show,” presented by Curtis Lumber.
With the Houston Astros still sporting the top record in the American League (30-18 entering today, good for a six-game lead over the Los Angels Angels in the AL West standings), the ValleyCats’ parent club is certainly getting contributions from up and down their roster. However, quite a few ‘Cats are at the top of the list.
Starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel (’09) continues to show that his breakout 2014 campaign was anything but a fluke, as the left-hander sits among the top three in the American League in wins (6), earned run average (1.92), and innings pitched (72.2). And according to ESPN.com’s CY Young Predictor, Keuchel is currently a close second to Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez among all American League hurlers.
Outfielder George Springer (’11) is also producing for the Astros, and doing so while on a very strong hot streak. The 2011 first round draft pick has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, posting five multi-hit performances during that time, while hitting .394 with four doubles, one home run and six runs scored during that span (May 20-27). Overall this season, Springer also is fourth in the American League in walks with 29.
While an AL East rival of the Astros, the Oakland Athletics, has struggled thus far, they are starting to get some of their key players healthy and on to the field. One of those players is Ben Zobrist (’04). The 2B/OF missed a month due to knee surgery, but has hit safely in all three games since his return to action on May 26. In those three contests, the two-time All-Star earned four hits in 11 at bats, cracking two doubles, while driving in one run and scoring once.
Former ‘Cats continue to perform in the Minor Leagues, as well. In fact, all four of the Astros full-season MiLB affiliates currently hold winning records, with three of them (Triple-A Fresno, Double-A Corpus Christi, and Single-A Quad Cities), are in first place.
In Fresno, third baseman Matt Duffy (’11) has been on a tear lately, going 13 for 41 over his last ten outings, with two doubles and four multi-hit games during that span. On the year, the former New York-Penn League All-Star is hitting .281 with four home runs and 29 runs batted in.
This past Tuesday, Michael Feliz (’13) made his Double-A debut with Corpus Christi, doing so in style by striking out seven batters en route to only allowing one run off of one hit. In the process, the 21-year old righty earned the save in a 4-1 Hooks’ victory. Before his promotion, Feliz had a 1-1 record, with a 4.41 ERA, and 33 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched in Advanced-A with Lancaster.
For Single-A Quad Cities, infielder Mott Hyde (’14) hit his first home run of the season on Wednesday during a 2-4, 2RBI night. So far this year, Hyde, who was the ValleyCats’ starting shortstop last season, is hitting .315 with 17 extra-base hits and 18 runs batted in.
Those are just a handful of players throughout the Minor and Major Leagues that are excelling after playing for the Tri-City ValleyCats, and there are plenty more! So check in again next week to read about them in a new “The Joe to The Show,” post presented by Curtis Lumber!
Well, it is Friday! And that means (other than the fact that Memorial Day Weekend is right around the corner) it is time to take another look at how former Tri-City ValleyCats players are doing in the Major Leagues, as well as on their road up the Minor League ladder, on this week’s edition of “The Joe to The Show,” presented by Curtis Lumber.
On May 7th of this season, outfielder Preston Tucker (’12) became the 35th former ‘ValleyCat to complete the road from “The Joe to The Show,” and reach the Major Leagues. That night, he made his big league debut against the Angels, and got his first big league hit with a game-tying RBI in the ninth inning. Yesterday, Tucker again showed the clutch gene, coming through under pressure and hitting his first big league home run while pinch hitting with one out in the ninth inning. His long ball, coming off of the Detroit Tigers’ star closer Joakim Soria, tied the game at 5-5.
Despite the fact that the Astros eventually fell to the Tigers 6-5 in the bottom of the 11th inning, Tucker’s late-game smash is likely to help him continue to get consistent playing time this early in his career. Through 10 big league games thus far, the 2012 7th round draft pick has 9 hits in 29 at bats (good for a .310 average) to go along with four runs batted in, four doubles, and his one home run.
Tucker is not the only former Tri-City ValleyCat contributing to the Houston Astros’ red-hot start, however, as they continue to lead the American League West standings, currently holding an AL-best 27-15 record.
On the mound, southpaw starter Dallas Keuchel (’09) is showing that is breakout 2014 campaign was anything but a fluke, as he currently leads the American League with a 6-0 record and a miniscule 1.67 earned run average in 64.2 innings.
Second baseman Jose Altuve (’09) is leading the AL with 15 stolen bases, while a .306 batting average to go along with five home runs and 24 runs batted in, while outfielder George Springer (’11) is fourth in the American League with 27 walks, while also hitting six home runs and stealing 10 bases.
Former ‘Cats are making noise on other teams around the Major Leagues as well, as three-time All-Star Hunter Pence (’04), only five games back from a broken arm, is hitting .300 with with a home run and five runs batted in the for defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
For the Detroit Tigers, outfielder J.D. Martinez (’09) has already smacked nine home runs, and knocked in 18 RBI’s.
In Los Angeles, Kike Hernandez (’10) is hitting .281 with a home run and three runs batted in through fourteen games for the Dodgers. Defensively, the versatile fielder has already made appearances at all three outfield positions, as well as at shortstop and second base.
ValleyCats alums continue to rack up big numbers in the Minor Leagues as well. Playing with the Advanced-A Lancaster JetHawks, 1B A.J. Reed (’14) has hit .366 with three home runs and 10 RBI’s in his last 10 games, bringing his season average up to .293 to go a long with his 11 homers and 35 RBI’s.
With the AA Corpus Christi Hooks, Vincent Velazquez (’12) has shown little rust despite missing the first month due to injury, as the right-handed pitcher has struck out 20 batters in only 14.1 innings, while holding a 1.88 earned run average and a 1-0 record through his first three starts.
While these are only a few of the many players succeeding in pro baseball after first gracing the field at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, there are sure to be many more outstanding performances to come. So check in next week for a new “The Joe to The Show,” post presented by Curtis Lumber!
While the start of the 2015 New York-Penn League campaign is a little more than a month away, quite a few former Tri-City ValleyCats have wasted no time in getting off to hot starts in there respective seasons.
So far this year, 15 former ‘Cats have played in the Major Leagues, while one (OF Hunter Pence, who played in Tri-City in 2004), has spent the first part of the year on the disabled list, and another (RHP Jake Buchanan ’11) was recalled to the Houston Astros yesterday, although he has yet to appear in a game.
Of the 15 who have appeared this year in the big leagues, OF Preston Tucker (’12), is the newest to majors. On May 7, Tucker became the 35th former ValleyCat to go from “The Joe to the Show,” when he made his Major League debut for the Astros on the road against the Los Angeles Angels. He wasted no time making an impact, tying the game in the ninth inning with an RBI single for his first big league base hit.
Through his first five games with the Astros, Tucker is batting .286 (4-14), with two doubles and three runs batted in. This comes after a torrid start to his season prior to his call-up, which saw him hitting .320 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI through only 25 games with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies.
With the Houston Astros off to one of their best starts in franchise history, Tucker is far from the only former ‘Cat making a strong contribution. Two-time Major League All-Star, 2B Jose Altuve (’09) currently sits at sixth place among all American League hitters with a .333 batting average, while leading the circuit in stolen bases with 13, and base hits with 48.
On the mound, LHP Dallas Keuchel (’09) sports a 4-0 record through his first seven starts, with 37 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched. He is currently leading all Major League starting pitchers with a 1.39 earned run average, and was named the American League’s pitcher of the month for April.
Other Major League squads are reaping the benefits of former Tri-City ValleyCats, as well. In Los Angeles, Kike Hernandez (’10) has seen action all over the field for the Dodgers following a promotion from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Through his first ten MLB games this year, Hernandez has played at least one game at each of the three outfield positions, while also starting three games at shortstop to go along with one appearance at second base. His contributions have not been limited to the field, however, as he has gone 7-24 (good for a .292 average), with one home run and three runs batted in at the plate thus far.
OF J.D. Martinez (’09) of the Detroit Tigers made his presence at the plate known early this season, hitting the first home run hit by a Major Leaguer in 2015, a solo shot off of Phil Hughes of the Minnesota Twins on April 6.
While they may not have reached “The Show” as of yet, there are also quite a few former ValleyCats off to successful starts to the 2015 season at the Minor League level.
With Double-A Corpus Christi, 2B Tony Kemp (’13) is currently fourth in the Texas League with a .346 batting average, to go along with his 12 runs batted in, and six stolen bases.
Also with Corpus Christi is RHP Mark Appel (’13). The former #1 overall pick has gotten off to a strong start of his own, sporting a 3-0 record to go along with 19 strikeouts and a 3.71 earned run average through his first six starts.
Advanced-A Lancaster is seeing strong starts from two of the top hitters from last season’s ValleyCats squad, as 3B JD Davis (.314 batting average, five home runs and 21 runs batted in) and 1B A.J. Reed (.260, 9 HR and 28 RBI) are showing little trouble adjusting to a jump in level to start their first full pro campaigns.
Also reaching Lancaster this season is RHP Joe Musgrove (’14) who went 4-1 with only two earned runs in 25.2 innings (a 0.70 ERA) to start the year in Single-A Quad Cities. After a promotion to Lancaster on May 9, Musgrove picked up where he left off, striking out six batters and allowing one hit in a scoreless four innings en route to picking up the win against Lake Elsinore.
Musgrove was joined that day in Lancaster by LHP Bryan Radziewski (’14), who pitched five scoreless innings in his JetHawks debut. This came after he went 1-0, with a 1.67 ERA, and 25 strikeouts in 22 innings with Quad Cities.
While Quad Cities may have lost the services of Musgrove and Radziewski, the cupboard is certainly far from bare for the River Bandits, who as of today, sport the best record in all of professional baseball at 27-7. Former ‘Cats helping get off to that stellar start include OF Derek Fisher (’14), who is hitting .333 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in, 2B Mott Hyde (’14), who has gone .320 with 25 RBI and 13 doubles, and C Jamie Ritchie (’14), who leads the Midwest League with a .454 on base percentage, to go along with his .301 batting average, two homers and 12 RBI.
On the mound, RHP Austin Chrismon (’14) is sporting a 4-1 record with a 2.17 ERA in six appearances (four starts), while RHP Daniel Mengden (’14) is currently 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA, and 29 strikeouts in 29.2 innings over six appearances (five starts).
RHP Ryan Thompson (’14) has been a solid force in the River Bandits bullpen this season, just like he was for the ‘Cats during his New York-Penn League All-Star campaign last season. So far in 2015, the sidearm reliever has allowed only two earned runs in 16.1 innings pitched, for a 1.10 earned run average, while striking out 19 batters.
All in all, whether it is at the big league level, or throughout the rungs of the Minor Leagues, one thing is evident: Tri-City ValleyCat alums are making a lot of noise on the road from “The Joe to the Show!”
Spring has sprung, and summer-like weather has arrived! All local youth baseball & softball leagues have begun play, and a new season is underway!
With the opening days of local leagues all wrapped up, now is the perfect time to recap our ‘4 in 24’ youth field renovation project, which took place on Thursday, April 17.
With the support of BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford Supermarkets, the ValleyCats corporate partners in this initiative, four youth playing fields received major facelifts to their playing surface.
In under 24 hours, Cohoes Little League, Niskayuna Baseball, and the Town of Hoosick Youth Baseball/Softball league had new sod installed on their infield, each baseline squared and measure to the correct specifications, pitcher’s mound and home plate areas rebuilt, along with other minor restorations.
The ValleyCats were also able to renovate a field in Coxsackie-Athens that will now be home to the Coxsackie-Athens Girls Softball. The entire infield surface received new dirt and was leveled to the correct specs. The ‘Cats also installed a brand new pitcher’s mound with pitching rubbers for three different age groups/levels, and rebuilt home plate.
The work was done by four groups of ValleyCats front office members, corporate partners, and volunteers from each league.
The mission of this project is to provide the youth of the Capital Region with a safe place to play, learn, grow, and most importantly, have fun.
Below, we’ll give you a photo recap of the project, giving you an idea on just how much work is involved.
The efforts are also aided by the support of Admar Construction and Turface, who provide some of the necessary equipment and materials to complete the renovations. Other support comes from the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation, whose contributions come from past events held at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. One of our long-time season ticket holders, John Blanchette passed away earlier this year, and in lieu of flowers, his family asked for donations to be sent to the the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation to be used towards our ‘4 in 24’ efforts.
Cohoes Little League
Because of the ambitious idea by 14-year old graduate of Cohoes Little League, Danny Buchanan, Cohoes will be instituting a Challenger Division for the 2015 season, which allows those with developmental disabilities to enjoy playing the game of baseball. Work was done on the farm field to ensure it was well-conditioned for play!
Crews arrive before the break of dawn:
Early morning interviews with the media:
The brand new sod arrives!
The volunteer support was tremendous! Members of the Cohoes High School baseball team, league members, crews from BlueShield of Northeastern New York & Hannaford Supermarkets, and ‘Cats front office staffers all lent a hand!!
We were joined by many dignitaries including Assemblyman John McDonald:
Work lasted throughout the night to get the project completed!
Coxsackie-Athens Girls Softball
The field that was renovated in Coxsackie-Athens was primarily used for softball, but also accommodated their t-ball system. With the ‘4 in 24’ renovations, and their softball program on the rise, Isabella C. Rainey Field will now be home to Coxsackie-Athens Girls Softball!
A major part of the work was focused on the mound & home plate:
Town of Hoosick Youth Baseball/Softball
Following the flood a few years ago, the league did their best to recover the fields, but was still in need of getting them done correctly. The Majors division field was an all-dirt infield unsuited for play because of stones and a rough playing surface. The installation of fresh sod was a welcomed sight!
First, some fresh new dirt:
Then laying the sod:
Plenty of refreshments were needed to complete these projects! Subway sandwiches were the choice in Hoosick!
But back to work:
The crew in Hoosick:
The entire mound was literally built scratch, from the ground up!
The Majors field at Niskayuna was in much need of maintenance with the infield in pretty rough shape. The league has been growing in size, and these renovations will position them to host future youth baseball tournaments.
Seeing all the smiles on the kids faces during their opening day festivities is one of the best parts of completing the field renovations!
SouthPaw & Pappy also made visits to Colonie Girls Softball and Schenectady Little League!
Colonie Girls Softball
Snapchatting away! (Have you followed us yet??)
Schenectady Little League
Many of these leagues will be joining us for Softball Night on Opening Night, June 25, and Youth Baseball Night on Friday, June 26 vs. the Staten Island Yankees, as we celebrate youth baseball/softball, as well as the work of the ‘4 in 24’ and Community Grounds Crew. If you’re interested in bringing your league out to “The Joe,” just call our front office at 629-CATS, or visit our website tcvalleycats.com for ticket info.
Would you like SouthPaw, his friends, and the ValleyCats promo team to make a very special visit to your league? We’ve partnered yet again with Hannaford Supermarkets to host the 3rd Annual “Show on the Road” at a Capital Region youth ballgame. The ‘Cats and Hannaford will create a family day atmosphere with events that include a pregame picnic, entertaining promotions throughout the game, and much more! Click here for full details, or to apply>>
The weather has changed for the better, and it looks to be another beautiful day on Thursday here in the Capital Region! Perfect for our 5th Annual ‘4 in 24’ Youth Field Renovation Project!
For those who may not be aware, in 2011 we embarked on an ambitious field renovation initiative where we would renovate FOUR youth ball fields, in less than 24-hours! In 2012, we expanded the ‘4 in 24’ even further by creating the Community Grounds Crew, which would assist with field renovations throughout the spring and summer.
Since 2011, we’ve renovated over two dozen fields courtesy of the Community Grounds Crew, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our corporate partners and volunteers. BlueShield of Northeastern New York has been one of the biggest supporters of the event, and Hannaford Supermarkets has joined in the efforts for 2015!
The efforts are also aided by the support of Admar Construction and Turface, who will provide the necessary equipment and materials to complete the renovations. Other support comes from the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation, whose contributions come from past events held at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
On Thursday, Cohoes Little League, Coxsackie-Athens Little League, Town of Hoosick Youth Baseball/Softball League, and Niskayuna Baseball will be the latest additions to our list of renovations.
Each field will receive brand new sod, bases, a home plate and pitcher’s mound, and the baselines will be measured to the correct specifications.
Cohoes Little League is implementing a Challenger Program this season, but the host field has been damaged due to the harsh winter.
“We wouldn’t have been able to obtain the field conditions needed to support this program without assistance,” said Mike Smith, President Cohoes Little League. “This renovation will give us the opportunity for children with all abilities to have a safe place to play baseball this season.”
Here are some before photos of Cohoes Little League:
Coxsackie-Athens Little League has had a softball program for some time, which has gained popularity in recent years. Following the work of the ‘4 in 24,’ the field will be fit enough to become home to the newly formed Coxasckie-Athens Girls Softball.
“Coxsackie-Athens Little League is excited that Rainey Field has been selected by the Tri-City ValleyCats as a ‘4 in 24’ field,” said league President Steve VanHoesen. “As volunteers, preparing and maintaining the field is a perpetual struggle. With help of the ValleyCats, Isabella C. Rainey Field will once again be put back atop of that pedestal and reclaim its diamond status in the community.”
Some before photos:
The Town of Hoosick Youth Baseball / Softball League is still feeling the effects of hurricane flood damage, and their primary field is filled with sandy dirt and large stones. The infield is actually a skin infield without the proper soil. We will be laying all new grass to give it a true baseball feel!
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to have the ValleyCats organization assist us in providing the best experience possible for our youths,” said league president Tony Thayne. “After the flood a few years ago, we have done our best to recover the fields, but are still in need of help in getting them done correctly.”
Niskayuna Baseball has seen its league size grow over the past few years, which now consists of 50 teams and approximately 600 players. With the growth comes the need for greater field options and maintenance requirements.
“On behalf of Niskayuna Baseball, its Board of Directors, and most importantly the baseball community that we represent, I want to say thank you for this tremendous opportunity,” said Christopher Mennillo, Niskayuna Baseball President. “This renovation will make the playing surface more conducive for multiple age groups, expand the flexibility from a league scheduling standpoint, and better position the league to host future tournaments.”
The Community Grounds Crew has been warming up for the big ‘4 in 24’ event by assisting the Cohoes Intermediate Baseball League with installing a new pitcher’s mound & home plate:
_ Be sure to follow us through each of our social media channels on Thursday for coverage of the ‘4 in 24’ field renovations. We’ll be active on Facebook, Twitter (@ValleyCats), Instagram (tcvalleycats), Snapchat (tcvalleycats), and Periscope (@ValleyCats) throughout the day!!
We pride ourselves on being an active member of the Capital Region community, and throughout the year we partner with countless charitable organizations. In our latest ‘Cats Care Spotlight, we’re highlighting the Capital District YMCA with a visit to the Troy Family Branch.
As Troy’s Executive Director Tom Anadio mentioned, “We really are a family here,” and that’s made clear by how long the staff has been involved.
For example, Cindy Panichi, Member Service Representative at the Troy, has been with the Y for 25 years. Troy’s Wellness Director Tammy Roberts has been with the Y for 15 years, and was a recipient of our E. Stewart Jones Home Run Community Hero award in 2013.
The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits, strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. They Y aims to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors.
The Y is a cause-driven agency focused on social responsibility. The Capital District YMCA serves those in need with locations in Albany, Bethlehem, Camp Chingachgook on Lake George, Clifton Park, Coxsackie, East Greenbush, Glenville, Greene County, Guilderland, Schenectady, and Troy.
The ValleyCats have partnered with the Troy YMCA on the Play Outdoors program that included a drug prevention educational component, encouraged kids to stay active, and taught families about the importance of proper nutrition. This free program visited community sites throughout the city of Troy with fun activities and engaged like-minded organizations throughout the area. The ValleyCats have also visited the YMCA with players, mascots, and hosted many of their camps at the ballpark.
Each summer, the YMCA provides a safe and fun place where kids can be creative, learn new things, go on adventurous trips and be a part of something great! This coming summer, they are adding an even greater variety of trips and new specialty camps.
Through money raised during the YMCA’s Annual Campaign, they were able to provide scholarship assistance to over 30 families during Summer Camp 2014 at the Troy Family Branch. This enables everyone in the community to be able to participate in healthy life choices and activities, regardless of their financial situation.
- The Achievers Program which welcomes students from all backgrounds, and helps them develop skills, raise their academic standards, graduate from high school and focus on career goals.
- The Youth & Government Program which is designed to help teens develop an active interest and a look at the inner-workings of the governmental process.
- Swimming Lessons, Fun Runs, and more.
- LIVESTRONG at the YMCA – This group setting provides cancer survivors with a safe, supportive environment where they can participate in physical and social activities to begin the journey toward recovery.
- Pedaling for Parkinsons – A program designed to improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s Disease patients.
- Diabetes Prevention Program – This 12 month program is led by a lifestyle coach and is geared towards providing individuals with the tools needed to lead a healthy life.
How can you help?
- Get involved! Volunteer opportunities to work with kids, assist with programming, and more: Volunteer Opportunities!
- Support the Annual Campaign that runs through the end of March
We pride ourselves on being an active member of the Capital Region community, and throughout the year we partner with countless charitable organizations. In a new segment entitled “‘Cats Care Spotlight,” we’re going to be highlighting many of them.
Our inaugural post will take a closer look at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region.
The Albany Ronald McDonald House program opened in 1982 based on a simple idea: provide a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. Since that time, more than 17,000 families have benefited from the comfort provided by the “House that Love Built.”
The Ronald McDonald House serves over 500 families per year, providing a home away from home for families of seriously ill children in a compassionate and home-like environment. Without the House, these already stressed families would have to spend thousands of dollars in hotel and/or gas bills just to be near their child. The Ronald McDonald House ensures that families are kept together and taken care of during the most stressful period of their lives.
Each year, our front office staff spends a morning cooking breakfast for families currently staying at the house. Here are some photos from our most recent visit.
After outgrowing the 16 bedroom house that has served families for over 30 years, RMHC recently wrapped up a $2 million “More Room for Love” expansion project to open a third house at 141 South Lake Avenue.
This expansion added 10 new bedrooms, all themed after different locations throughout the Capital Region:
Just with the 10 new bedrooms afforded by the expansion, 300 additional families will save $950,000 in lodging, food, travel and medical expenses and be able to spend an additional 12,000 more hours bedside with their child to aid in their care and speed up their recovery.
Also included within the additional 4,000 square feet of living space is four additional common areas.
Other improvements include an elevator for handicap access, 12 additional parking spots, additional kitchen and family dining space, and additional storage space.
One addition which proves to be a huge hit is “Ronald’s Toy Shoppe.” It’s a room chock full of toys, and as those children receiving treatment stay at the house, they will be able to pick one out, which will hopefully put a bright smile on their face!
The expansion project will eliminate the house’s waiting list for many years to come; ensuring that they never have to turn away a family in need due to a lack of available bedrooms.
Here are some more photos from around the main Ronald McDonald House:
True to it’s mission of helping families in need and promoting the health and well-being of children throughout the community, RMHC also embarked on two additional initiatives; the Ronald McDonald Family Room & Suite, and the Care Mobile.
Located within the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center, the Family Room & Suite are located just steps from the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units and provide families with a place to escape the stress and tension of the hospital. The Ronald McDonald House Family Room & Suite has over 10,000 visitors each year and offers a haven within the hospital for families of children undergoing treatment. These places of respite allow families to grab a cup of coffee or meal, log onto a computer, play in the children’s area or just take a much needed moment to relax all while being just steps away from their child’s hospital bed. Open from 9am to 9pm, there is a volunteer on hand to provide support and help.
The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile is a dental office on wheels that houses two fully equipped examination rooms, a digital x-ray system, wheelchair lift, and a reception and medical records area. The Care Mobile provides comprehensive dental care to over 1,500 Capital Region school children each year. For many of these children, this is the only/first time that they receive dental care. The Care Mobile does everything from examinations to root canals to extractions. They also provide educational information to the students about dental care and nutrition.
Additionally, Ronald McDonald House Charities has a grant program, which provides grants to local charities that share their vision to support the health and well-being of children and their families.
This past year we partnered with the Ronald McDonald House for a fundraiser at “The Joe,” where the entire team wore jerseys designed like jockey silks, in the colors of the Ronald McDonald House. The theme of the night was “Track Night” and the jerseys were auctioned off following the game, with all the proceeds benefiting RMHC.
The Ronald McDonald House holds numerous fundraising events each year, and each is as important as the next. For a list of upcoming events, visit http://www.rmhcofalbany.org/news-events.cfm.
How can you help?
Pop Tabs – Collect aluminum tabs found on soda cans, soup cans, etc. and donate them to RMHC. RMHC then recycles the tabs and keeps 100% of the money raised for the direct operations of our local charity.
McDonalds Collection Boxes – Drop your loose change into our collection boxes at any local McDonald’s. A little change can make a big difference!
Wishlist Drive – Collect single-sized snack foods, microwaveable soups, cleaning supplies and other essential wish list items to help provide families with all the comforts of home.
Help with all your Heart – Sell $1 paper hearts at your school, business, or place of worship to help support RMHC.
Volunteer – If you have the desire to help, we’ll find a way to utilize your skills and talents. Here are some ways you can get involved:
Meal Partners provide a home-cooked breakfast or dinner for families. Your efforts will allow families to focus their time on their hospitalized child without the worry of the cost and time involved in preparing meals.
Treat Bakers make delicious treats in our kitchen to share with families residing at the House or visiting the RMH Family Room & Suite in the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center.
In-House Volunteers welcome and offer comfort to families while assisting with the day-to-day operations of the Ronald McDonald House. Your role may also involve meeting families’ needs, light housekeeping, general office and phone duties, and various seasonal tasks.
Family Room Volunteers make the Family Room and Suite (inside Albany Medical Center) safe, friendly environments for all pediatric and neonatal patients’ families. You can offer your caring support & a listening ear along with coffee, toys and movies and other comforts of home.
Care Mobile Volunteers assist the dental team by escorting children as they walk to and from the Care Mobile and their classrooms. Your calm and caring presence will also reassure students as they await their dental services.
Service Day Volunteers keep the “House that Love Built” a beautiful haven for the families who need us. Your helping hands will ensure a clean, organized, and inviting home for families staying at RMH.
Volunteers of all ages can help; however, individuals 15 years of age or younger must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult.
The calendar has flipped to a new year, and the ‘Cats Corner blog is back! As we prepare for the 2015 season, our 14th in the Capital Region, we’ll continue to bring you all the behind-the-scenes looks into the inner workings of our front office. We’ll keep you updated on community and special events, bring you features on our community partners and former players, plus much more! So buckle up and get ready for the ride!
After some time off during the holidays to re-energize, we came back to fresh new carpets in the office!
The clubhouse has also received new carpets, and is currently waiting to have brand new lockers installed…which will be a welcomed site for returning skipper Ed Romero, the coaching staff and players!
Our first day back in the office was Monday, January 5…which just happened to be our Vice President / General Manager, Rick Murphy’s birthday. Rick’s a big Boston Bruins fan, so it just seemed right to celebrate accordingly.
This month we introduced a promotion that is all about YOU, our fans, known as “FANuary.” We’ve invested a lot of resources into this promotion as a way to give back. And we’ve done so by creating fun and interactive ways for our fans to win some awesome prizes!
One of the main components of FANuary is the search for our biggest fan….
We’re asking for those who believe that they or someone they know is the BIGGEST ValleyCats fan, to submit to us in writing, just why they believe so. Photos are encouraged with the submissions, and the person chosen as BIGGEST fan will be featured in our 2015 baseball card set!
(Submissions can either be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailed to “Tri-City ValleyCats ATTN: FANuary” at P.O. Box 694, Troy, NY 12180. E-mail submissions must be sent no later than Wednesday, January 28. Mailings must be postmarked no later than Monday January 26. The winner will be announced on Saturday, January 31.)
We’re also currently running a creative photo contest on Instagram, where we want to see the best leg-kick imitations of ‘Cats 2014 All-Star reliever, Ryan Thompson. Fans are encouraged to post a photo of their most creative leg-kick on Instagram using #LegKickLEGacy. The most creative photo will receive each of our 2015 specialty jerseys.
Last year we did three specialty jerseys, Stars & Stripes, SouthPaw’s Birthday, and Jockey Silks.
SouthPaw giving his own #LegKickLEGacy a shot:
Lastly, we’ve asked for our fans to decide via Facebook, what promotion they would like to see us run on Monday, August 24. We received over 80 comments with many different suggestions, and we’ve narrowed the list down to five:
1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Night
2) The Hunger Games
3) Mardi Gras on the Hudson
4) WWE Night
5) Minecraft Night
If you would like to weigh in with your suggestion from the above, click here to comment on our Facebook post.
Speaking about promotions, we’re still working very hard on finalizing our promotional schedule for 2015. But we’re happy to share that many of the same great favorites will make their return. Those include Veterans Night, Bark in the Park, Star Wars Night, Italian Night, NFL Night, Camp Days, Irish Night, and more!
Also making it’s return will be Capital Region Baseball Heritage Night, featuring the latest bobblehead addition to our Heritage Series Bobblehead Collection. So far we’ve done Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Johnny Evers. Stay tuned to find out who this year’s Heritage Series bobblehead will be! We’re aiming for an announcement by mid February!
— Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) August 23, 2014
We’ve had many inquiries about where our 2015 fan bus trip will take us, and we’re VERY close to finalizing those details. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s official, and before you know it we’ll be shipping up to a great city!
Wrapping up our first blog post of the new year, we’d like to fill everybody in on the latest community event we attended.
Saturday, January 17th was the Ronald McDonald House Radiothon at Crossgates Mall, and we were there along with SouthPaw to help raise money for the great work that the Ronald McDonald House does. For more information on how you can help, click here.
Our entire office wore Ronald socks prior to the Radiothon to raise awareness. We’ll also be featuring the Ronald McDonald House in a future blog post as part of our offseason Community Spotlight.
In closing, please take a few minutes to check out our latest video…SouthPaw enjoying National Hug Day!!
As winter rapidly approaches, the ‘Cats are making the most of what’s left of fall by helping to renovate the Watervliet High School baseball field. The diamond became unfit for play after going unused for two years due to the construction of a new football field at the high school, which was unveiled this fall. During that time, the JV and Varsity baseball teams played their home games at a neutral site. But come spring, they will have a brand new field to call home.
ValleyCats Assistant General Manager, Matt Callahan, and Operations Manager, Keith Sweeney, spent time at the field to rebuild the pitchers mound and home plate. They also assisted with lining up the baselines to the correct specifications, leveling the playing surface, and laying down brand new sod in the infield.
The work couldn’t have been done without the support of head baseball coach Dennis Lane, Tom Hall of Tom Hall Landscaping, and the ValleyCats Community Grounds Crew partner, Blueshield of Northeastern New York.
Finishing touches will be put on the field in the spring, before welcoming another season of high school baseball in Watervliet!
The ValleyCats next renovation project will take place in April as part of their major “4 in 24” initiative, where four fields are renovated in a 24 hour time period. If your league’s home field is in need of a renovation, and would like to apply, be sure to take pictures of the playing surface before the snow accumulates. It’s important for us to be able to see the field conditions in order to determine the scope of the project. We’ll begin accepting applications in the very near future.
Below are some photos during and after the Watervliet renovations:
Sunday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy, 17 members of the baseball community were inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. Among the inductees were former Boston Red Sox infielder Rico Petrocelli (Brooklyn), pitchers Frank Viola (East Meadow) and John Doherty (Tuckahoe), and slugger Frank Malzone (Bronx).
Also inducted were Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully (Bronx), who received the Johnny Podres Lifetime Achievement Award, and former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who received the John Cerutti Sportsmanship Award.
Other notable names include one of the first closers in the game, Pirates right-hander Elroy Face (Stephentown), Indians outfielder Rocky Colavito (NYC), Dodgers catcher Joe Pignatano (Brooklyn), Astros pitcher Jim Deshaies (Massena), Pirates pitcher Dave Giusti (Seneca Falls), and Reds pitcher Tom Browning (Chadwicks).
Locals inducted into the Hall of Fame include baseball author Frank Keetz (Schenectady), Cleveland Indians assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro (Bethlehem), and umpire Dennis Galka (Albany).
Rounding out the inductees were two coaching veterans, 50-year head baseball coach for Eastchester High School in Westchester County, Dom Cecere, and 36-year head coach for Ithaca College, George Valesente.
We were proud to be part of the festivities, and thank the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors, led by Rene LeRoux, for organizing such a great evening.
Below are some photos from the event. To learn more about the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, visit www.nysbhof.com.
Each month our front office staff participates in a different team building activity, and this month was painting pumpkins! (We tried pumpkin “carving” a few years ago, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle or smell of cleaning up the remains.)
We want our fans to pick which pumpkin they like the best, then we’ll tell you whose artistic work it was! Feel free to leave some comments!
So without further ado…here are the creations!
As previously mentioned, the ValleyCats season may be over, but our Front Office staff is in full swing in preparation for the 2015 season. While Media Relations / Production Manager Chris Chenes enjoyed the warm sun at Instructional League in Florida, General Manager Rick Murphy, Senior Account Executive Chris Dawson, and Account Executive Ben Whitehead flew westward to the Sooner State, as Oklahoma City hosted the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. During the three-day event (Sept. 30 – Oct. 2), staff members from nearly every MiLB team get together for numerous brainstorming sessions. These range from discussing the best promotions of the season to interactive ways to engage our fans throughout the year.
The week began early Tuesday morning, as we loaded up two buses and headed to The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital for the MiLB Charities Community Service Project. We were treated to a tour of the state-of-the-art facility and a presentation providing information about what the center offers. We then went out to a baseball field located on the hospital grounds and played the game we love with some of the staff and patients. This was an incredible place to visit for the project and was a wonderful opportunity to spend time giving back to a great community.
Check out this video put together by The Children’s Center: Sidenote: Ben moved from Oklahoma City to the Albany area upon accepting his position with the ‘Cats, and his wife worked at The Children’s Center prior to relocation. Small world!
Interestingly enough, Oklahoma is the birthplace of several great MLB players, including New York Yankee great and Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. His restaurant, Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, is across the street from the RedHawks ballpark. The ballpark also has a statue of Mantle, fellow Oklahoman Johnny Bench and New York native Warren Spahn, who resided in Oklahoma upon retirement.
The seminar began Tuesday afternoon and once we were inside the main seminar room, a banner hung reminding us all why we were here…
We were nominated for a Golden Bobblehead, an award given out to the top promotions each season. Our 4 in 24 Field Renovation Project presented by BlueShield of Northeastern New York was a finalist in the “Best Charity Promotion or Event” category.
For those who don’t know, the 4 in 24 Project occurs each spring when our staff sets out to renovate four youth baseball fields in 24 hours. Infields get re-sodded, pitcher’s mounds and home plate areas are rebuilt and leveled, new bases are set to proper distances and general cleanup and maintenance of the field is performed. Check out this blog post from our 2014 version of the project when we renovated fields at Schenectady Little League, Twin Town Little League, Spring Youth Baseball, and Berne-Knox-Westerlo Little League.
Although we didn’t come back with the hardware, we were honored to be recognized by our peers for this tremendously rewarding project. Many teams approached us at the seminar to ask about the process and we challenged all teams to spend more time in their local communities promoting the game we all love and positively impacting the youth who will be the stars of tomorrow. We would like to congratulate the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for winning our category for their HOPE Week. Also, fellow NYPL team Brooklyn brought home two bobbleheads. The Cyclones captured the award for “Best Theme Night” with their incredible “Seinfeld” Night at MCU Park. Additionally, that theme won “Best Overall Promotion/Event.”
One of the presentations was given by Ben Hill, the infamous MiLB writer who travels to Minor League stadiums each season. Ben Hill writes about his experiences on his blog (bensbiz.mlblogs.com) and presents his favorite parts of each trip during the Promo Seminar. With his trip to “The Joe” on August 29th, Ben featured us during his presentation. Keep an eye out for his blog soon detailing his night at the ‘Cats game.
After three days of idea-sharing, presentations and making many connections, the Oklahoma City RedHawks (now the former Triple-A affiliate of the Astros and current Dodgers affiliate) hosted all the attendees for the ballpark outing. Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark is located in the Bricktown district of Oklahoma City and opened in 1998. It has a capacity of over 13,000 and plays host to many events outside of the RedHawks season schedule. The Bedlam Baseball Series between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University is held at the park annually, as well as many Big 12 Baseball Tournaments, high school baseball games, and even snow tubing in the winter!
Kudos to the RedHawks staff for coordinating an amazing outing and thank you for the wonderful hospitality! The feast that evening featured many Oklahoma delicacies such as fried catfish, brisket, hot links, chicken fried steak and many more delicious items!
Upon return to the Tri-City area, our staff began preparation for the 2015 season. During our Strategic Planning Meetings held Oct. 15-16, we reviewed our 2014 season at each department level and began laying the foundation for 2015. The meetings were held at the Hilton Garden Inn Troy and there was plenty discussion about new and exciting ideas to enhance the ballpark experience at “The Joe!” Thanks to the ideas generated from the Promo Seminar and our brainstorming sessions in our meetings, we are eager to skip the upcoming winter and ready to open the gates for the 2015 season! Opening Day will be here soon enough and we can’t wait! In the meantime, keep checking our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our website for all the latest in ‘Cats happenings! VAMOS GATOS!
Fall has arrived in full force, indicated by the cooler temperatures, colors of the leaves, football, and of course the Major League Baseball playoffs! Here at the “The Joe,” we’ve got a rooting interest in two of the four remaining teams.
On the National League side, the San Francisco Giants feature star outfielder Hunter Pence. Pence is a 2004 alumni of the ValleyCats. Not only that, but the SF Giants roots trace all the way back to Troy, NY. You can read more about that here.
Here’s a photo of Hunter from 2004, when the ValleyCats played their annual game in Cooperstown against the Oneonta Tigers:
Also, here’s an interview with Hunter from Spring Training 2009, where he reflects on his time in Troy, and his MLB rookie season.
On the American League side, the Baltimore Orioles feature starting pitcher Bud Norris. Norris is a 2006 alumni of the ‘Cats, who actually roomed with Watervliet native and fellow former ‘Cat, Chris Salamida.
Also, the skipper of the O’s, Buck Showalter is hard not to root for, especially for those in the Capital Region. Many will remember that Buck was the manager for the Albany-Colonie Yankees in 1989, and led the team to their second consecutive Eastern League title.
In Showalter’s postgame press conference upon defeating the Tigers in the ALDS, he made mention of his title in Albany, a really cool moment for local fans. You can view the video here.
All of the postseason baseball hype just reminds us of what a great season our team had in 2014. A third straight Stedler Division title, fourth NYPL Championship Series appearance in five years, record number of wins at home (26/38), and a record number of fans (161,171) coming out to witness it all!
Unfortunately, the season did not end as we all may have liked, falling just one game short of a third New York-Penn League title, but overall it was a success.
The very next morning after the ValleyCats season ended, the players and coaching staff were gone as quick as they arrived three months earlier.
However, a select number of ‘Cats didn’t have much time to relax. Some of them participated in the Fall Instructional League in Florida, which is a league made up of lower level players from within the Astros organization. ValleyCats Media Relations / Production Manager Chris Chenes was fortunate enough to make a pit stop, en route to his vacation earlier this month.
It takes place at the team’s spring training facility in Kissimmee, Florida, where approximately 45 players are invited to participate. It’s not mandatory, but every player accepts the invitation. The purpose of the four week league is to enhance the skills of these younger players & prospects under close supervision of the Astros minor league instructors and coaches.
Other participants include players getting ready for the Arizona Fall League (which is currently underway), learning a new position, or those recovering from injury.
Each day, with the exception of a Sunday off-day, consists of drills in the morning, and a game in the afternoon against other local MLB Instructional League teams. On this day, the Astros made the hour-long trek to Viera to face the Nationals.
The Instructional League wraps up this weekend, but the players will be back in Kissimmee in just five short months, for 2015 spring training!
Back here at home, the arrival of fall means that ValleyCats Stadium Operations Manager Keith Sweeney and his crew have a lot of work to do to ready the stadium for the changing seasons. They need to break down all of the tents, take down all of the signage, move concession kiosks indoors, and clean the stadium one final time before winter.
Here are some photos of the stadium clean-up:
Even though the stadium itself is being shut down, the work of the front office staff is just gearing back up. Believe it or not, the 2015 season schedule will be released in the next few weeks, and we’ve got tons of work to do to prepare for another exciting season of minor league baseball at “The Joe!”
With the colder weather moving on in, Michelle has ordered some fantastic new ValleyCats gear to get you through the bitter temperatures! To purchase any of the below items, stop by the stadium or click here to visit our online team store.
From October through January, our clubhouse, weight room, and batting cage will remain open and available for rental. There’s a sectioned cage for multiple hitters, indoor pitching mounds, space for infield and mechanics drills, a manual-fed pitching machine, and plenty of room for conditioning, yoga, and plyometrics. For more information on how your team can rent the space for offseason workouts, contact Dave Bestle at email@example.com, or 518-935-7311.
We’ll also be hosting our 2nd Annual Baseball Bootcamp for ages 7-13 beginning on November 3rd. The 4-week program designed by the ValleyCats coaches and trainers will provide athletes the opportunity to improve their baseball skills and fitness level throughout the offseason. The players will work on baseball mechanics to improve their fundamentals for hitting, fielding and throwing. In addition the players will also work on cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and flexibility. There will be nutritional guidance throughout the program along with other essential aspects of baseball fitness in a specially designed program by the ValleyCats strength and conditioning coaches. Click here to sign-up!