It was a busy weekend for the ValleyCats – especially Southpaw. On Saturday, some of the front office staff and Southpaw travelled to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Classic, featuring the Knucksies and the Wizards.
The lineups were loaded with former All-Star big leaguers, including former Astro Brandon Backe, Travis Hafner, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. Jerry Hairston Jr. won the Home Run Derby, and the Knucksies came away with a narrow 5-4 victory. Melvin Mora, a former Met and longtime Oriole earned Bob Feller Player of the Game honors, thanks to a pair of two-run homers. Southpaw enjoyed messing around with third base coach and Hall of Fame member Rollie Fingers.
On Monday morning, the ValleyCats staff participated in the Troy Memorial Day parade, put on by the Veterans of Lansingburgh. Southpaw rode around on his Harley all day, much to the community’s amusement.
Many of the ValleyCats interns and front office members took a field trip to Cooperstown yesterday to visit the birthplace of baseball. As lifelong fans, most of us had visited the Baseball Hall of Fame one or two or twenty times before, but that did not make the trip any less special.
We carpooled down I-88, entered the Hall of Fame and started the day in the “Bullpen Theatre.” Brad Horn, the Hall’s senior director of communications and education, greeted us and briefly introduced the museum’s mission. Horn talked about how the minor leagues – especially short-season teams – and the Hall can bookend a player’s professional lifetime: all players start their careers in the minors, the best of those reach the majors, and the top 1 percent of that group will be great enough to end up in the Hall of Fame.
He also brought along All-Star Game MVP Prince Fielder’s jersey, which he had received from Fielder immediately after the Midsummer Classic two days earlier. A small dirt stain was still visible on the lower back, showing how the jersey was, as Horn said, a representation of that moment in time.
For the past two years (ever since the formerly-Oneonta Tigers moved to Connecticut), the ValleyCats have been the closest minor-league team to Cooperstown, and we have enjoyed a very strong partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame. We got to meet and mingle with the Hall’s interns, who have recently been very busy preparing for next week’s induction ceremony, in which Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick will be enshrined in the Hall.
The Hall’s team of interns will come up to Joe Bruno Stadium on July 30 for Hall of Fame Night, a chance to watch some great baseball. They will also show off some historical artifacts with a Capital Region flavor, which we had a chance to see:
A glove and cleats used by Troy native and Hall of Famer Johnny Evers, who was immortalized in one of baseball’s two most famous poems, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”
Derek Jeter’s Louisville Slugger-model bat from the 2000 All-Star Game. Jeter would become the only player ever to be named the MVP of the All-Star Game and the World Series in the same year.
Chris Chenes, who has a knack for appearing in our pictures, talks alongside Pedro Martinez’s 1999 All-Star Game jersey. Pedro was named the game’s MVP for striking out five of the game’s best players in two scoreless innings.
Afterward, we were able to explore the museum. We got to see some new exhibits alongside the old standbys, including the most famous area of all, the Hall of Fame itself:
‘Cats broadcaster Erik Elken listens to an exhibit featuring some famed radio voices from the past.
Afterwards, we took in the beautiful blocks surrounding the Hall and browsed some of the local shops. One store carried a wealth of Minor League Baseball hats, including a 2010 championship model of the red ValleyCats hat. The shopkeeper was probably surprised to see 13 people enter the store, rush over and excitedly point at it.
If any of our Tri-City followers (or baseball fans from anywhere in the country) have not visited the Hall of Fame, we strongly encourage you to make a trip down to Cooperstown – it’s well worth the drive. And come to “The Joe” for Hall of Fame Night on July 30!
New manager Stubby Clapp moved his family to Troy for the season, including his young sons Cooper and Cannan. They got a chance to swing the bat against their father’s pitching at ‘The Joe” after Thursday’s team workout.
Stubby pitches to Cooper: (click on the images for better quality)
24.5 hours until the season starts.
During the season, the Tri-City ValleyCats organization relies heavily on its valuable interns to provide a quality product for our fans. About two-thirds of the summer employees are interns, helping each department succeed before and during the 12-week season.
As of this week, all the summer interns are on board and getting ready for Opening Day. The full-time employees, feeling that today would be a good time for us to get to know each other and the organization better, designed a scavenger hunt-like challenge, which they dubbed the “Cat’athlon.”
At 11 a.m., I joined 23 fellow interns outside the main gate as we awaited our instructions. We were paired into two-person teams and given matching shirts:
A few minutes later, the horn sounded, and we were off. We went to the box office and received a pair of tickets to the day’s event, directing us to a seat in the stadium with our first clue.
Interns were paired with peers from other departments, which came in handy throughout the day. I had no trouble matching the 14 teams of the New York-Penn League to their parent MLB clubs, but when we came to tasks about menus or sponsors, I mostly relied on my partner Ryan, who knew those subjects much better.
At one station, one partner was blindfolded and had to correctly guess five of seven foods that can be found in the ballpark, which was a bit disorienting. The food was a nice energy boost midway through the event, but the spoonful of nacho cheese came as a surprise…
We scrambled all around the ballpark, running from station to station to gain an edge on the other competitors. The weather, fortunately, cooperated – after a week of scorching afternoons and a freezing Thursday, the sun was shining and the temperature was very pleasant.
Some stations involved physical labor…
…while others were more cerebral. In Southpaw’s Den, we calculated discounts, taxes and totals on merchandise:
Many of the stations involved trivia tasks, making sure that we knew our stuff for the upcoming season. Another involved throwing giveaway items into a designated area of the stands, as ValleyCats employees will be doing often during each of our 38 home games this season.
Interns also put on mascot costumes and showed off their best dance moves:
The “Cat’athlon” lasted quite a while, as even the fastest teams took about an hour and a half to complete all the challenges, culminating in a run around the bases. After all the groups finished, everybody retired for lunch and to talk about the day.
Ryan and I came in first place:
Now our focus is solely on preparation for Opening Day, exactly two weeks from this evening. ‘Cats Corner and the ValleyCats Network will bring you full coverage of the 2011 MLB Draft, including live chats on Monday and Tuesday, when the Astros will draft many players who will join the ValleyCats and try to defend the NY-Penn League Championship.