Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Helmbold’s hot dogs, Healey’s homer

Fans enjoyed their favorite ballpark franks for just two quarters Wednesday night as Helmbold’s presented 50 Cent Hot Dog Night.
The festivities included three qualifying heats during the early innings with the winner of each heat earning a trip to the final round during the 7th inning. ValleyCats Box Office/Ticket Manager Jessica Kaszeta gave it a valiant effort in the qualifying round but didn’t make it to the finals.
Longtime ValleyCats employee John “Murf” Murphy also took part in one of the heats falling just short of a berth in the finals.
Everyone’s favorite pig, Ribbie, was in the house tonight to help officiate the contest and our friend’s Brian Cody & Chrissy Cavotta from the Fly Morning Rush dropped by to emcee. The participants competed to see who could eat ten Helmbold’s Minis in the shortest amount of time with Joe “The Machete” Manchete winning in impressive fashion.
Also winning in impressive fashion was the home team on the field. The second game against Brooklyn was a see-saw battle. The ‘Cats were on the board early thanks to a lead off home run from Neiko Johnson, but the Cyclones rallied in the middle innings. All-Star starter Kyle Hallock struck out six but departed after five innings with the score tied at two.
Trailing 4-3 in the 8th inning, shortstop Jacke Healey launched a grand slam to give the ValleyCats the lead for good. Joan Belliard finished off 2 and 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory.
The ‘Cats are still in the playoff hunt and will go for the series sweep against Brooklyn tomorrow. After winning tonight’s Old Brick Mayors Race, Troy Mayor, Harry Tutunjian is also still in the hunt for the season title. He celebrated with his likeness after tonight’s win.
Thursday at “The Joe” is Back to School Night with postgame fireworks. With only three home games remaining in the regular season, this may be one of your last opportunities to catch a game in 2011.

CTDA had a table by the front gate, educating fans on transit options in the Capital Region.

Neiko Johnson, shown here batting after Healey in the eighth, led off the first inning with his first professional home run.

Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Blues, BBQ & Baseball

A busy day at “The Joe” kicked off with a press conference to announce the arrival of Houston’s first round draft pick, George Springer. The former UConn standout, who was selected 11th overall in this June’s draft, met with the local media Tuesday afternoon.
Blues legend Ernie Williams brought down the house with his annual Blues, BBQ & Baseball Night performance. Gates opened early for our final installment of Tunes for Tuesday this season.
Our friend “Cuppy” from Dunkin’ Donuts greeted fans throughout the night and accompanied our honorary managers as they exchanged lineup cards. Dunkin’ Donuts also provided gift cards to a select number of lucky fans throughout the night.
In celebration of the team’s 10th Anniversary Season, ValleyCats President Bill Gladstone introduced Senator Joe Bruno to the crowd and thanked him for his role in bringing the team to Troy. Following those remarks, Senator Bruno tossed out the ceremonial first pitch.
Tuesday’s game also marked Brooklyn’s first visit to “The Joe” since last year’s championship series. 4,802 fans packed the ballpark to watch the series opener against the Cyclones, and they were not disappointed.
The ‘Cats picked up right where they left off last fall, plating four runs in the first inning. Matt Duffy opened the scoring with an RBI single and Ryan McCurdy drove in two more with his first of two hits on the night. Adam Champion pitched five strong innings to earn the win and Zach Johnson provided some more support with his fifth home run of the year.

Catcher Ryan McCurdy tags Xorge Castillo, who was thrown out by right fielder Drew Muren while attempting to score from third on a single in the ninth inning.

After the game, Springer signed autographs for fans alongside pitcher Dayan Diaz.
With only four home games remaining, come cheer the ‘Cats on as they look to make a final push for the playoffs. Wednesday night is 50 Cent Hot Dog Night, presented by Helmbold’s, and will feature hot dog eating contests throughout the night. On the field, the team will look to take a second straight game from the downstate Mets affiliate.
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Summer Reader Night

New York’s 529 Savings Plan sponsored Summer Reader Night at “The Joe” on Saturday. Kids who completed their local library’s reading list were rewarded with two tickets to last night’s ValleyCats game, and were rewarded with quite a show – the ValleyCats scored a season-high 14 runs in front of a sellout crowd of 4,832 fans.
Justin Gominsky, Zach Johnson, and brand new dad Bubby Williams led the offensive attack with two hits apiece. The ‘Cats have taken three-straight from the Renegades and will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon.
Young fans received drawstring bags at the gate, also courtesy of NY’s 529 College Savings Plan.
In other action on the field, the Cookie Factory Know Your Partner Contest included an extra special question. After two standard questions, Mark (Buddy) asked Cat to marry him. To the crowd’s delight, she said “Yes!” This was certainly a highlight for our staff – thanks for including us in such a special moment!
Some more scenes from Saturday’s action:
Tomorrow will be our annual NFL Night as we celebrate the end of the lockout – and more importantly, the coming season. Make sure to wear your favorite team’s jersey and stop by the Cat-tle Ranch to sample some of the Capital Region’s finest wings!
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Double Play

In the immortal words of Ernie Banks: “Let’s play two!” On Friday, the ValleyCats did just that for the third time this week, following up doubleheaders on Sunday and Wednesday with another twin bill at “The Joe.”
The ‘Cats came to play last night, taking both games for their first doubleheader sweep since 2004. The first game was all about the offense as Rafael Valenzuela continued his hot hitting in the 9-4 victory.

Shortstop Miguel Arrendell slides into second with a stolen base.

Game 2 had a much different tone as Andrew Walter, Travis Blankenship, and Ryan Cole stymied the Renegades in a 2-1 win.

Friday night’s doubleheader was Farm & Agriculture Night at “The Joe,” with the NYS Farm Bureau and Cabot Creamery educating fans about local producers. The Dairy Princess, Marilyn Lamb, threw out a strike with one of our ceremonial first pitches and was escorted to the pitchers mound by Dean Casey, the president of the Rensselaer County Farm Bureau.

A select number of fans also received a 10th Anniversary canvas print as they entered the ballpark. This commemorative giveaway was made from a picture of pre-game ceremonies at “The Joe.”
Saturday is Summer Reader Night at “The Joe” presented by NY’s 529 College Savings Program. Kids will be rewarded for completing their summer reading and our young fans will also receive drawstring back packs courtesy of the 529 Plan. The ‘Cats are only 3.5 games out of first place and are looking to make up even more ground prior to the All-Star break.
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Hot Rods, Home Runs and Kids In Free

Fans of all ages packed “The Joe” to see classic cars, police vehicles, fireworks and of course some baseball. Thursday’s GE Kids-In-Free Night was a very popular promotion, bringing a sellout crowd of 5,188 to “The Joe.” GE also gave away t-shirts and selected children to participate in a variety of in-game contests to enhance the always kid-friendly atmosphere.
Tonight was also Stop DWI Night, with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee bringing representatives from local law enforcement as well as a simulator to educate fans on the dangers of drinking and driving. The pre-game parade of police cars is always a highlight and a great backdrop for the National Anthem.
Fans were treated to a pre-game car show in the parking lot near the ticket windows. Thank you to our friends from the Saratoga Automobile Museum for coordinating a great turnout.
The National Guard added another unique element to the entertainment outside the main gates with a climbing wall. Kids, trained professionals and even a few members of the ValleyCats staff braved the heights before rappelling back down.
On the field, the ValleyCats battled all night but were never able to gain the upper hand. Matt Duffy helped keep the team in the game with a 4-for-5 performance, including a home run and four RBIs, and will be headed to the All-Star Game next week. Newcomer Rafael Valenzuela has also made an impact in the limited time that he’s worn a Tri-City uniform, getting a hit in all 10 games he has played for the team. Valenzuela was 3-for-3 on the night with three runs scored.
The ‘Cats are home again for a doubleheader on Friday night. The first game begins at 5:00 pm, kicking off a four-game-set with the Hudson Valley Renegades. Friday’s theme is Farm & Agriculture night, as we celebrate this important aspect of our local economy.
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Charlie Bobblehead Night

It had been a while since the ValleyCats were able to actually play baseball at “The Joe.” After Saturday marked the first home rainout of the season, the weather on Tuesday’s Irish Night was imported straight from Ireland, forcing another postponement.
But the ‘Cats finally took the field on Wednesday, playing a doubleheader that kicked off a stretch of five games in three days as they look to make up ground in the Stedler Division. The theme was Bat Boy Appreciation Night, which included a bobblehead giveaway of longtime bat boy Charles Constantino.
Game 1 was a fast-paced pitcher’s duel that included a safety squeeze and ended with a walk-off home run from newcomer Chris Epps. Prior to receiving a shaving cream pie in the face, Epps told the crowd that this was his first walk-off home run at any level during his South End Tavern Player of the Game interview.
As part of Bat Boy Appreciation Night a new on-field contest was debuted that put fans through the trials of a bat boy. They raced to see who could pick up balls, bats and helmets, with the winner earning a nod from Charlie himself.
In between games, Charlie was recognized on the field and with a video board tribute. Current and former ValleyCats players joined the staff in saying thank you to Charlie as he prepares to work his 300th game with the team. It was amazing to see guys in the big leagues like J.D. Martinez, Brian Bogusevic and Bud Norris, who still remember Charlie.
Following the video presentation, Charlie reversed his normal pre-game role and threw out our final ceremonial first pitch to Ryan McCurdy. Charlie was also give the night off from catching the other first pitches, as fellow bat boy Alex Koppel handled those duties.
Game 2 was tight for a while but Mahoning Valley pulled away late to secure a 4-0 victory. After the game, Charlie and Alex signed autographs to cap off their big night. To Charlie, Alex, and bat boys everywhere, thank you for your dedication and hard work.
The team returns to action tomorrow night, finishing off its series against Mahoning Valley. Kids get in to Thursday’s game for free, courtesy of GE, and there will be post-game fireworks. Come on out and join the fun!
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Home Improvement

Friday, August 5th marked our 3rd Annual Home Improvement Night at “The Joe.” The stadium concourse was set up as a home show with displays from Dwight Plumbing & Heating, Eco Water, Capitaland Home Improvement, Tech Valley Recycling, Kepner Kitchens, Curtis Lumber, Culligan Water, Huff n’ Puff and Bath Fitter.
Game sponsor Trustco Bank also had a display and brought out one of SouthPaw’s favorite guests, Trusty, who joined SouthPaw on the field for a ceremonial first pitch and also participated in the t-shirt toss.
A new promotion took place on the field tonight with Caddie from Catseye Pest Control helping a contestant round up Rowdy in between innings.
Tonight also marked some improvement at home for the team on the field. The ValleyCats rallied late to earn a 3-1 victory in the first of four games against division leader Vermont.
Starter Juri Perez went six strong innings but the offense didn’t kick into gear until the bottom of the 8th. Newcomer Rafael Valenzuela drove in a run to tie the game at 1-1 and South End Tavern Player of the Game Ryan McCurdy plated two runs with a clutch two-out hit. Ryan Cole closed out the victory after two stellar innings of relief by winning pitcher Dayan Diaz.

Rafael Valenzuela, playing his first game at Joe Bruno Stadium, tied the score with an eighth-inning double.

Watch Ryan McCurdy take a pie to the face upon being named the South End Tavern Player of the Game: http://makeagif.com/i/uHmoSr
5,267 fans took in the ValleyCats victory, the eighth sellout of the season. Following the final out, Guilderland Martial Arts put on an exhibition prior to the always spectacular Price Chopper fireworks.
The ‘Cats are home again tomorrow for Adventure Sports/Outdoors Night as they look to sweep this brief two-game homestand. Tickets are still available and Boy/Girl Scouts will be invited to sleep over on the field following the game.
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

State Farm Clinic and Camp Day #2

Monday was an eventful day at “The Joe.” It began with a free youth baseball clinic for children from the Albany Police Athletic League courtesy of State Farm.
Manager Stubby Clapp and Houston Astros roving instructor Milt Thompson joined members of the ‘Cats front office to help provide instruction to dozens of children before the ValleyCats’ game.
The kids learned the basics of baseball at several stations, including throwing and catching, pop flies, infield drills and baseball lingo.
 
Our second and final Camp Day game of the season was a lot of fun with over 40 camps in attendance! The game started at 11 a.m., giving thousands of kids a chance to watch some daytime baseball.
To kick things off, Troy native and longtime R.P.I. baseball coach, Karl Steffen, painted the corner with one of our ceremonial first pitches. R.P.I. Athletics was on hand at the Top of the Hill to enjoy the afternoon game.
For the few who have not seen the clip, ‘Cats manager Stubby Clapp stole the show with his first ejection of the season. The team responded with a brief rally but couldn’t come all the way back, as Auburn completed a sweep with a 13-6 win.
Following the game, the team travelled to Jamestown for a three game set and will return on Friday for a series against Vermont. That game is presented by Trustco bank and will feature post-game fireworks courtesy of Price Chopper.
Tri-City vs. Auburn was not the only game played at “The Joe” yesterday, as the front office staff took advantage of the matinee game to get out onto the field themselves for a 4:00 pm tilt. The full-time staff dominated the interns, who narrowly escaped the ten-run rule. Stadium Operations manager Keith Sweeney pitched five strong innings, with vice president/GM Rick Murphy pacing the offense on the way to a 10-1 rout.
Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Honoring Heroes

For the first time in franchise history, the ValleyCats have eclipsed the 100,000 mark in attendance before the end of July, with 103,072 spectators so far. Thank you fans for all your support this season and we look forward to even more fun in August!

MVP Health Care’s Sunday Funday included the usual festivities with a pre-game catch, balloons courtesy of Noble Gas and kids running the bases after the final out.

Tonight’s theme also payed tribute to the EMTs, fire fighters, police officers and first responders who help to keep the Capital Region safe. As part of Community Heroes Night, Mike Klugo from Valatie Rescue Squad threw out the ceremonial first pitch and an ambulance escorted SouthPaw in the Armory Fiat for his entrance.

Sticking with the Community Heroes theme, the Drug Free Capital District program continued tonight at “The Joe.” This initiative has the ValleyCats partnering with Rensselaer County District Attorney Richard McNally, Albany County District Attorney David Soares and local law enforcement to help start the conversation between children and parents about the dangers of drug use. Our young fans and their parents teamed up to take educational quizzes with prizes awarded in the Cat-tle Ranch.

For those who didn’t know, pulled pork is available at the Left Field Louie’s kiosk near the Cat-tle Ranch. Thanks for the heads up, Ribbie!

Old Navy from Crossgates Mall had a popular display on the concourse, including their famous mannequins.

On the field, the ‘Cats failed to solve Doubleday pitching and dropped their second game in a row by the score of 6-1. They will have one more chance to beat Auburn this morning, with the first pitch at 11:00 AM. This matinee start is the final game of the homestand before the team travels to Jamestown.

The ‘Cats will return home for Friday night fireworks on August 5th as they take on the division-leading Vermont Lake Monsters. Friday marks our 3rd Annual Home Improvement Night and is presented by Trustco Bank.

Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Hall of Fame Night

Saturday was Hall of Fame Night at “The Joe,” as some special guests joined us from Cooperstown. The Frank and Peggy Steele Interns from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum visited the ballpark and enjoyed a pre-game presentation that featured ‘Cats president Bill Gladstone, vice president/general manager Rick Murphy and field manager Stubby Clapp.
 
The Hall of Fame display on the concourse included some great game-used artifacts such as Derek Jeter’s bat, Pedro Martinez jersey, and Craig Biggio’s batting gloves. The items that were closest to home were a glove and cleats used by Troy native Johnny Evers. It was amazing to see how much the equipment has changed since the early 1900’s.
 
Best Fire was the game sponsor and set-up a patio display on the concourse. Those seats looked great by the Hot Corner and would probably be even better in someone’s backyard.
 
The Exxon Mobile Tour was also in the house again with giveaways, prizes and the Dizzy Dipstick race.
 
Our friends John and Regina Cole from Cole’s Collision Centers were good-natured participants in the “Know Your Partner” game between innings.
 
Despite eleven hits by the offense and a solid start from Nick Tropeano, the ‘Cats dropped a tough 4-3 decision. They will be back at it on Sunday for game two against the Auburn Doubledays. MVP Health Care presents another Sunday Funday as we pay tribute to the men and women who keep the Capital Region and beyond safe with Community Heroes Night.

Brandon Meredith slides into second with a stolen base in the second inning.

Nick Tropeano battled through five innings, allowing two runs and striking out six batters.

Photos taken by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Viva Italia!

Spaghetti, baseballs, home runs, fireworks, and a bit of rain … this game had it all!
Italian Night at “The Joe” is always a festive occasion and tonight was no exception. The pre-game ceremonies were highlighted by simultaneous first pitches from both of Troy’s mayoral candidates, Carmella Mantello and Louis Rosamilia. Thank you both for joining us tonight and best of luck with your campaigns.
Tonight’s game was sponsored by the U.S. Army and included a ceremony to swear in several new soldiers on the field. The Army’s Humvees participated in the t-shirt toss and Staff Sergeant Pedro sang the national anthem.
As part of the ValleyCats Night of Champions program, several teams from Twin Town Little League were recognized on the field for their accomplishments this season.
For the second night in a row, the Cats’ bats put at least eight runs on the board. Even a 55-minute rain delay couldn’t slow the offense down as Matt Duffy, Miles Hamblin, John Hinson, and Drew Muren all homered to power the 8-1 victory. Adam Champion went four-and-2/3rds innings in relief to earn the win.

Matt Duffy hits his first professional home run in the second inning, giving the 'Cats a 1-0 lead.

Right fielder Drew Muren was named the South End Tavern Player of the Game. Along with a South End gift certificate, he earned a pie in the face courtesy of Charlie.

Drew Muren went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs and took a pie in the face after being named the South End Tavern Player of the Game.

Fans seeking autographs enjoyed a special treat after the game as ‘Cats manager Stubby Clapp joined Bubby Williams to sign on the concourse after the always-amazing Price Chopper fireworks.
Saturday’s game will mark a very special visit from the Hall of Fame as they display artifacts from all-time greats such as Derek Jeter and Troy native Johnny Evers right here at “The Joe.” Join us for the game and this rare opportunity to see these items outside of Cooperstown.
Photos by Garrett Craig. For more pictures from every ValleyCats event, visit our Seton Health ‘Cats Camera page.

Going Green; Girls of Summer

Wednesday was the ValleyCats 4th Annual Going Green Night. The concourse at “The Joe” was populated with all kinds of educational displays.
National Grid taught fans about how much energy old appliances consume in comparison to new ones. Fans were invited to autograph an old energy-hogging refrigerator to help illustrate the point.
The U.S.D.A. and D.E.C. educated fans on the importance of containing the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle and not allowing it to spread into unaffected areas of the northeast. This message carries a special significance to baseball, as this bug destroys ash trees, a major source of wood for baseball bats. A unique display on how a bat is made was included as part of their exhibit. For more information on this threat, go to: http://www.stopthebeetle.info/ and remember, DON’T MOVE FIREWOOD!
Gallivan Companies was on hand for the second consecutive year to showcase some of their lawn care and landscaping services.
Prior to the game, Tech Valley Recycling collected old electronics in the parking lot. This was a great opportunity for fans to dispose of old electronic devices in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.
At the gates, fans received re-usable grocery bags as they entered the ballpark.
NYSERDA, Culligan Water, John Ray & Sons, Eco Water, Waste Management, the E.R.C. Community Warehouse and Bath Fitter were also on hand to inform fans on ways to save energy and live a greener on a day-to-day basis. Our Going Green mascot, Zoggy, was also involved throughout the game, teaching fans how to recycle.
On the field, the team took a tough 2-1 loss despite another strong outing from righty Jonas Dufek.

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Girls of Summer Night took place at “The Joe” on Thursday, with women from the Capital Region honored for their accomplishments in business and the community. The theme featured a pre-game networking event in the Time Warner Cable Picnic Pavilion and an awards ceremony on the field prior to the first pitch.
ValleyCats Vice President/General Manager Rick Murphy presented four women with awards as part of the festivities. The recipients were:
Denise Dubois from Complexions Spa for Beauty & Wellness
Carrie Hillenbrandt from BBL Hospitality
Julia Chiarello from GE Renewables
Alicia Germano from 3t Architects
The Girl Scouts participated in pre-game activities on the concourse as part of the Girls of Summer Night. Baseball Buddies was transformed into Softball Buddies, as players from Pine Bush Girls Softball, East Greenbush Girls Softball, Latham Lassies and the West Albany Athletic Association joined the ‘Cats on the field for the national anthem.
Between the lines, the ValleyCats crossed the plate eight times in the first inning, which would be all the runs they would need en route to a 9-5 win. Everyone in the lineup reached base safely and Matt Duffy earned South End Tavern Player of the Game honors for his two-hit, three-RBI performance. Dayan Diaz earned his fourth win, giving him the team lead and tying him for second in the league.
The homestand continues on Friday with Italian Night, presented by the U.S. Army. Come out to the game with your paisanos and stick around for post game fireworks, courtesy of Price Chopper!

Spring Training Report: Day 2

It was another hot day in Kissimmee and there was plenty more baseball action to catch. I spent the first part of the day on the Major League side, as the Astros hosted the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals had split-squad games, so Pujols stayed back in Jupiter. Former Astro and one-year Yankee Lance Berkman did make the trip. He received a good amount of applause during player introductions and also in his first at-bat. 


2006 ‘Cat Bud Norris got the start for Houston and pitched one of his best games this spring…5 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 0 BB. He will be the Astros 4th starter behind Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ.  Another thing worthy of noting is that Tommy Manzella had a pinch hit double in the latter part of the game. The Astros ended up winning the game 3-2. 

Over on the minor league side they had exhibition games against the Detroit Tigers farm clubs. Just like many of the former ValleyCats, the Tigers teams were compromised of some of the guys who played for the Oneonta/Connecticut Tigers. The same holds true for yesterday’s games against the Washington Nationals…many played on the Vermont Lake Monsters. Just don’t remind them of the fact that Vermont was in first place with a 21-9 record on July 19 while Tri-City was 9.5 games out. The Lake Monsters ended up missing the playoffs and the ‘Cats went on to sweep the Brooklyn Cyclones for the league championship.

The man on the mound when the ‘Cats won it all, Mike Ness, came into one of the games and threw 2 1/3 innings giving up 4 hits and striking out 3. The 2010 infield tandem of Mike Kvasnicka, Oscar Figueroa, Kik Hernandez and Marcus Nidiffer all played together on field one.

Before the games, Craig Biggio was once again working with the minor leaguers and from what I could see, much conversation took place between him and Kvasnicka. Yesterday it was fielding and today is was about hitting.  Astros manager Brad Mills was also standing by the cage observing. 

One last thing to note before I get into the pictures…Kik has been invited to the major league games about six times this spring and had never seen playing time until yesterday. In the Astros game against the Marlins in Jupiter, Kik pinch ran for Chris Johnson and received an at-bat in the 7th inning. He hit a sharp ground ball through the left side of the infield off of Marlins closer Leo Nunez for a single. He then scored on a Delino DeShields RBI single. The one word he used to described the experience…”Awesome!” Also in the game on Friday, J.B Shuck hit a solo home run in the second inning and Chris Wallace pinch hit for Shuck in the 9th inning, grounding out. 


Spring Training Report Day 1

Greetings from Kissimmee, FL and 80 degree weather! It feels good to get away from the cool temperatures of Troy and enter the more baseball type weather. I arrived in Orlando Thursday night around 8:30pm, picked up the rental car and headed to the Holiday Inn in Kissimmee. The place is mobbed with all types of people, some on vacation and some on Spring Break…all enjoying the summer weather and most likely Disney World, a 5-minute drive from where I’m staying. The hotel is also the same place where the Astros house the entire minor league staff…so I run into a bunch of guys in the lobby and what not. 
Wanting to do something before turning in for the night, I headed over to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. The complex is huge! It’s 220 acres that hosts more than 60 sports and thousands of events for all types of athletes. When I got there the cleaning crew was just finishing up at Champion Stadium, where the Atlanta Braves had hosted the Washington National that night. So I casually walked in and snapped a few photos:
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On Friday morning I made the 15 minute drive to the Astros Minor League Spring Training complex at Osceola Heritage Park. I was greeted by Astros Player Development Coordinator Allen Rowin and Director of Florida Operations Jay Edmiston. Allen spends almost two months in Florida before heading back to Houston, while Jay mans the complex year round. I will be interviewing both of them and will post those in a later blog. 
One of the first things I did upon arriving was introduce myself to our new 2011 manager Stubby Clapp and hitting coach Mark Bailey. It was at this time when I found out that everyone calls Bailey “Beatle.” So our 2011 field staff is “Stubby, Beatle and Ruby.”
“Stubby” and “Beatle” are very excited about coming to Troy for the 2011 season and they were not short on questions about the stadium and the area. This will be the first managerial stint for Stubby and although he said he cannot guarantee another championship, he’s ready for the challenge. 
An idea being thrown around the front office since we heard Stubby was Canadian was whether or not we should play Canada’s National Anthem before the “Star Spangled Banner.” After running the idea by Stubby and finding out that his family will be in attendance at the ValleyCats home opener on June 17, we’re leaning towards doing it on opening day only. 
We also talked about planning a date for a Spring Reception similar to the one held for Jim Pankovits when he first joined the ‘Cats as manager in 2009. I’d expect it to happen at some point in May. 
(L-R) 2011 ‘Cats hitting coach Mark Bailey, manager Stubby Clapp and pitching coach Gary Ruby:
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Outside on the backfields there were two games going on versus the Washington Nationals minor leaguers. Here are a few tidbits from the day:
-Bryce Harper, Nats number one pick in the 2010 MLB draft had a pretty uneventful day, striking out and grounding out the two times that I saw him bat.
-Carlos Quevedo had a very good outing, facing 13 batters in 3.1 innings and giving up only 2 hits while walking none. 
-Craig Biggio is in town for the weekend and spent some time instructing Mike Kvasnicka at third base. He also worked with a handful of others. 
-Telvin Nash hit a long home run to left field. Not quite as long as the one he hit with the big league club at a game against Atlanta at Disney’s Champion Stadium. 
-Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane and President of Baseball Operations Tal Smith were among the many spectators watching the games.
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To give all of you a clearer understanding on how Spring Training works, I will take you through a very brief outline of the day-in-the-life of an Astros minor leaguer. 
7:00 AM: Players are picked up at the hotel by shuttle vans and brought to the complex. 
7:30-8:30 AM: The players attend informative meetings led by the Astros front office staff and coordinators.
9:00-11:30 AM: Stretching, hitting & fielding drills, cage work, batting practice and more. 
11:30-12:30 PM: Lunch
1:00 PM : Exhibition games
4:30 PM: Shuttle vans back to the hotel
Once they are back at the hotel they pretty much stay put. Since most do not have cars, many will venture out to eat at one of the handful of restaurants and fast food establishments around the hotel. 
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The highlight of the day was reuniting with almost all of the members of last years championship team. It was great to see them again after they took off less than 24-hours after spending a grueling 3 months playing almost every day, enduring some serious lows and coming back from a 9.5 game deficit to sweep Brooklyn for the New York-Penn League championship. 
Tomo
rrow I’ll be spending some time on the Major League side of the complex, as the Astros host the St. Louis Cardinals. 
Now I’ll leave you with a handful of pictures from the day…
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150_5745.JPGCraig Biggio & Mike Kvasnicka:
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Marcus Nidifers family…sporting the ValleyCats gear!
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(L-R) Jay Edmiston, Drayton McLane, Fred Nelson, Tal Smith
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Mark Bailey, Tyler Burnett
Erik Castro:
150_5779.JPGNash:
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150_5793.JPGBiggio taking it in:
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Nidiffer & Nash…both teammates in Greeneville:
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One big family

Spring Training Fields.jpg

As of today, everyone in the Astros minor league system has arrived at Spring Training in Kissimmee, FL. Position players were the last to report today and will immediately begin full squad workouts and mini camp games on the backfields of Osceola County Stadium.

Don’t forget that we’ll be in Kissimmee from March 18th-23rd providing complete coverage of your favorite former ‘Cats. If you’ve got a request, please send a tweet to @ValleyCats.

101 days until Opening Day!
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