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‘Cats preparing for renovations to four youth fields this Thursday

Prep work is underway for the ValleyCats and BlueShield of Northeastern New York’s ’4 in 24′ Field Renovation Project this Thursday, which will consist of the playing surface at four youth baseball fields being totally revamped.

Each field will have its old infield sod removed and replaced with brand new Kentucky bluegrass, the homeplate and pitcher’s mound will be completely redone, all of the baselines will be measured and edged to the accurate specifications, and new bases will be put in, along with other general cleanup around the ballpark.

The four leagues which will receive the renovations are Twin Town Little League and Spring Youth Baseball in Troy, Schenectady Little League, and Berne-Knox-Westerlo Little League in Westerlo. Four groups of ValleyCats staff, BlueShield of Northeastern New York staff, league and city volunteers, and members of The Brickman Group will begin work at each location at 7am. The bulk of the heavy duty renovations should be completed by early afternoon, with the finishing touches being put on in the evening.

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of Little League Baseball, the New York-Penn League, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame…so a big year for baseball in general! It also marks the 60th anniversary of the Schenectady Little League World Series championship team of 1954, which brings us to our first ’4 in 24′ location.

SCHENECTADY LITTLE LEAGUE

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The original Schenectady Little League was formed in 1950, and Michigan Avenue is where the team called home. Fast forward over 60 years later, and this Thursday, that very same field will receive much need renovations. Schenectady Little League has a long and storied history of success, participating in three Little League World Series in the 50′s, capturing the title in 1954. Members of that team include former major leaguers, Billy Connors and Jim Barbieri. Connors went on to become pitching coach for the New York Yankees, and served as Vice President of Player Personnel from 1996-2012.

Another member of that 1954 championship team, Joe Loudis, will join the ValleyCats for a formal press conference that will take place at Schenectady Little League’s Maietta-Buonome Field on Michigan Avenue this Thursday at 11am. Loudis was also a standout basketball player, playing for Marshall University and the University of Albany under Doc Sauers. He went on to become a highly successful high school baseball and basketball coach, and is a member of the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame.

In our recent visit to the Maietta-Buonome Field, we discovered a few nostalgic items. These items and other memorabilia will be displayed throughout the day on Thursday.

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The City of Schenectady welcomes home the Little League Champions!

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Autographed photograph to Schenectady Little League from Phil Rizzuto.

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Autographed photo from Little League founder, Carl Stotz.

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Presently, Schenectady Little League has 300+ members after merging with JC and Bellevue Little League in 2008, and Northside Little League this season. Opening Day is set for Saturday, May 3.

Below are photos of the current conditions at Maietta-Buonome Field.

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TWIN TOWN LITTLE LEAGUE

Located directly across the street from “The Joe” on Williams Road, the Twin Town #2 field is where the league hosts all of their championship games and most all-star tournaments.

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Twin Town Little League is home to 50-55 teams / 550+ players, and with the league being our neighbors, this a very exciting piece to the ’4 in 24′ renovations! Opening Day is set for Saturday, April 26.

More current photos:

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SPRING YOUTH BASEBALL

Located just over two miles away from “The Joe” on Spring Avenue in Troy, Spring Youth Baseball has been part of the Troy community since 1955, making it one of the oldest continuously running baseball programs within Rensselaer County.

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The field plays host to the Spring Renegades travel program, whose 8 & under team won back to back Eastern NY State Championships in 2012 & 2013. They are asked to host many tournaments, including State and Mid-Atlantic Championships, and these renovations will help put the field in as best shape as possible.

Spring currently fields 30+ teams and has over 350 players. Opening Day is set for Saturday, April 26.

Current photos:

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BERNE-KNOX-WESTERLO LITTLE LEAGUE

Rounding out the “fields” of four is Berne-Knox-Westerlo Little League. A smaller league comprised of about 13 teams and 135 players, BKW Little League uses three different locations for their games, including the Westerlo field on County Route 401. This is where the ‘Cats will focus their attention, as it was severely damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Because the field sits right next to a stream, it had been under 2-3 feet of water, washing away most of the infield dirt.

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When it’s all said and done, the before & after photos of this location will be remarkable! The field will be in tip-top shape for Opening Day on Sunday, April 27!

Here are some more current photos:

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All of the above renovations would not be possible without our fantastic partnership with BlueShield of Northeastern New York, who play a big role in the support of these efforts! Together, we are able to provide the youth of the Capital Region with a safe place to play, learn, grow, and most importantly, have fun.

Renovation efforts are also be aided by the support of Admar Construction, who will provide the necessary equipment to complete the renovations, The Brickman Group, and the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation, whose contributions come from past events held at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.

We’ll be posting renovation updates on our Facebook & Twitter pages throughout the day on Thursday using #4in24, so be sure to check in and see our progress!

Front Office Friday: Now stepping up to the mic, Anthony Pettograsso!

Have you seen the weather report for this weekend? The Capital District is supposed to approach and surpass the 70 degree mark for the first time in 2014! Is it a coincidence that this weekend also drops us into single-digits on the weekly countdown to Opening Night at “The Joe?”

That’s right, we’re down to nine weeks until the first pitch is thrown! We have a lot of fun community appearances coming up, including our 4 in 24 Field Renovation this coming Thursday and youth baseball and softball opening ceremonies later this month.

The warm weather is getting everyone outside and spring activities are popping up everywhere. You can expect to see more of us in the coming weeks out and about. With that said, let’s introduce you to a familiar voice.

Anthony Pettograsso has been the man behind the mic since our third season in Troy. Along with being the Public Address “Voice of the ValleyCats,” Anthony is also our Promotions Manager. He oversees our promotional team and assists with gameday production.

Say hello to Anthony Pettograsso…You’ll hear his voice all summer at “The Joe!”

A native of East Greenbush, Anthony has spent the past 12 years working in college athletics. He was an Assistant Director of Athletic Programs here at Hudson Valley Community College and has worked with UAlbany in a game operations and facilities management role. You’ve also likely seen Anthony and heard his voice if you have attended Albany Devils games.

Here’s a little bit more about the guy we call AP, who happens to be our PA guy…

Q) If you weren’t working for the ValleyCats, what would you be doing?
A) I’ve spent most of my life is some shape or form working in sports, so I’d have to believe it would be along those lines. My dream is to announce a national sporting event in a Major League stadium or arena.

Q) Who is your favorite MLB team?
A) The 27 time World Series Champion New York Yankees!

Q) What is your favorite sport other than baseball and who is your favorite team in that sport?
A) Baseball will always be my first love…but Football runs a close second. J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! They’ve gotta get over the hump one of these years…right?

Q) What are some of your hobbies?
A) I’ve been known to play a little bass guitar in my spare time and I’m slowly improving my skills with the six-string. I’m an avid boxer and I’ve also recently discovered the world of CrossFit. So, between music, the gym, and “The Joe” my schedule is pretty booked!

Q) What’s your favorite genre of music?
A) That’s the toughest question you could ask me. I’m a huge fan of all music. It really depends on the day. One day it could be a little Zac Brown Band…the next some Metallica could fit the mood. Above all else you can never go wrong will some Eddie Vedder & Pearl Jam.

Q) What’s your favorite meal to eat?
A) That depends who is cooking! When you ate as much pasta as I did growing up you learn to love anything with a nice homemade sauce, but if I had to choose one meal it would be your traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Yum.

Q) What’s your favorite pet or an ideal pet?
A) Seeing as I own 2 cats (Bruce Wayne and Isis…yes, I am a Batman nerd) I’d have to go with…cats. They sleep all day…greet me when I get home…then go back to sleep. What more do you want in a pet?

Q) What’s your favorite movie?
A) Top 5 (in no particular order):
-The Dark Knight (ok, this may be #1)
-Animal House (if you don’t know what “Double Secret Probation” is then we can’t be friends)
-Ghostbusters (Go get her Ray!)
-The Sandlot (Fireworks without Ray Charles’ American the Beautiful is just plain wrong)
-Pulp Fiction (If you haven’t seen it…stop what you are doing and go now…you’ll thank me later)

Q) What’s been your favorite moment at “The Joe?”
A) I’m one of the few people who have been lucky enough to be a part of the ValleyCats organization since the very first season. Of course the two championships (2010 & 2013) were amazing! Hosting the All-Star game in 2008 was another awesome experience…but if I had to pick one moment we need to go all the way back to the very first game in 2002. Before I stepped behind the microphone in the production room I was a part time member of the grounds crew. It was the bottom of the 8th inning on Opening Night in 2002. I believe the ‘Cats were trailing when Adam Suess crushed a Grand Slam over the Right Field fence. The stadium erupted and the ‘Cats went on to win 8-3. It was a special night that has led to countless memorable moments over the last 12 seasons!

Q) If you could have one super power, what would it be?
A) Super powers? Batman doesn’t need super powers…

Q) What position would you play if you played for the ValleyCats?
A) I was somewhat of a utility guy back in the day…but I think I like my home behind the mic in the production room!

Q) What’s your favorite quote?
A) “Do or do not. There is no try” -Yoda

Q) Who is your all-time favorite baseball player?
A) Growing up I was a huge fan of Rickey Henderson….but if we are talking “All-time” I think my answer would have to be Joe DiMaggio.

Anthony proudly holds the New York-Penn League Championship Trophy for the second time in four years!

Q) If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
A) Eddie Vedder, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, & Bill Ennis (my late grandfather)

Q) If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
A) Buy Wayne Enterprises and become The Batman! Or maybe just some Season Tickets to the ValleyCats…it could go either way really.

Thank you, Anthony! Glad to have you on full-time this season and looking forward to hearing you announce the TWO-TIME NYPL CHAMPION Tri-City ValleyCats!

Anthem tryouts draw record number of performers

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This past Saturday, the ValleyCats held their 4th Annual National Anthem tryouts at Crossgates Mall, with Jaime from Oldies 98-3 serving as the event emcee. 84 contestants, the most in the events four year history, performed in front of a panel of four judges.

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Each performance was ranked based upon stage presence, song accuracy, and sound quality. Out of the 84 performers, the judges were faced with the tough task of deciding on five finalists. It was extremely difficult due to the many great renditions of the anthem!

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Ultimately, the decision had to be made, and we’re excited to announce the five finalists below!

SARATOGA SOUNDTRACK

EMILY FROM COHOES

JOAN FROM ALBANY

MIKE FROM RENSSELAER

JAKE FROM EAST GREENBUSH

Each of the five finalists will be placed on tcvalleycats.com from Monday April 14 through Friday, April 18 for a fan vote. The contestant with the most votes, will sing at “The Joe” during a premium fireworks night in front of an average of 5,000+ fans!

CLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW>>

However, all of the finalists above will be scheduled to sing at “The Joe” in 2014…so congratulations! Plus, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem, which makes it extra special!

Thank you to everyone who attended the tryouts, thank you to Crossgates Mall for being great hosts, and to Jaime from Oldies 98-3 for being the event emcee!! We look forward to seeing everyone again in 2015!

‘Cats Care: Community Round Up

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On March 15, Pappy SouthPaw spent the morning at Crossgates Mall with his friends, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Reindeer, and the B95.5 Bee for their free Kids Club event! This year, Crossgates Mall is celebrating their 30th Anniversary!

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On March 22nd, SouthPaw and Ribbie spent some time with the Albany Symphony Orchestra for their Price Chopper “Sunday Symphonies” for Families event. The hour-long concert took place at the Palace Theater, and is meant to introduce young audiences to the wonderful world of great symphonic music.

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Each concert has a different theme, with this one fittingly known as “String Training,” playing off of baseball’s spring training.

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SouthPaw begging for candy, but wasn’t successful.

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SouthPaw & Ribbie with ValleyCats Kids Club member, Ebisa.

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On March 24, more than 65 youth baseball coaches and league representatives from the Capital District attended the ValleyCats first-ever Coach the Coach Clinic at Albany PAL Gym.

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The coaches packed the bleachers, brought their pens and notepads, and jotted down their observations, as coaches and players from Hudson Valley Community College and Albany High School provided their insight into the game we all love.

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Big thank you to Hudson Valley Community College hitting coach Brian Hamlin and pitching coach Brady Farkas, along with three HVCC players, for providing their knowledge of the game. Also, thanks goes out to AHS head coach Garett Baron, pitching coach Pat O’Connell and two Falcon players for giving their time and insight. We’ll have a more in-depth recap in a future ‘Cats Corner blog post, so stay tuned.

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The ValleyCats mascots and Sammy Baseball brought their anti-bullying skit to Carol Hill Elementary School in Troy on March 25th, during a special assembly in the school auditorium.

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Following the skit, each student recited the ValleyCats Peace Pledge, to stand up and speak out against bullying!

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The students then had a chance to take pictures and give high fives to the mascots on their way to class!

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Rowdy, Sammy Baseball, Ribbie, Spiedie the Chicken, and SouthPaw!

Here’s a brief video recap of the event from News 10 ABC:

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The following day, SouthPaw ventured to Rensselaer Park Elementary School in Lansingburgh for their Literacy Day, visiting a few different classrooms while he was there.

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Ms. Wild’s class

Mr Hamilton's 3rd Grade

Mr. Hamilton’s 3rd grade class

Mr Proper's 5th Grade

Mr. Proper’s 5th grade class

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Lastly, America’s Food Basket opened a new grocery store, the “Ideal Food Basket,” at 100 Broadway in Menands, and SouthPaw was there for the grand opening!

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Front Office Friday: Beyond the calculator with accountant Dan

We’re one week closer to Opening Day at “The Joe!” The countdown is officially 70 days, or 10 weeks if you like to think smaller numbers!

We’re back with our Front Office Friday feature and today we introduce you to our staff accountant Dan LaLonde. Dan was raised in Lake Pleasant, N.Y., and spent the 2013 summer interning in the ValleyCats ticket office. Dan came on board full-time in the accounting role after the season and has been a tremendous addition to the team.

Staff Accountant Dan LaLonde can be seen towering over the field at “The Joe” this summer!

He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Communication from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2008. After graduating, Dan moved to Boston where he worked in real estate for three years. He decided to return to school and earned his Master’s Degree in Sports Leadership from Northeastern University in 2013.

Dan spends much of his free-time playing sports, particularly basketball, which makes sense as he is the tallest person in the office at 6-foot-5. He also enjoys following his favorite Boston-area teams – although, you’ll find out just a few lines down which NFL team he roots for (Hint: not the Patriots). Though he currently lives in Green Island with his beloved roommate Chris Dawson, Dan also enjoys spending time with his friends and family back home in the Adirondacks.

Here’s a little more info on Dan … Enjoy!

Q) If you weren’t working for the ValleyCats, what would you be doing?
A) Probably something simple, like being a lawyer or a doctor.

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

Q) What is your favorite sport other than baseball and who is your favorite team in that sport?
A) Probably football and my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers

Q) What are some of your hobbies?
A) My favorite activity is playing basketball, but I also love kicking my feet up and watching movies and sports for hours on end.

Q) What’s your favorite genre of music?
A) Billy Joel should be his own genre, so I’ll say: Billy Joel

Q) What’s your favorite meal to eat?
A) Sushi in general, but if we are being specific: A spicy salmon, tuna and yellowtail roll with miso soup and a salad.

Q) What’s your favorite pet or an ideal pet?
A) I am allergic to everything that could reasonably be considered a pet except for goldfish, so: A goldfish.

Q) What’s your favorite movie?
A) Independence Day. Because, America.

Q) What’s been your favorite moment at “The Joe?”
A) Definitely not the time I struck out three times in last year’s Staff-Intern baseball game, so I’d probably go with Ryan Dineen’s walk-off homer in the 12th inning last July.

Q) If you could have one super power, what would it be?
A) I would take Mike Trout’s super powers and be him.

Q) What position would you play if you played for the ValleyCats?
A) Did I mention that I struck out three times in last year’s Staff-Intern game? I would play: Left Out

Q) What’s your favorite quote?
A) “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – Wayne Gretzky & Michael Scott

Dan is a ValleyCat “Fan For Life,” and a tall one at that!

Q) Who is your all-time favorite baseball player?
A) It’s a tie between Pedro Martinez and Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn

Q) If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
A) Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Bill Murray

Q) If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
A) Buy an island… and a season-suite to the ValleyCats!

Thanks for all you do, Dan! If you see the big guy roaming the concourse this summer, give him a high five … just be prepared because you may have to jump!

Front Office Friday: Welcoming our newest staff member, Ben

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get to know Ben a little better…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appel drew a large viewing audience:

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

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

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

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

Some other photos:

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2012 ‘Cats, Dan Gulbransen and Catfish Elkins

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

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Jack Mayfield

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Chan Moon

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

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

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

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

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

2013 ValleyCats receive their NYPL Championship Rings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tony Kemp and Chan Moon filling their plates!

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

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Pat Christensen

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Ernesto Genoves

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Evan Grills

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Jon Kemmer

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Gonzalo Sanudo

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Chan Moon

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

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

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

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2013 New York-Penn League champions!

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

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Austin Wates

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Tony Kemp

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Kyle Westwood, Kevin Comer, Chris Cotton

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Tyler White

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Pitchers looking on during minor league spring training action

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Jason Castro

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

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M.P. Cokinos

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Chris Cotton

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Jesse Wierzbicki

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Jake Rodriguez

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Astros minor league instructor, and former major leaguer Vince Coleman

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Tyler Heineman

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Some of the Astros Latino players seek shade.

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

‘Cats Care: Community Roundup

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

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SouthPaw with his friends from Milton Terrace Elementary School!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a Recovery!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Cats introduce Education Day at “The Joe!”

As part of our initiative to “Create Fans for Life,” we’ve decided to devote a home game during the upcoming season to the youth of the Capital Region. We’ll host Education Day at “The Joe” on Tuesday, June 17, with the baseball game that morning serving as the background to an all-encompassing educational field trip opportunity for local schools.

We’ve created a curriculum that includes character development and anti-bullying facets, as well as more traditional educational subject matter as it relates to the game of baseball. The character development aspect will build on the ValleyCats’ existing “Strike Out Bullying” program that features interactive in-school assemblies, a uniquely created “Peace Pledge” and a custom activity book.

The program will be rounded out with fun activities to educate students in areas such as mathematics, history and geography, while demonstrating their real world applications. This will include items on the geometry and dimensions of the field, player statistics and mileage charts for travel between the various cities throughout the New York-Penn League, along with historical ties to baseball in the Capital Region.

Here is some additional information on this event:

  • This curriculum and the various corresponding activities will be available for teachers to use in the classroom via download on the ValleyCats website (www.tcvalleycats.com) beginning in March. It will also be incorporated into the game day entertainment and experience at the ballpark on June 17.
  • Tickets will be $10.00 per student which includes a seat for the game and lunch. The lunch menu will comply with the USDA Nutrition Standards for School Meals.

We are thrilled to provide this opportunity for students throughout the region to learn more in-depth information about baseball and its ties to the Capital Region. Our hope is that we can pack the stadium with students and teachers, and provide them a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience.

The ValleyCats front office, along with loveable mascot SouthPaw and his friends, will create an atmosphere of inclusion, education and fun.

The ValleyCats are currently seeking community-minded corporate partners to help offset some of the costs for schools which may need assistance with transportation or other field trip costs. To learn more about Education Day at “The Joe,” contact the ValleyCats front office at 629-2287. As we join forces with local school districts, this unique opportunity figures to be a staple for years to come!

Helping Hands

Last Friday, members of our front office took some time to cook and serve lunch for members of the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless in Albany.

The Interfaith Partnership is such a vital part of our local community, as they are dedicated to addressing the needs of the homeless and low-income community.

They provide great services to encourage self-sufficiency, empowerment, and stability. These include housing, health and wellness, and youth programs just to name a few.

Lunch was absolutely delicious! Our menu included baked ziti and meatballs, salad, steamed green beans, and cookies for desert!

Here are a few photos:

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Ryan and Dianna prepping the food

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Jess cooking the green beans

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Michelle, Chris and Jess serving

For more information on the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, visit http://www.interfaithpartnership.com/

‘Cats Community Calendar!

The next two weekends we’ll be busy participating in some great events! Here’s where we’ll be:

Ronald McDonald House Radiothon- Crossgates Mall- Saturday, January 18, 11am-5pm-

We love getting involved each year with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region, and this is one of their marquee events. We are excited to be part of the entertainment schedule this Saturday at Crossgates Mall! We’ll be located in the hallway outside of the Apple Store on the lower level.

We’ll have our inflatable baseball game set up, and championship trophy on display from 11am-5pm. SouthPaw will also be on-hand for pictures from 12pm-3pm.

Come join us and support a great cause!!

Dax’s Birthday Party- Adirondack Phantoms vs. Albany Devils- Glens Falls Civic Center- Saturday, January 18, 7pm-

SouthPaw will be in attendance participating in a birthday celebration for Dax!! Also enjoy some great AHL hockey between the Adirondack Phantoms and Albany Devils.

Click here for ticket information>>

Capital District Mayor’s Cup- Union vs. RPI Hockey- Times Union Center- Saturday, January 25, 7:30pm- Doors open at 6:30pm!

For the second year in a row, SouthPaw and our three mayors will be in attendance for the Mayor’s Cup at the Times Union Center in Albany! It’s one of the Capital Region’s biggest rivalry games of the year, featuring the RPI and Union hockey teams.

More information will be released next week regarding our involvement in the festivities. One thing is for sure, it will be a special night!

Click here for ticket information>>

Here’s a photo from last year’s Mayor’s Cup:

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Forget the cold, this post will warm you up!

One of the benefits of coming to work at the ballpark each day is that we are always thinking about baseball season! With the bone chilling weather we’ve been having lately, this keeps warm thoughts in our head and gets us through the long, cold winter months.

Pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in just about five weeks, so baseball season is not as far away as we may think! We’re counting down the days, and doing so with the 2014 ValleyCats calendars! (See below on how you can get your hands on one!)

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Our complete schedule is featured in the calendar, as well as weekly promotional deals and information.

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You may have noticed “Education Day” listed on the schedule for Tuesday, June 17th. It is tentatively slated as an additional morning/day game (exact time still TBD), and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it’s potential success!

It is designed as an opportunity for local schools to attend the ballgame as an educational field trip. We have created a curriculum that centers on character development along with some more traditional subject matter as it relates to the game of baseball.

The character development aspect will build on the ValleyCats’ existing “Strike Out Bullying” program that features interactive in-school assemblies, a uniquely created “Peace Pledge”, and a custom activity book.

The program will be rounded out with fun activities to educate students in areas such as mathematics and geography. This will include items on the geometry and dimensions of the field, player statistics, and mileage charts for travel between the various cities throughout the New York-Penn League.

We’ve been in touch with multiple school districts, and have received great feedback! We are also seeking some community-minded corporate partners who would help to fund the students trip to the ballpark. We’ll be sure to keep everyone updated!

PROMO UPDATE:

We’re still nailing down our official promotional schedule, but a few new promotions that could make their way onto the 2014 promo calendar include Reality TV Night, Big Apple Night, Glow in the Park Night, and nights which will promote different counties within the Capital Region.

As far as giveaways go, you can count on yet another addition to our Heritage Series Bobblehead Collection, as well as a championship themed giveaway item, and more! We’ll be making official announcements on these later this month, or early February.

Feel free to send along any suggestions to info@tcvalleycats.com.

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Year of the Cat!

Sure, 2014 is considered to be the Year of the Horse according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, but according to the ValleyCats calendar, it is the “Year of the Cat!”- or “El Año del Gato!” Celebrate with one of our 6 or 12 game mini plans!

We are currently running a special offer through the end of January, where if you purchase or renew a mini plan, you will receive a ValleyCats 2014 calendar!

You will also be entered to win a commemorative championship photo book or bat, pictured below!

Click here for full details>>

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‘Cats still accepting ’4 in 24′ Youth Field Renovation applications

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The application deadline for our ’4 in 24′ youth field renovation project is approaching fast. If your youth league is interested in having a field makeover, you have until February 3rd to submit your application.

The renovations will take place in a 24-hour time period in early April 2014, as the four chosen youth fields will have new sod placed on their infield while also seeing their pitcher’s mound and home plate areas rebuilt.

Click here to download an application>>

*Leagues are required to submit photos of the field along with their application.

The ‘4 in 24’ is the kick-off event for the ValleyCats and BlueShield of Northeastern New York’s Community Grounds Crew Program, an initiative that undertakes additional projects and renovations on numerous other youth fields throughout the spring and summer.

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“Show on the Road” to continue in 2014!

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Based upon the great success of last year’s “Show on the Road” at East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League, the show will go on in 2014!

We’re very excited to continue this partnership with Hannaford Supermarkets, as it is such a great youth initiative. As part of the event, we bring our mascots, PA announcer and promo team to a selected youth baseball league, and put on a show worthy of “The Joe.”

There is pregame entertainment, ceremonial team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors’ Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops and more!

Look for an official announcement to be made next month.

Click here to view a recap from the 2013 event>>

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Until next time, to keep you thinking warm thoughts, here’s a fantastic photo which is featured in our 2014 calendars! All photos were taken by team photographer Greg Fisher (SportsThroughTheLens.com).

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ValleyCats attend baseball’s Winter Meetings!

This past week, members of the Tri-City ValleyCats front office staff attended the 2013 Winter Meetings in Orlando. Media Relations / Production Manager, Chris Chenes recaps the trip:

If I were to rank my trip to the Winter Meetings last week among my lifetime experiences, it would have to fall in the top 10. I grew up a huge baseball fan, and after four years of working in the ValleyCats front office, I have grown to appreciate and love the business of Minor League Baseball. One thing that I’ve learned the most, is that the minor leagues are not just about the play on the field, but more the family experience. In fact, you can argue that without the fun, family-friendly entertainment, a team would not survive.

To provide that type of product for the fans, the front office of every minor league team is filled with creative, hard-working, fun and down-to-earth people. Now picture all of them in the same place at one time, and what you get is the Winter Meetings. It’s an opportunity to get together with everyone in your profession to exchange ideas, and learn new ways in which you can improve your ballclub.

The Winter Meetings are spread across four days, and include workshops, seminars, league and departmental meetings, a Trade Show, Job Fair and social gatherings.

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The Winter Meetings change locations each year, and lucky for us, this year’s event took place at the beautiful Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, in Orlando, Florida.

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As much as we’d love to spend our day lounging by the pool, this was a business trip and there was plenty on our agenda to keep us out of the sun.

We all attended numerous seminars and workshops, officially known as the “Bob Freitas Business Seminar & Workshop Series.” They are broken down into five different categories including Sales & Marketing, Covering Your Bases, Grand Slam Operations, Licensing & Merchandise and Community & Media Relations.

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Minor League Baseball President, Pat O’Conner welcoming everyone to the Winter Meetings.

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Following opening remarks from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner on Monday morning, the first session I attended was “How to Become an Ace of HomeBase.” HomeBase is the online platform that we use to update our website, and I learned some helpful hints, tips and tricks, as well as what new updates are coming down the road.

The session was run by Major League Baseball Advanced Media. MLBAM manages MLB.com, MiLB.com, and each Major League & minor league team site.

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A new feature to look forward to for next year will be the game recaps. They will now include the box score at the top of the page, along with an optional video embedded above the story.

As we’re attending the different meetings, the lobbies of the Swan & Dolphin Resort are bustling with action. The Dolphin hotel is where the majority of the Major League officials and team personnel stay during the week as they look to improve their roster with trades or free agent signings. Each Major League team has their baseball operations staff present, along with the scouting department and most of the field managers.

The national baseball media is also present all week, including TV sets for ESPN & MLB Network:

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As you can imagine, we ran into plenty of current & former members of Major League Baseball. Here are some photos of just a few:

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Tommy Lasorda

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Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre, who were all named to the 2014 Class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Red Sox manager, John Farrell.

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New York Mets manager Terry Collins

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Curtis Granderson is introduced as the newest member of the New York Mets.

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American League Manager of the Year, Indians manager Terry Francona

On Monday afternoon, we attended an Awards Luncheon which recognized some of the top individuals and clubs within the game of baseball. Award presentations included the Joe Bauman Trophy which was presented to Texas Rangers prospect, 19 year old Joey Gallo. With 40 home runs, Gallo narrowly edged out former ‘Cat George Springer, and became the youngest player to ever win the award.

Other awards handed out included the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year, Sports Turf Managers of the Year, Scouts of the Year and Baseball America’s Organization of the Year.

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After more meetings in the afternoon, Monday night was opening night at the Baseball Trade Show. The Trade Show featured more than 250 companies exhibiting their latest products and services to the baseball community. Items being showcased included equipment, player apparel, retail merchandise and promotional items.

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Here are photos from the huge Trade Show floor:

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Alexander Global, our bobblehead producer and the best in the business!

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Our hometown Pro Zone Lockers in the house!

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Aside from the Trade Show and Bob Freitas Business Seminar & Workshop Series, the Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities (PBEO) Job Fair took place in the Swan Ballroom. During the week, there are over 450 Job Fair attendees seeking a career in professional baseball, many of whom will interview with numerous prospective teams, and even receive job offers before they leave.

Each night in the lobby of the Dolphin hotel, executives of both Major League and Minor League Baseball congregate to network, enjoy a few drinks and share some laughs. It’s a crowded scene for sure!

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The 45-foot tall Christmas tree in the middle of the lobby is made completely with pink and white poinsettia flowers.

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Tuesday and Wednesday featured more workshops and league meetings, where we were presented with our 2013 Alice H. Nader New York-Penn League Championship Trophy, and 2013 Stedler Division Championship Trophy!

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Tuesday night was a special night, as we had the opportunity to have dinner with the Houston Astros organization and all of their Minor League affiliates. The idea came straight from the top, Astros president Reid Ryan.

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ValleyCats front office members with Astros team president Reid Ryan.

As mentioned in his speech prior to dinner, the Astros organization is one big family, and the minor league affiliates are a key part of that. Aside from Ryan, general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager Bo Porter spoke to our group. It was great to be a part of, and I can assure you that the Astros are in great hands! Very shortly, they will start producing at the Major League level.

On Wednesday night, there was a huge gala that took place outside by the pool and cabana areas of the resort. It was another chance to get together with the baseball community and enjoy the evening.

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On Thursday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the Major League Baseball Rule 5 Draft.

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For those who aren’t familiar, the Rule 5 Draft is much different from the First Year Player Draft in June. Players become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft when they haven’t been added to their Major League club’s 40-man roster within five seasons of being signed (four seasons if signed at 18 years old). Any team is then eligible to draft that player, but there’s a catch.

A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000. Once a player is selected, he is automatically assigned to his new organization’s 40-man roster.

Notable players to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft include Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla and Josh Hamilton.

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Thursday was the only day where we had time to explore the area, and I couldn’t think of any place better than Disney’s Magic Kingdom!

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We use the Disney model as an example, to try and make the experience at “The Joe” as great as possible for our fans. There is so much to take away from the Disney experience, from exceptional customer service to great entertainment! I took in many of the sights, and with this being my first ever trip to Disney World, I was in awe of everything!

Here are a few photos:

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With the closing Banquet taking place that night, we could only spend a few hours at Magic Kingdom, which is not nearly enough time to do everything. I will definitely make my way back, that’s for sure!

We arrived at the hotel just in time for the Banquet, where some of the most prestigious awards in the baseball industry are presented.

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Awards presented included the King of Baseball, the John H. Johnson President’s Award, the Larry MacPhail Promotional Award, the Warren Giles Award, the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award and the Mike Coolbaugh Award. The ValleyCats didn’t take home any hardware, but we’ll aim for one next year!

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience than my week at the Winter Meetings. It left myself and the rest of the front office ready to get back home, and get to work to prepare for the 2014 season!

Although arriving back just in time for a snow storm wasn’t the most ideal “warm welcome.” With that, I’ll leave you with a few recent photos of “The Joe” covered in snow!! (Thanks to Ben Whitehead and Anthony Pettograsso for the cool shots!)

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