Let’s take a look at the ‘Cats first five games of the season. Though a small sample size, we’ve actually learned quite a bit.
First of all, despite the 2-3 record, this team has the potential to succeed. They’ve shown flashes of greatness, but silly mistakes and a lack of clutch hitting have been the downfall thus far.
Friday, June 17 – Valley Cats 13, Tigers 1
Offense was no issue in the ValleyCats home opener, as they mashed 14 hits en route to a 13-1 victory.
Stephen Wrenn, who leads the NYPL in runs scored (8), hit a leadoff homerun in the first inning, and his BA currently sits at .500.
Tri-City hit four doubles in the fifth inning, scoring four runs, including a 2-RBI double from Daz Cameron, who reached base four times. Randy Cesar picked up an RBI-single in the sixth, and Carmen Benedetti singled in Kolbey Carpenter, which set the table for a Taylor Jones line drive grand slam homerun to left field.
Akeem Bostick, who picked up the win, allowed only two hits while striking out two over six innings pitched, using only 70 pitches. Bostick, on a rehab stint from the Lancaster JetHawks, is scheduled for one more start before rejoining the Class-A Advanced affiliate.
Sebastian Kessay, who faced 15 batters over the final three innings, picked up the save in relief, striking out seven.
Quick take: Kessay kept his composure despite allowing a few baserunners. The offense proved they can score in bunches 1 through 9. I was especially impressed with Taylor Jones. It may seem easy to pick the guy who hit the grand slam, but Jones hits the ball hard in every at bat.
Saturday, June 18 – Tigers 9, ValleyCats 5
The ‘Cats left 23 runners on base and struck out 13 times in a 9-5 loss to the Tigers, with nine of the 13 strikeouts looking.
Ben Smith (0-1) took the loss for the ValleyCats, and allowed eight runs (five earned) on three hits and four walks in one inning of work. Smith pitched to three batters in the top of the second inning.
Hector Perez and Edgardo Sandoval combined for 6 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, striking out seven. Josue Uribe came on to pitch the final 1 1/3 innings, allowing one run on one hit.
Stephen Wrenn reached base in all five of his plate appearances. Wrenn walked and singled twice, and led off the game with a double. Daz Cameron, who made an over the shoulder, diving catch in centerfield in the 5th inning, was 2 for 4 with two RBI.
Quick take: This one was tough to swallow. Leaving 23 men on base in unacceptable, and the nine strikeouts looking shouldn’t have happened. Homeplate umpire Matt Cowan’s strike zone was consistently large all night, and the ‘Cats just couldn’t make the adjustment. They left the bases loaded three times, including twice in the last three frames. Other than Ben Smith’s rocky start, the pitching was superb. Perez and Sandoval were lights out, and Uribe only allowed a run.
Sunday, June 19 – Cyclones 2, ValleyCats 1
The ‘Cats had plenty of opportunities at the plate on Sunday, but once again couldn’t find the big hit.
Chuckie Robinson, the Astros 21st round selection, picked up his first professional hit and RBI, driving in Carmen Benedetti to put the ValleyCats on top 1-0 in the 7th inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, three consecutive singles by Cyclones batters gave them a 2-1 advantage. Benedetti was the only ‘Cat with a multi-hit game, going 3-for-4. Ronnie Dawson, the Astros 2nd rounder from Ohio State, made his professional debut batting third as the designated hitter.
LHP Austin Nicely started for the ‘Cats, and through the first four innings only allowed one hit while walking one. Erasmo Pinales came on in relief of Nicely and worked a scoreless two innings before surrendering the two runs in the seventh.
Quick take: Again, a tough loss to swallow. Nicely looked solid in an abbreviated start, and Pinales looked better than he did during the exhibition game. It’s tough to win when your top four batters are a combined 1-15.
Monday, June 20 – ValleyCats 10, Cyclones 9 (17 innings)
In the top of the 17th inning, with Cyclones infielder Santo Marte on the mound for his second inning work, ValleyCats third baseman Kolbey Carpenter reached base with a two out single to left. Marcos Almonte followed up with a double to put runners on second and third, and Daz Cameron delivered a two run go-ahead single to left to give the ‘Cats an 8-6 lead.
Then Stephen Wrenn launched a long two-run home run over the left field wall to extend the ‘Cats lead to 10-6, which seemed at that point to be plenty of insurance runs.
At one point, ValleyCats hurlers retired 17 consecutive Cyclones batters, led by Cuban native Carlos Sierra who was perfect for 3 2/3 innings.
Stephen Wrenn went 3-for-9 for the ‘Cats with four RBI, and what proved to be the game winning home run. Carmen Benedetti finished the game 3-for-8 with a double and two runs batted in. Daz Cameron also drove in a pair of runs.
Luis Ramirez (1-0) picked up the win for Tri-City, who improved to 2-2 on the young 2016 New York-Penn League season.
Quick takes: What a marathon. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the last inning of this one, try to find a recording somewhere. These teams were tied at six going into the 17th inning, and exploded for seven combined runs. My MVP? Carlos Sierra. The guy was incredible in the 6+ innings he tossed, essentially making a start in the middle of the six hour game.
Tuesday, June 21 – Cyclones 8, ValleyCats 3
The ‘Cats scored once in each of the first three innings, the first an RBI groundout by Marcos Almonte after a lead-off triple by Stephen Wrenn to begin the ballgame.
In the second, a Randy Cesar homer put the ‘Cats up 2-0, and in the third, Astros 2016 second round draft selection Ronnie Dawson picked up his first professional home run to give the ‘Cats a 3-0 lead.
Brooklyn got them all back in the bottom of the fourth off of ‘Cats starting pitcher Sebastian Kessay, who allowed the three earned runs, four hits, four strikeouts and two walks in his four innings of work.
Framer Valdez came on in relief of Kessay in the fifth, and worked two scoreless innings before things unravelled for the ‘Cats.
With two outs and Cyclones baserunners on first and second, back-to-back singles plated them both to give Brooklyn a 5-3 lead, and they didn’t look back. Tri-City picked up just two hits through the final six innings of the ballgame.
Quick takes: Rough start for Kessay. The ‘Cats should have taken advantage of a tired Brooklyn bullpen that has pitched in 64 innings in five games. Instead, it was the other way around. This is going to be a long season if the offense relies on solely the long ball to win games.
The Tri-City ValleyCats Summer of Love – 60s Night turned out successfully! Over 4,500 tickets were sold!
Prior to the game, fans 21 years and older had the opportunity to participate in a beer tasting named Hops & Hits. For those who purchased tickets to the event, they received a ValleyCats hat and a Hops & Hits custom t-shirt!
Lydia Murphy, a national anthem singer contest finalist from the Crossgates Mall anthem tryouts, sang a beautiful performance for the crowd.
Three different folks threw out the first pitch to the ‘Cats bat boy Charlie with SouthPaw working as the umpire, including Emily Gates, Sean Forbes and a Ravena High School representative. All three threw strikes!
During the middle of first inning, Emily Gates and Joseph Goyette, who celebrated their birthdays with us at “The Joe,” participated in the CDPHP Birthday Race with SouthPaw!
Sponsors at the game included Transfinder, Dave & Buster’s, New York Life, Wells Fargo, Solar City and Cooley Motors.
At the end of the fourth inning, the Cabot Creamery Inflatable Cow Toss took place with four fans taking home their very own inflatable cow!
In the middle of the sixth inning, the H&V Collision Center Mayors Race took place, and Schenectady Mayor McCarthy made a comeback to win the race!
Following the game, fans were treated to postgame fireworks presented by Market 32!! As is routine for ‘Cats home games, two players signed autographs for fans postgame. Saturday night Akeem Bostick and Taylor Jones signed for a few hundred adoring fans, taking photos with those who asked at the Mohawk Honda Autograph Table.
The ‘Cats return home Wednesday to host the Vermont Lake Monsters for 50 Cent Hot Dog Night presented by Helmbold’s Hot Dogs! Hot dogs are just 50 cents all night, while supplies last! First pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. Get your tickets now!>>
The Tri-City ValleyCats Opening Night presented by the Rensselaer County Department of Health turned out as a success. Over 4,500 ‘Cats fans attended, meaning “The Joe!” sold out for Opening Night!
Giveaways included the first part of the All-Time Team Card Set presented by National Grid, which was handed to the first 1,500 fans through the gates. Plus, all fans received a 2016 schedule magnet presented by the Rensselaer County Department of Health.
Prior to the game, Homemade provided musical entertainment to fans waiting to enter outside the front gate. Laura Haney, the national anthem singer contest winner from Crossgates Mall, sang a beautiful rendition for the sold out crowd.
Joe Bruno, whom “The Joe!” is named after, threw out the first pitch to the ‘Cats batboy Charlie with SouthPaw working as the umpire. It was a strike! Right before the ceremonial pitch, ValleyCats owner Bill Gladstone spoke to the fans, providing inspirational words to begin the 2016 season.
A group of little league ValleyCats made the trip all the way from the Burbank area of Southern California to watch Opening Night! The team met SouthPaw as they were introduced to the crowd!
We also had fans from the other side of the Atlantic! A group from Germany made their way into “The Joe!” and met SouthPaw!
Then the ‘Cats took the field and played excellent. The team scored 13 runs on 14 hits, facing six Connecticut Tigers pitchers. ‘Cats pitchers Akeem Bostick and Sebastian Kessay combined to allow one run on six hits, leading the team to a 13-1 victory.
Sponsors at the game included Transfinder, Frozen Ropes, UP17, New York Life, Rensselaer County Department of Health, Where Smiles Grow, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region.
Fans were treated to postgame fireworks presented by Market 32, which was a nearly 30-minute show! As is routine for ‘Cats home games, two players signed autographs for fans postgame. Last night Brett Adcock and Jake Rogers signed for a few hundred adoring fans, taking photos with those who asked at the Mohawk Honda Autograph Table. Game two is tonight, June 18, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. against the visiting Connecticut Tigers.
For most students in the Capital Region, classes ended within the last two weeks. To start the summer with fun ways to connect baseball and the STEM program, the ValleyCats partnered Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Noble Gas Solutions, Transfinder and SI Group for the third annual Education Day exhibition game.
Roughly 25 schools and about 4,000 fans attended the game against the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game League (a summer league for collegiate players) in the game between the two squads at “The Joe!”
Students helped SouthPaw calculate the amount of money spent on baseballs per game, amount of soda consumed by Ribbie and SouthPaw, distance travelled in a cycle, geography of the NY-Penn League and materials needed in the construction of “The Joe!”
The schools also learned about character development by joining Kristina Lachaga, Sammy Baseball, SouthPaw and friends in taking an anti-bullying peace pledge before the game. Ms. Lachaga also explained the effects of bullying and why it is necessary to speak up. Students also had an opportunity to sign the ‘Cats Peace Pledge, which will be displayed at the stadium throughout the summer.
While a day of baseball is always fun, it wouldn’t be a ValleyCats game without the in-between inning events. Students were randomly selected to participate in on field games like the T-Shirt toss, Spiedie’s Chicken Challenge, inflatable cow pass, Pony Hops and more!
After a great day of learning and baseball, the ValleyCats are ready to kick off the regular season June 17th vs. the Connecticut Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. with gates set to open at 6 p.m., and limited tickets are still available!
After winning five of the last six Stedler Division Championships, it’s only natural for Tri-City ValleyCats fans to expect the big league club to draft well. The Astros, unlike most teams, have the luxury of taking the best available player in the 2016 MLB Draft for the first three or four rounds. This is largely because the team doesn’t have any compensation picks, and there’s a fairly large jump from the first selection (#17 overall) to the second round pick (#61 overall). If you’re a ValleyCats fan, you certainly don’t want the ‘Stros to take a high school kids because they get sent straight to the Greenville Astros, and very rarely see time in Troy.
There aren’t many glaring needs throughout the organization, other than maybe pitching, but you can never have enough good pitchers. Offense isn’t a problem at all. Of the seven teams in the Astros organization, five finished in the top three in their league in runs scored and RBI, four in home runs, batting average and stolen bases, and SIX in the top three in walks. Pitching was a little more inconsistent last year, with three of the affiliates finishing top three in ERA and strikeouts, but three affiliates finishing in the bottom three in both of those categories as well.
|Astros||.250 (21st)||.752 (2nd)||1363 (22nd)||729 (6th)||691 (6th)||230 (2nd)||121 (3rd)||486 (12th)|
|Grizzlies||.274 (8th)||.773 (5th)||1323 (10th)||804 (1st)||756 (1st)||124 (7th)||157 (1st)||606 (1st)|
|Hooks||.275 (2nd)||.768 (2nd)||1299 (2nd)||742 (1st)||665 (2nd)||117 (3rd)||148 (2nd)||569 (2nd)|
|JetHawks||.291 (1st)||.851 (1st)||1442 (1st)||888 (1st)||819 (1st)||174 (1st)||115 (5th)||588 (1st)|
|River Bandits||.265 (3rd)||.726 (2nd)||1216 (3rd)||659 (2nd)||589 (2nd)||72 (7th)||145 (4th)||560 (1st)|
|ValleyCats||.261 (2nd)||.712 (1st)||661 (4th)||365 (1st)||318 (1st)||38 (2nd)||78 (4th)||297 (1st)|
|Greenville||249 (9th)||.684 (9th)||553 (9th)||308 (5th)||274 (6th||31 (9th)||73 (1st)||232 (3rd)|
|Astros||3.57 (6th)||1280 (13th)||1.20 (5th)||40 (21st)|
|Grizzlies||4.43 (10th)||428 (3rd)||1.36 (7th)||12 (12th)|
|Hooks||3.39 (2nd)||419 (1st)||1.2 (6th)||20 (1st)|
|JetHawks||5.08 (10th)||412 (7th)||1.45 (9th)||14 (6th)|
|River Bandits||2.65 (2nd)||1075 (5th)||1.15 (1st)||46 (2nd)|
|ValleyCats||3.79 (10th||635 (1st)||1.32 (9th)||17 (12th)|
|Greenville||3.18 (2nd)||515 (6th)||1.23 (1st)||14 (6th)|
*= Final numbers (Position in league)
To give you a more comprehensive grasp on what’s going to go down this weekend, I asked The Crawfish Boxes Managing Editor Ryan Dunsmore to give his opinion on which players some draft pundits have picked to go to Houston.
Jordan Sheffield, Vanderbilt, RHP
Peter’s take: I’ve seen Sheffield taken as low as 23 to the Cardinals, and as high as 17 to the Astros in mock drafts. While I think Sheffield would be a serviceable starter, there will likely be better pitchers on the board (Zeuch, Hudson, Burdi). I watched him pitch in the Cape Cod League last year, where he finished with a 5.49 ERA, and 19/15 K/BB in 20 innings of work. His ERA with Vandy this season is sub-2.50, so maybe he’s turned it around.
Ryan’s take: Oh look, it’s another Vanderbilt starter at the top of draft boards. What a surprise? Sheffield is a bit short at 6’0” but he shows a mid-90’s fastball with late movement and two good-to-plus offspeed pitches. He projects to be two or three starter in the league at his peak. He reminds of Kent Emanuel (Drafted by the Astros in 2013 out of UNC) in potential.
Zack Burdi, Louisville, RHP
Ryan’s take: Zack Burdi is an interesting case. Relievers aren’t taken in the first round often, but Burdi may been an exception. Burdi’s fastball has been clocked at 101 MPH and he has an upper 80’s slider that he mixes well. He had an impressive 15.00 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9 in college but he has only pitched 67 innings at Louisville. Basically, he could be steal if you think he’s a starter — if not, he’s a reach in the first round as a reliever.
Peter’s take: Unlike many, I’m not opposed to taking relievers in the first round, and don’t necessarily think he should be converted to a starter. Last year, he finished with a 6-1 record with nine saves and a 0.92 ERA. Over the summer, he pitched in the Cape after a stint with USA Baseball, where he went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 13.1 innings. Like Ryan mentioned, he throws his slider very well, which makes him an extremely valuable pick in the first round.
Alex Kirilloff, OF
Peter’s take: Kiriloff is an interesting prospect to follow. He’s home-schooled, but still plays for his local varsity high school’s baseball team, and intends to skip attending the draft to play in the Pennsylvania state quarterfinal. He’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders, and the .540 batting average and 17 walks with only one strikeout this season shows he has an understanding of the zone.
Ryan’s take: Alex Kirilloff is son of renowned hitting coach and Baseball 19 camp instructor Dave Kirilloff. Kirilloff is a left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder with marginal speed but solid tools otherwise. His biggest tool is his projectable raw power because of his loft off the bat and tremendous bat speed through the zone.
T.J. Zeuch, Pittsburgh, RHP
Ryan’s take: T.J. Zeuch seems like the kind of player that Astros lean toward in the draft. A solid college player with a high floor. Zeuch has been stellar for the Pittsburgh Panthers in his junior season, going 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 10 starts last season he struck out 74 and walked 19. He sits around 92-94 with his fastball and sports a decent slider, curve combo. Zeuch has the added benefit of being 6’7″ to give hitters a tough angle to pick up pitches.
Peter’s take: If Zeuch and Burdi were both available, I’d have a hard time deciding. Four of the seven Astro affiliates finished in the bottom half of their league in saves, but Ryan is correct in saying Zeuch is more of a typical Houston pick. In selecting Zeuch you’re essentially sacrificing the extra 6-7 mph on the Burdi fastball, and making up for it with the Zeuch curve.
Ian Anderson, Shenendehowa High School, RHP
Peter’s take: I had a chance to watch Anderson pitch for Shen in the state quarterfinal last weekend, and was impressed with his stuff. His fastball was touching 92 consistently, and his changeup was baffling hitters. Unlike most high school pitchers, though, he doesn’t have a lot of innings to his name, and his twin brother has been catching him for his whole career. I’d be interested to see how he does in a different setting, but for now seems too high-risk, medium-reward.
Ryan’s take: Ian Anderson, a high school pitcher out of Rexford, NY, now sports a 91-94 MPH, a mid-70’s MPH curveball and a mid-80’s MPH changeup. Anderson has had to battle terrible weather this season to get in front of scouts, so he may be cold-weather gem in line with Mike Trout.
Nolan Jones, Holy Ghost Prep, SS/P
Ryan’s take: Nolan Jones is a left-handed hitting high school shortstop out of Langhorne, PA. He shows raw power, arm strength and quickness. He has a big frame at 6-4, 200 pounds and it lends him to moving over to third base by the time he gets to the majors.
Peter’s take: Jones is a solid fielder, but also could be seen as a potential option off the mound, and that diversity should attract the Astros. Jones also showed off his athleticism on the mound at the Perfect Game National, he tossed a 1-2-3 inning, getting his fastball as high as 90 mph, and mixed in a curve as well. If the ‘Stros were to take an high school player, it should be Jones.
Dakota Hudson, Mississippi St, RHP
Peter’s take: With the amount of teams in need of pitching, I doubt a solid college pitcher like Hudson would be available, but if he is, the Astros should pounce. He’s 9-4 for State this year, with a 2.62 ERA and only 31 earned runs allowed in 106+ innings, to go along with a 109/34 K/BB.
Ryan’s take: Hudson has been solid all season long in the vaunted SouthEastern Conference. He has all the tools you want out of college pitcher: a mid-90’s fastball and a nice changeup mix. I would be surprised if Hudson is there at pick No. 17, but if he is I expect the Astros to snag him.
Will Craig, Wake Forest, 1B/DH/P
Ryan’s take: Craig has 60 power potential with the bat. He reminds me a bit of A.J. Reed, but he didn’t seem to show the ability to stay in the field every day. Is a DH or 1B worth a top 30 pick in today’s MLB?
Peter’s take: I’ll answer that question, Ryan, with a comment I made earlier. The Astros have the luxury to take the best player available. I had a chance to watch Craig for two summers – first in the Northwoods League in 2014, and last summer on the Cape. He’s everything he’s hyped up to be, and, like Jones, can pitch, but if he chooses to continue throwing, should be moved to the bullpen. If he’s on the board, Houston should nab him.
Forrest Whitley, Alamo Heights High School, RHP
Peter’s take: Whitley’s been linked to the Astros on more than a few mock drafts, but doesn’t have the pitch flexibility that other arms like Zeuch/Burdi/Hudson have.
Ryan’s take: Whitley is a 6’7” flamethrower out of Alamo Heights High School in the San Antonio area. He is the trendy high upside attached to the Astros, Whitley is obvious pick if he is there at 17 and the Astros want to go the high school route. Whitley’s best pitch was fastball sitting around 92-94 at the moment, he needs to work on his secondary stuff like every high school pick.
The MLB Draft will take place June 9, 10 and 11, with the first round beginning on Thursday night, June 9, at 6 p.m. ValleyCats broadcaster Peter Fiorentino will be hosting a live blog from 5-9 p.m., during the first round to answer fan questions and chat about the Astros selection. Visit catscorner.mlblogs.com on Thursday afternoon to get the link to the blog. Follow him on Twitter (@thefiorentino), and the Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) for up-to-date information on the team.
Today we’re launching “‘Catcast,” the first of a weekly podcast series discussing the ValleyCats and the Astros organization as a whole. My first guest on the show is Matt Callahan, the General Manager of the ‘Cats. We talked about the new coaching hires for the upcoming year (including some breaking news in that department), as well as the upcoming MLB Draft.
Give it a listen, and, as always, follow me on Twitter (@thefiorentino), or drop me a comment below.
It was a busy weekend for the ValleyCats – especially Southpaw. On Saturday, some of the front office staff and Southpaw travelled to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Classic, featuring the Knucksies and the Wizards.
The lineups were loaded with former All-Star big leaguers, including former Astro Brandon Backe, Travis Hafner, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. Jerry Hairston Jr. won the Home Run Derby, and the Knucksies came away with a narrow 5-4 victory. Melvin Mora, a former Met and longtime Oriole earned Bob Feller Player of the Game honors, thanks to a pair of two-run homers. Southpaw enjoyed messing around with third base coach and Hall of Fame member Rollie Fingers.
On Monday morning, the ValleyCats staff participated in the Troy Memorial Day parade, put on by the Veterans of Lansingburgh. Southpaw rode around on his Harley all day, much to the community’s amusement.
Back in October, the ValleyCats announced Lamarr Rogers would be taking over managerial duties in favor of Ed Romero, who is no longer with the Astros organization. Romero, who managed for three seasons, finished with an overall record of 134-93, including three consecutive Stedler Division titles. The team also announced the hire of first-year assistant coaches Drew French and Dillon Lawson.
Lamarr Rogers, Manager
Rogers, though new to the ValleyCats, has 23 years of baseball experience, including one with the Astros organization. Last year, he was the skipper for the Rookie Level Greenville Astros, and finished with a 34-33 record, good for second in the division, Appalachian League champs for the first time in eleven years. Rogers spent quite a few years with the St. Paul Saints Pro Baseball Club (Independent Northern League). From 1999-2003, he was the assistant and 1st base coach, and from 2004-2014, the hitting coach and 3rd base coach. He helped his team to the 2004 Northern League Championship, and appeared in the playoffs seven times.
Rogers himself was a former player, originally drafted in 1992 by the Colorado Rockies in the 49th round.
He played 4 season in the Rockies organization, before being picked up by the Tigers in the ’96 Rule 5 Draft. After his cup of coffe with the Tigers, he played 2 years for St. Paul Saints before becoming a coach.
In 560 professional games, Rogers hit .288 with 128 steals, but has a few accolades to his name from college as well. He graduated from Long Beach State in 1993 with a business major and a TV/broadcast communications minor. With the Dirtbags, Rogers was an All-Big West and All-Regional Selection in 1991-’92, a Cape League All-Star in 1990-’91 and a College World Series All-Star in 1991.
He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, currently lives in Phoenix with his wife, Heather, and their four kids: Anya (16), Lamarr II (12), Cole (10) and Ava (6).
Drew French, Pitching coach
French is coming off of two seasons at Lee University (DII) as an assistant coach, and three seasons at Florida International University (DI). Prior to that, he spent four seasons at Alabama, three of which he was Director of Baseball Operations.
He also served as pitching coach Norfolk Osprey (NYCBL) from 2008-’09, and was a coach and recruiting coordinator at Concordia University, Austin from 2006-’07. French graduated from CUA in 2006 with a major in business administration, and a minor in communication. While at Concordia, he pitched and played outfield, and was a 3-time Academic All-Southwestern Conference selection.
Dillon Lawson, Hitting coach
Lawson has amassed nine years coaching collegiately, including the last four at Southeast Missouri State University.
He helped the Redhawks to two straight Ohio Valley Conference Championships, and, most notably, two top-10 D1 offenses (8th in 2014, 3rd in 2015).
Prior to Southeast Missouri, Lawson was an assistant coach at Morehead State from 2009-2012, and graduate assistant baseball coach at NAIA Lindenwood University from 2007-‘09. Lawson holds a Masters’ of Education, specializing in strength and conditioning, and completed his undergraduate studies at Transylvania University in 2007. In college, he was a 4-year starter, and All-Conference junior and senior year. He and his wife, Amanda Duncan Lawson, are both from Kentucky, and their son, Asa, will turn two this year.
The General Gist
Tri-City hired a new coaching staff for the year.
(Name, position, previous team)
Lamarr Rogers, Manager, Greenville Astros
Drew French, Pitching coach, Lee University
Dillon Lawson, Hitting coach, Southeast Missouri State University
‘Cats in the Show, 4/26 – Tri-City alumni top performances
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros: 1-4 vs. Baltimore
Tyler White, 1B, Houston Astros: 0-1, R, 2 BBvs. Baltimore
George Springer, RF, Houston Astros: 2-4, 2 HR’s, 2 R, 2 RBI vs. Baltimore
Michael Feliz, RP, Houston Astros: 2 IP, H, 4 K’s vs. Baltimore
As usual, follow me on Twitter (@thefiorentino), email me (email@example.com) or drop a comment below.
Good afternoon, ‘Cats fans!
My name is Peter Fiorentino, and I’ll be the Voice of the ValleyCats this season on the radio, as well as the primary blogger on ‘Cats Corner. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (@thefiorentino), shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or drop me a comment below if you have any questions or comments, or just want to talk baseball.
With Opening Day in just over three weeks, let’s take a look at what you can expect from the team, and what we know so far about this upcoming season.
FULL SCHEDULE: http://www.milb.com/schedule/index.jsp?sid=t577
May 31: We’ll be introducing ‘Catcast, a podcast centered around, you guessed it, the ValleyCats and the New York-Penn League.
June 8, 9 and 10: The MLB Draft. I’ll have a live blog for you during the first few rounds, so you’ll know every player the Astros draft and which players we can expect to join the ValleyCats this season.
June 15: Exhibition against the Albany Dutchmen, 10 a.m. at “The Joe.”
June 16: Media Day. We’ll have extensive coverage from “The Joe” including player interviews, articles and some videos, your first look at the 2016 ValleyCats roster.
June 17: Opening Day against the Connecticut Tigers, 7 p.m. at “The Joe.” The first 1,500 fans will receive Part 1 of the ValleyCats All-Time Team Card Set. We’ll also have free magnetic schedules for all fans, and an awesome fireworks show after the game.
Check back tomorrow for a look at this year’s coaching staff, all of whom are new to Tri-City this year.
BTDUBS, if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, click here to check out some sweet seats still available.
Another year, another ‘4 in 24’ in the books! 2016 marked the 6th consecutive youth field renovation project where four youth ball fields were renovated in under 24 hours here in the Capital Region.
Since our inaugural season in 2002, we’ve been committed to being ambassadors for the game of baseball. Now in our 15th year, that mission remains stronger than ever.
The ‘4 in 24’ youth field renovation project is a strong collaborative effort among the ValleyCats and our main partners, BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford Supermarkets. The work could not be done without their support, along with the assistance of city and league officials, and community volunteers.
This year, the four field projects we took on were Guilderland Little League, Mechanicville Stillwater Little League, Nassau Baseball Association, and Upstate Premier Baseball in Schenectady. Each presented their own challenges, but at the end of the day, the rewards outweighed them many times over.
In order to revamp four fields in less than 24 hours, it requires a lot of preparation and planning. Much of that is done by Keith Sweeney, our Stadium Operations Manager, and General Manager Matt Callahan.
Our front office is divided up into four groups, each with a team leader, and assigned to a specific field.
From there, it takes a large volunteer effort to complete the renovations. Each league has plenty of representation, city and town officials chip in their time and resources, our partners BlueShield and Hannaford send crews, and even members in and around the community offer their time to help the cause.
The efforts were also assisted by Admar Construction Equipment, The Brickman Group, Turface, and SiteOne Landscape Supplies, with these partners contributing some of the necessary equipment, materials, and volunteers.
As the morning of the renovations arrived, it was an early wake-up call for many. But none earlier than Media Relations Manager Chris Chenes, who appeared on the early morning newscast on News 10.
ValleyCats front office staff, and league/city volunteers followed shortly after, and almost everyone was present and ready to work by 7am.
By the end of the day, each field received a brand new infield playing surface, with new sod, a rebuilt pitcher’s mound and home plate, and new bases set at the correct specifications. Like previously mentioned, each location presented their own twists & turns along the way, with different types of work also required. Below is a recap of each field renovation.
We’ll start with a field that hadn’t been utilized in over 10 years, the old Bellevue Little League on 4th Street in Schenectady. The history of that location goes all the way back to 1950, when it was first constructed. The league was largely popular, and at one point there were five major teams, which doesn’t include the minor, farm, and t-ball levels.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s, the numbers began to dwindle, interest in youth baseball within the community declined, and the league eventually folded. From there, the field sat untouched for over a decade. Weeds overgrew the entire field, hills and craters formed in the outfield, the dugouts, clubhouse, and concession stand buildings were covered with graffiti, and it became just a distant memory of what it had once been.
Over the past year, Dom LeMorta & Bill Creighton of Upstate Premier Baseball took over the land, and were determined to make that field their home. With the ability to bring back a diamond in the rough, for the Bellevue community, this was a no-brainer for one our ‘4 in 24’ locations.
Prior to our renovations, Upstate Baseball & the city of Schenectady helped to tear down trees & roots along the fence line, and get rid of the weeds within the diamond. The location was now ready for the 4 in 24 renovations to begin. Here are some before photos, immediately prior to the work on Thursday.
As you can see, much work needed to be done.
When it was all said and done, the results were even greater than we could have imagined. A field that hadn’t been used in 10+ years, now looked ready for baseball!
Here’s our Snapchat (tcvalleycats) story chronicling the day’s work!
At the other end of the spectrum, you have Guilderland Little League. With over 50 teams and 500+ players, Guilderland has one of the largest leagues in the Capital Region. They serve a vital role in their community by providing opportunities for children ages 4-12 to learn and play baseball.
The league utilizes numerous fields in Keenholts Park in Altamont, and our focus was on one that needed the most repair. President of the League’s Board of Directors, Jon Phillips, says this renovation will go a long way in preparing the league for big events to be held at the complex this year.
“The Tri-City ValleyCats ‘4 in 24’ Program comes at a great time for Guilderland Little League,” Phillips said. “This support allows us to maintain some of the best athletic fields in the Capital District and will help us to prepare for upcoming showcase events the Guilderland Little League will be hosting this year such as Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run Competition on May 1st and the New York State 10 Year Old All Star Tournament in July.”
Here are the before, during, and after photos of the work:
Mechanicville-Stillwater Little League was one of our other locations, a league that serves over 250 families each year throughout the Mechanicville / Stillwater communities. With one of their fields being in serious need of repair in order to maintain a safe playing surface for the many children ages 7 through 13 who utilize the field, this was another location that fit the bill for our ‘4 in 24.’
League president John DelBalso had this to say about the work:
“The Mechanicville Stillwater Little League is thrilled to be selected for the ValleyCats ‘4 in 24’ program for 2016. These improvements will help to provide the best experience possible while improving the safety of the Field for the players, umpires, and coaches. The Board is grateful to have the opportunity to bring the George H. Pickett Fields up to the standard of excellence that both our players and communities deserve.”
Coincidentally, the name of this field is George H. Pickett Field, the father of one of our long-time ushers, Mike Pickett!
Here are some photos prior to, during, and after the renovations.
Nassau Baseball Association was our last of the four fields, a league that has a long tradition in Rensselaer County. Established in 1956, Nassau currently serves over 130 kids and includes a scholarship program for children that may otherwise be unable to play.
Some of the main needs of this field were the transition between the infield grass and dirt, the deteriorating pitcher’s mound and rubber, and the area around home plate. In order to maintain a reasonable registration cost for the families, our assistance with this project will go a long way.
Here’s what President Jeff Pearce had to say about the work.
“When our league was founded sixty years ago, the goal was to bring the game of baseball to all of the children of Nassau and our surrounding communities no matter what their skill level, family income or any other situation that may prevent a child from participating. With the help of our community, volunteers and local businesses over the past sixty years we have accomplished this goal by keeping our registrations fees one of the lowest in the capital region. Over the last couple of years our field has deteriorated to the point where it has become a safety issue for the children. With the estimated field repairs way over our available budget we were going to be forced with either raising our registration fees or and risk pushing families away or keep playing on an unsafe field. With being selected for the 4 in 24 project we will now be able to keep our registration fees at an affordable rate for all families and have a safe field to play on again. We as a league and a community could not be more grateful for this opportunity.”
Lastly, the work of the ‘4 in 24’ will be recognized during Youth Baseball Night at “The Joe” on Friday, June 24.
In closing, we’d just like to reiterate our thank you to BlueShield of Northeastern New York and Hannaford Supermarkets for their generous support of this project. Without them, this project does not get done. Also a huge thank you to all of the volunteers who helped with the hard work! Just like the game itself, it takes teamwork to get this job done.
And thank you again to Admar Construction Equipment for the heavy duty equipment, the Brickman Group for their expert field maintenance crew, and Turface / SiteOne Landscape Supplies for the mound bricks & clay, and infield conditioner.
This is by far one of our most important community initiatives of the year, as we continue to hold true to our mission of being ambassadors for the great game of baseball!
If your youth league’s field is in need of repair, our Community Grounds Crew will be working on select fields throughout the spring and summer. Apply online at tcvalleycats.com/fieldrenovations.
“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” –
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
March is Reading Awareness Month, and we’re doing our part to spread the word by reading to local schools across the Capital Region. Read Across America Day was on Wednesday, March 2nd, the birth date of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.
Dr. Seuss, born in 1904 in Springfield, Mass., was an American writer and illustrator best known for authoring popular children’s books including timeless classics such as The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
We celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday by spending some time at School 16 in Troy, as SouthPaw read a few books to Mrs. Shaer’s third grade class!
We make dozens of reading appearances throughout the year at local schools, libraries, and summer camps. Many of these appearances are in collaboration with the Ronald McDonald House and NY529 College Savings Program.
Each Sunday during the season, we hold a summer reading program where members of the ValleyCats team read to children prior to the ballgame. They are then given a copy of the books, which are donated by the Kiwanis Club of Troy.
Here are a few other photos from our most recent reading appearances:
With 2016 in full swing, our front office has kicked it into high gear in preparation for our 15th anniversary season!
Check out our newly minted 15th anniversary logo! Each star represents a championship, with the white stars being division titles, and red stars being league titles.
The logo will be featured throughout the stadium, on marketing & promotional items, merchandise, on-field caps and more!
Not only will we be celebrating our 15th anniversary, but we’ll also welcome our two millionth fan through the gates! This should occur during one of our games in the middle of July. Just as we did when we welcomed our one millionth fan in 2010, there will be tons of surprises on this night!
Another Day at the Office
There’s no down time at “The Joe” during this time of year. We’re busy hiring our interns and gameday staff members, planning our 2016 promotional calendar and events, putting together unique ticket offers, building our corporate partnerships, and continuing to be an active member in the community.
Many have asked what we’ve got planned for bobblehead giveaways in 2016, and all we can say right now is that the plans are in their infancy.
‘Cats in the Community
Mayors Cup, RPI Engineers vs. Union Dutchmen, Times Union Center
The ValleyCats “Tri-City” representatives were present at this cross-town hockey rivalry, greeting fans during the game, and throwing t-shirts into the crowd during intermission!
— Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) January 23, 2016
— Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) January 23, 2016
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region Radiothon
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region held their 15th Annual Radiothon, their most important fundraiser of the year, and we were happy to be just a small part of it. We brought our inflatable baseball game to Crossgates Mall for chances to win cool ‘Cats prizes for a small donation.
— Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) January 23, 2016
Radiothon 2016 is in the books! $134,200 and counting! Thanks to all who volunteered and donated.
— Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) January 26, 2016
— Frontline (@FrontlineAM) January 24, 2016
— Jordan Salinas (@jordaNNDanger) January 21, 2016
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) January 23, 2016
If you can read a book while you are on the treadmill, u are either superhuman or not going fast enough
— ryan thompson (@R_Thompson15) January 26, 2016
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. New Day. New opportunities… Don’t miss one. #daybydayeveryday
— Joe Musgrove (@musgrove23Stros) January 18, 2016
Now approaching our 15th season, one thing has remained a constant, and that’s our commitment to the Capital Region community. Each year we attend numerous local schools, libraries, camps, walks, fundraising events, and more, lending a hand in any way possible. This past year alone, we’ve made over 160 appearances.
Our efforts were recognized by the New York-Penn League, as we are the league nominee for Minor League Baseball’s John Henry Moss Community Service Award. The award is presented to one Minor League club for their ongoing commitment to charitable service and their support and leadership within the community and the baseball industry.
Over the last month, SouthPaw, Michelle, and other members of the ‘Cats front office have been volunteering their services at a wide array of events.
On October 28th, SouthPaw visited Wood Road Elementary School in Ballston Spa for Family Fun Night, where he read books to the children as part of their fall book fair.
The following evening, SouthPaw attended School 14 in Troy with Michelle and Elyse for their annual Red Ribbon Night. The night featured many fun and educational activities to reward students for taking the pledge to live a drug free life.
On November 5, SouthPaw ran in the annual Troy Turkey Trot mascot race to kick off the formal announcement of Troy’s annual turkey trot road race. Many of the areas notable mascots took part in the 0.05 mile race, with Trotter the turkey coming out victorious after SouthPaw sustained a hamstring injury.
The 68th Annual Troy Turkey Trot takes place on Thanksgiving morning, and is one of the largest and oldest turkey trots in the United States. For more details, or to register for the race, visit http://www.troyturkeytrot.com.
SouthPaw recovered just in time to join Pappy SouthPaw at Crossgates Mall for the launch of Macy’s Believe campaign benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation. From November 6 through December 24, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, for every stamped letter addressed to Santa at The North Pole, delivered to the red letterbox at each local Macy’s.
On November 10, the Troy Boys & Girls Club held their 8th Annual Pizzapalooza at the Franklin Terrace Ballroom. We cooked up our wood fired pizza at “The Joe,” then transported them to Franklin Terrace to be served. The event raised money to support the programs and services offered by the club.
On the menu…hot dog pizza!
This year, we partnered with Hannaford Supermarkets and BlueShield of Northeastern New York on the Community Grounds Crew initiative, in order to revamp many youth fields over the course of the spring, summer, and fall. Members of our staff including GM Matt Callahan, Stadium Ops Manager Keith Sweeney, Senior Account Executive Chris Dawson, and others took care of two more fields in the past few weeks. Here are some photos!
Halfmoon Little League:
Watervliet Little League:
Does your field need a makeover prior to the 2016 season? We are currently accepting applications for Community Grounds Crew projects in the spring, and now is the perfect time to apply. You could be one of four fields to receive a COMPLETE overhaul, including brand new sod in the infield, a new pitcher’s mound and home plate, bases, and much more! Or you could be selected for other field maintenance.
Photos along with your submission are highly recommended, so be sure to take them now before the snow falls. Visit tcvalleycats.com for more details.
UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS
Crossgates Mall and B95.5 Kids Club
Saturday, November 14, 9:00am – 11:00am
Crossgates Mall, lower level Lord & Taylor Court.
Come to this FREE event where your kids can sing, dance, take pictures with mascots, make crafts, play games and win amazing prizes. Shhh….don’t tell the kiddies, but we are expecting a very special guest come all the way from the North Pole! Also, enjoy cookies, hot cocoa, and a special gift from our guest!
Scout Sleepover Extravaganza
Saturday, November 14, 10:30pm – Sunday morning
Flight Trampoline Park, 30a Post Road Colonie, NY
Jump around with your scout friends and family members all night long, enjoy pizza and a movie showing before sleeping on the trampolines. SouthPaw will be there at the start to jump along! To reserve your spot, log on to trcscouting.org/sleepoverextravaganza2016
Salvation Army Kettle Kick Off
Friday, November 20, 10:30am – 11:30am
Pfeil Hardware, 63 3rd Street, Troy
SouthPaw helps the Salvation Army kick off their red kettle campaign for the 2015 holiday season!
2015 Schenectady Daily Gazette Holiday Parade
Saturday, November 21, 5:00pm – 8:00pm
State Street, Schenectady
The Chamber of Schenectady County will present the 48th Annual Daily Gazette Holiday Parade, slated to step off at 5 p.m. Saturday, November 21 in downtown Schenectady. The parade, a Capital Region tradition, attracts 20,000-40,000 spectators who will line State Street in downtown Schenectady for what is widely known as the largest nighttime parade in the Northeast. Spectators will enjoy more than 100 magical characters, floats, bands, marchers, dance troupes and decorated vehicles. Each participant is vying for our top awards!
Capital Holiday Lights Chili, Chowder and SoupFest
Sunday, November 22, 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Washington Park, Albany
Join us at the second annual Capital Holiday Lights Chili, Chowder and SoupFest, featuring many of the Capital Region’s favorite restaurants and delis. We’ll be serving up our wood fired pizza! Sample $1.00 portions as you enjoy the music of The Reverberators (“Christmas in Albany”) at the Washington Park Lakehouse. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Lights on the Lake, all while supporting three important charities: The Albany Damien House, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region and the Alzheimer’s Association. Suggested donations are $5.00 per person or $10.00 per family. The LakeHouse will be open with Vendors and Santa.
What a tremendous 2015 season at “The Joe,” we can’t wait for 2016! As the offseason progresses, we’ll post monthly updates via ‘Cats Corner, to keep you informed on what’s going on within the ‘Cats front office. For now, keep an eye on tcvalleycats.com and our Facebook page for more frequent updates!
There is rich history of baseball here in the Capital Region, starting in 1871 with the Troy Haymakers and continuing all the way until now with the Tri-City ValleyCats. We took last night to celebrate our baseball heritage and commemorate a famous alumna of the Capital Region.
Upon entering the stadium, the first 1,500 fans were given a ticket redeemable for a Bernie Williams Bobblehead. The famous Yankee played for the Albany-Colonie Yankees from 1989 to 1990. To top of the Weekend at Bernie’s celebration, we’ll be raffling off a life-size Bernie Williams bubblehead tonight after the game. Tickets can be purchased on our website or in SouthPaw’s Den.
Before the game, we recognized the four members of the ValleyCats who represented Tri-City in Aberdeen this week at the All-Star Game: Alex Winkelman, Pat Porter, Bobby Wernes and Dexture McCall, who received the All-Star Game Top Star Honor.
Team Ferior Sports, Saratoga Eagle, Daniel Oliksowycz from the Lasalle School and 2014 Boy of the Year, Ethan Herrington from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society threw out the first pitches. The Troy Youth Choir followed them with the singing of the National Anthem.
We also had a familiar face at “The Joe” last night for the game. We were joined by City of Albany Mayor, Kathy Sheehan, who you may recognize from the 6th inning mayor’s race!
Unfortunately, the ‘Cats fell to the Hudson Valley Renegades 4-2 despite McCall (3-for-4 with an RBI and a double) and Nunez’s (RBI Double) offensive efforts. The ‘Cats return to “The Joe” tonight at 7pm to wrap up Weekend at Bernie’s. We’ll be giving away Bernie William’s posters and raffling off the life-size Bernie Williams Bobblehead!