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Hall of Fame Field Trip

Many of the ValleyCats interns and front office members took a field trip to Cooperstown yesterday to visit the birthplace of baseball. As lifelong fans, most of us had visited the Baseball Hall of Fame one or two or twenty times before, but that did not make the trip any less special.

We carpooled down I-88, entered the Hall of Fame and started the day in the “Bullpen Theatre.” Brad Horn, the Hall’s senior director of communications and education, greeted us and briefly introduced the museum’s mission. Horn talked about how the minor leagues – especially short-season teams – and the Hall can bookend a player’s professional lifetime: all players start their careers in the minors, the best of those reach the majors, and the top 1 percent of that group will be great enough to end up in the Hall of Fame.

He also brought along All-Star Game MVP Prince Fielder’s jersey, which he had received from Fielder immediately after the Midsummer Classic two days earlier. A small dirt stain was still visible on the lower back, showing how the jersey was, as Horn said, a representation of that moment in time.

For the past two years (ever since the formerly-Oneonta Tigers moved to Connecticut), the ValleyCats have been the closest minor-league team to Cooperstown, and we have enjoyed a very strong partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame. We got to meet and mingle with the Hall’s interns, who have recently been very busy preparing for next week’s induction ceremony, in which Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick will be enshrined in the Hall.

The Hall’s team of interns will come up to Joe Bruno Stadium on July 30 for Hall of Fame Night, a chance to watch some great baseball. They will also show off some historical artifacts with a Capital Region flavor, which we had a chance to see:

A glove and cleats used by Troy native and Hall of Famer Johnny Evers, who was immortalized in one of baseball’s two most famous poems, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.”

Derek Jeter’s Louisville Slugger-model bat from the 2000 All-Star Game. Jeter would become the only player ever to be named the MVP of the All-Star Game and the World Series in the same year.

Chris Chenes, who has a knack for appearing in our pictures, talks alongside Pedro Martinez’s 1999 All-Star Game jersey. Pedro was named the game’s MVP for striking out five of the game’s best players in two scoreless innings.

Afterward, we were able to explore the museum. We got to see some new exhibits alongside the old standbys, including the most famous area of all, the Hall of Fame itself:

‘Cats broadcaster Erik Elken listens to an exhibit featuring some famed radio voices from the past.

Afterwards, we took in the beautiful blocks surrounding the Hall and browsed some of the local shops. One store carried a wealth of Minor League Baseball hats, including a 2010 championship model of the red ValleyCats hat. The shopkeeper was probably surprised to see 13 people enter the store, rush over and excitedly point at it.

If any of our Tri-City followers (or baseball fans from anywhere in the country) have not visited the Hall of Fame, we strongly encourage you to make a trip down to Cooperstown – it’s well worth the drive. And come to “The Joe” for Hall of Fame Night on July 30!

Kevin Whitaker

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