Summer’s Great Pastime
by Emily Marcason-Tolmie
When I was a kid I spent many summer evenings with my Dad cheering on the New York Yankees’ AA minor league affiliated Albany-Colonie Yankees. The baseball diamond at Heritage Park is gone, but luckily for baseball fans the Tri-City ValleyCats have found a home at Joe Bruno Stadium on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY.
Surprisingly, a day at the ballpark can be affordable. “As a proud affiliate of the World Series Champion Houston Astros, we’re a fun, affordable, safe way to come together as a family during the summer and enjoy professional baseball locally,” Adam Migirditch, an account executive with the Tri-City ValleyCats, said. Tickets range from $12.50 to as low as $5.25. “Our Premium Box section would be the best place for families to get a great, safe view of all of the action. However, I would say there isn’t a bad seat in the house,” he said. Every Sunday families can take advantage of the Sunday Funday Package, which includes 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, and 4 sodas for as low as $25.
The games are really fun. There’s something exciting during every break in the baseball action. According to Migirditch, there are nightly Zappone Chrystler T-Shirt Tosses and a mocked Tri-City Mayors Race. “There’s never a dull moment with the ‘Cats,” he said. “We have 15 nights with post-game fireworks presented by Market32 throughout the season, including our Basketball Hoopla Night on Wednesday, August 22nd, and our annual Fans For Life Night to wrap up the regular season on Tuesday, August 28th.”
There is a great opportunity to mingle with the players. After every home game, a couple of ValleyCats players will sign autographs for fans presented by Mohawk Honda. Kids can join the ‘Cats Crew Kids Club for $20. This membership gives kids exclusive opportunities to interact with players, including an annual picnic with players and the chance to watch fireworks from the dugout on a select night. The ValleyCats also offer its annual ‘Cats Academies, which gives young fans and baseball players the chance to get pointers from current players.
The ValleyCats are not just playing baseball. The team also has a positive presence in the community. According to Migirditch, the ValleyCats make 175+ community and fundraiser appearances each year, many including the most recognizable mascot in the Capital Region – SouthPaw! “All combined, the ValleyCats contributions and fundraising efforts totaled over $500,000 in support in 2017,” he said.
So, a day or evening at Joe Bruno Stadium sounds great. I put it to the test.
On July 9, 2018, I took my boys to an afternoon game (the next afternoon game is scheduled for Thursday, July 26) at Joe Bruno Stadium. It was an easy 45-minute drive from Saratoga Springs. The baseball gods challenged us with a picture-perfect blue skied summer day nearing 90 degrees. A perfect day for baseball, right? Ninety degrees is hot. Ninety degrees with two little boys is really hot. I doused them in sunblock. We stayed hydrated with frequent $3.50 waters and dippin dot ice cream (this melts really fast for being touted as outer space ice cream). The misting station, set up near the shaded pavilion, was well-received by both me and my boys.
I watched as a mom in a nearby section opened up golf-sized umbrellas over her children. She made shade! She nodded me her approval to follow her lead. I purchased golf-sized umbrellas from the team store. The baseball gods rewarded us for being in the last row of Section 120. The shade was priceless. For seven and a half glorious innings we watched baseball. We cheered. We ate hot dogs. We giggled as SouthPaw doused our section with water from his squirt gun. We left the game a little before the last pitch, which is a baseball sin, but with two tired little boys I felt it necessary. We left the game with full bellies. Most importantly, we left the game with really fun memories.
I watched my boys fall in love with the game I love. I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams.” James Earl Jones said in the film: “The one constant through all of the years, Ray, has been baseball.” Sitting in the stands next to my Dad at the Albany-Colonie Yankees games as a kid was my constant. We watched greatness play at Heritage Park. A young Bernie Williams patrolled the outfield. Marino Rivera perfected his fast ball. Derek Jeter was unknowingly in the early days of baseball greatness. Now, it is my boys’ turn. After the Astros’ World Series win this past October and a handful of former ValleyCats (Jose Altuve, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel) being major contributors, there’s a lot of celebrating going on at Joe Bruno Stadium this summer. Minor league baseball is watching greatness in its infancy.
For more information on the Tri-City ValleyCats visit the team’s website: https://www.milb.com/tri-city-valleycats