Major League Baseball announced that it will no longer have an association with the Tri-City Valley Cats, a Troy, NY-based affiliate of the Houston Astros.
I’ve spent many hours at the incredible stadium, known as “The Joe,” located near Hudson Valley Community College. The family-friendly atmosphere, coupled with amazingly high quality baseball and the ability to watch future MLB stars on their way to the big leagues, has led to fun nights of the game I love.
The Valley Cats also provided inspiration for my novel, Empty Seats.
Eighteen years ago, I served as the National Anthem singer for the Valley Cats for several years. As I walked out onto the field, with my heart beating what seemed like a thousand miles a minute, I passed by young men in the dugout. They looked as if they were homesick, out-of-place. But when they took to the baseball diamond, they came alive.
Some were from faraway places in the United States. But some came from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Many couldn’t speak English well. The Valley Cats arranged for them to stay with local families, and, for those who couldn’t speak English, provided them with classes to improve their skills. Valley Cats management, in my opinion, made every attempt to be their home away from home.
The life of a minor league baseball player is not easy; they’re competing with each other to become major leaguers, and they don’t make much much money. They love the game, but sometimes that passion only goes so far when they have little money in their pockets and miss their homes.
I had the great fortune to watch several members of the Valley Cats make it to MLB: Matt Albers, Dallas Keuchel, Hunter Pence, Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve and George Springer. Roger “the Rocket” Clemens made a visit to The Joe to watch his son, Koby, play for the team. (I sang The Anthem for one of the nights he attended.)
In 2019, I had the great privilege of sitting in with the Valley Cats play-by-play announcer for a couple of innings during a day game.
The Valley Cats have always provided a place where families could afford to bring everyone at an affordable price to experience the magic of baseball. While an entire family could go to The Joe for about $50-60, that same price tag would be more like $400-500 at an MLB stadium.
The economic impact of losing the Valley Cats to New York’s Capital Region will be enormous. Since I’m not an economist, I won’t make any predictions on that score. I will, however, predict that the emotional impact on baseball fans like my friends and me will be priceless. Where will we go, within 100 miles, to have an experience such as we’ve had at The Joe over the past nearly two decades?
My thanks go to Rick Murphy and his staff for their love of baseball and New York’s Capital Region for giving us a gift for lo these many years. I so appreciate everything they’ve done, not only for us baseball fans, but also for the community, to which they’ve reached out and given their all. Reports indicate that they’ll continue to look for opportunities to present professional baseball in the area. My guess is that the powers-that-be in their ivory tower in MLB headquarters will be everything they can to throw a monkey wrench into those plans.
And MLB wonders why they lose more and more fans every year. They need to look no further than into their own short-sighted management.
As for me, I’ll cherish my days in the stands at The Joe, scorecard in hand, basking in the sunshine or the lights, hoping I’m watching the next Cy Young or Silver Slugger Award Winner developing in the outskirts of Troy, New York.