A day after I watched the New Hampshire Fisher Cats season end at home to the Trenton Thunder, I arrived in Troy, NY, to watch the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats in championship series action.
I got to town about five hours before game time, which is a little early even by my standards. Because I didn’t have a hotel yet, I drove around and found a Holiday Inn Express near the airport, signed in and chilled for a few hours. Before long, I packed up and made the short drive to the ballpark.
The ValleyCats play at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, which is located on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College. It’s somewhat tricky to get to, mainly because you can’t see the ballpark from the road and you may wonder if you’re in the right place. To read my tips on getting to “The Joe,” see my website here.
I got to the facility about two hours before the game, or one hour before the opening pitch. As I usually do, I took a walk around the entire stadium, pausing beyond the outfield fence to see what my batting practice home run snagging chances were. Ouch. Beyond the fence is a fence, a hill and another fence:
Simply put, no ball is going to leave the fenced area. I scouted around the trees beyond the second fence, just in case, but there were no balls to be found. Afterward, I walked back around to the front of the stadium and bought my ticket:
The front of Joseph L. Bruno Stadium is pretty unique. I mean, most stadiums are unique, but this one’s pretty different. On the left is the team shop, in the middle are the gates and on the right are enclosed stairs going up to the suite level. For some reason, it looks like a fire station to me:
It was September 11, so the stadium’s flags were at half-mast:
I lined up first at the gate and had about 40 minutes to kill before the gates opened. Boy, was it a long wait. You can only look around, glance at your watch and re-read your ticket so many times before the minutes seem to crawl by. Eventually, the gates were opened and I walked in and got my bearings.
During BP, I’d seen several home run balls land beyond the outfield fence but not make it to the second fence. I knew ushers would be quickly snatching all these balls, but I took my chances and headed to the grass berm behind left field. There’s also a bar here called the Top of the Hill Bar & Grill. I greeted the bartender and walked around the bar looking for a ball in the grass below. The fences made it clear that fans aren’t allowed behind the fence, but I quickly spotted this:
See anything noteworthy here? If not, here’s a close up:
A ball was sitting on the grass hill, and while there were no ushers in site, I wanted to get it quickly. I turned to the bartender: “Look, I came all the way from Canada for this game, and I’d really like to get a ball. I see one just down there. Could I grab it?” He gave me a quick nod, adding, “Just do it quickly,” and I was off. As I bent to grab it, I turned to see he was now engaged with another fan. I decided to take a quick run all the way around to the right field corner to see if there were any other balls in the area, and there wasn’t a single one.
When I got back, I thanked the staff member and took a quick panoramic shot from the bar and grill. If you’re watching a ValleyCats game, this is a pretty cool area. You can sit here regardless of where your ticket is located, and as you can see from the shot below, you’ve got a great view:
I went back down the hill to the left field corner and checked out Tri-City’s bullpen:
This facility has sweet bullpens for Short-Season A ball. See the elevated area for the players to sit? Because the gate was open, I took some from the warning track area. It was neat to just wander down to the edge of the outfield:
Afterward, I was on the move again. The Joe has myriad seating options if stadium seats aren’t your thing. You can sit on the grass berm in the right field corner:
The picnic deck along the right field line:
Or The Porch, a wooden, bar-style area adjacent to the grass berm in the right field corner. This area looked pretty decent, and had great sightlines. I decided that once the game began, I’d spend a little time here:
Then went back down to the box seats as the stadium was beginning to fill up:
This was game one of the best-of-three NYPL championship series, and the opponent was the Brooklyn Cyclones, the affiliate of the Mets
. (The ValleyCats are a part of Houston
I snapped a quick shot of the scoreboard, which is hugely impressive by NYPL standards:
By now, the Cyclones were out on the field stretching:
I wandered over to the ValleyCats dugout on the third base side and watched three players play a mesmerizing game. Each guy holds a baseball in each hand, and one guy throws one of his balls to another guy. If the ball comes toward you, you have to throw your ball back at someone else and catch the ball coming at you. It’s dizzying but addictive to watch. Nothing like staying loose before the biggest game of your young pro career:
With the national anthem about to begin, I headed over to my new favorite seating area — The Porch. I was sharing it with one other couple on the lower level and a couple other people above me, so it was mostly deserted. Here’s a view during the pregame ceremonies, which included a moment of silence:
To my right, I could see Brooklyn’s starter, A.J. Pinera:
The Cyclones got off to a quick start; two runs in the top of the first innings. But the ValleyCats rebounded with four runs in the third inning and never looked back. In the late innings of the game, I headed to the grass hill in the left field corner to watch a bit of the action:
From here, I could see the home team’s bullpen:
Tri-City ended up winning 5-2 to take Game 1 of the series. The next two days’ games in Brooklyn were rained out, but the ValleyCats prevailed in Game 2 on Sept. 14 to win the 2010 New York-Penn League championship. It was cool to see a game of the championship series.
That was that for my 2010 ballpark tour. This summer will be even better, so check back regularly to see where I’m going and what I’ve seen.