Welcome back, baseball. If you’re a rabid baseball fan like I am—my loyalties lie with the Boston Red Sox—today might as well be a national holiday, as it’s Opening Day for a number of Major League Baseball clubs. While the Sox and New York Yankees—as well as the New York Mets—seem to have the largest local fanbases this side of Upstate New York, many locals will be more than a little interested in what the world championship Houston Astros are doing this season. (If you’re wondering, they’re facing off with intrastate American League rivals, the Texas Rangers, today.) Why? Because their Class A New York-Penn League affiliate, the Tri-City ValleyCats, are based in nearby Troy.
The ValleyCats aren’t just a Neverland stop for potential major league talent; five players from the team made it onto the ‘stros championship squad, including World Series MVP George Springer; Game 5 winner Joe Musgrave, and hero Derek Fisher, who crossed home plate with that game’s winning run. Not to mention the fact that José Altuve, the pint-sized, perennial hitting machine and defending AL MVP; and pitching ace Dallas Keuchel, who won the 2015 Cy Young Award, also made stops in Troy at one point during their career. It’s a veritable funnel for talent to the bigs.
The ValleyCats’ schedule doesn’t spring into action until mid-June, but fans will have a little extra something to look forward to this season. As the team announced last week, the Astros’ 2017 World Series trophy will be making an appearance at the stadium (nicknamed “the Joe”) on Friday, August 3. That evening, the ValleyCats will be taking on the Lowell Spinners at 7pm, and fans can participate in “Boots, BBQ & Baseball” night, during which the Class A team will pay tribute to its big brother in the Majors. (The Spinners are affiliated with the Red Sox.)
Can’t wait for the ValleyCats’ season to start? No problem. Fans can start purchasing ValleyCats tickets on March 29 (i.e. today!). Also, the team just released its list of 2018 promotions, and sports memorabilia nerds (me included) will want to be onsite for at least two of those nights: Tuesday, July 24, the team will be celebrating Latin Heritage Night, handing out José Altuve bobbleheads to the first 1,500 fans in attendance; and Wednesday, August 15, on Capital Region Heritage Night, the first 1,500 fans will be getting their very own George Springer nodder. For a full list and explanation of promotions, click here.
The ValleyCats are looking for a bounce-back season, as they finished seven games under .500 last year. But the Astros’ affiliate has not been devoid of its own championship heroics: They were the New York-Penn League champions in 2010 and 2013.