The Tri-City ValleyCats, minor league affiliate of the Houston Astros, have called Troy, NY home since 2002. This past summer, the ValleyCats made a crazy run in the playoffs and earned the title of New York Penn League Champions. They chased their dreams of being the best, and I was right there with them every step of the way.
I spent my summer working as a promotions intern for the Tri-City ValleyCats. I attended every single home game; dancing on dugouts and playing dizzy bat were just a few of my responsibilities...tough life. Oh, did I mention I also had to wear a mascot costume once?
After a season of ups and downs and a record just above .500, the ValleyCats earned a spot in the New York Penn League playoffs. It was definitely unexpected; the ValleyCats actually lost their last regular season game, but because of a loss by another team in the division were able to earn that playoff spot. Imagine that, popping champagne after a loss? Awesome.
As an avid sports fan, I've always loved the excitement of the playoff race in baseball. This summer, that excitement reached a whole new level. Here I was, right in the middle of the action. The first playoff game of the best of three series in the semi-finals was home. The game was action-packed, and I was loaded with anxiety. We had an early lead, blew it, and then ended up in extra innings. Then, in the 11th inning, right-fielder Daniel Adamson came up huge with a walk-off home run. Everyone loves to see a walk-off, whether you're watching the game on television or in the stadium. However, I definitely had the best view in the house that night; I was in the dug out. The excitement of winning our first playoff game with such a dramatic finish was fantastic. It was such a thrilling experience to be right there, slapping the players' hands as they headed to the locker room.
As the players filed on to the bus to Batavia that night, I had no idea if they would be back for the championship series, but I most certainly hoped they would be. Sure enough, they took the semi-finals over Batavia 2-1. We had made it to the championship. Our opponent was the Brooklyn Cyclones, the top team in the New York Penn League. As the serious underdogs, we entered the series hoping for the best. Again, the first game was home in Troy. After coming up with the win, I decided I couldn't miss the opportunity to be there with the team in Brooklyn. I headed down to the city with a few other coworkers, excited to see if we could pull it off.
After two days of torrential downpours and terrible field conditions (and far too much money spent out in Brooklyn) the first pitch of the second game was finally thrown. The anticipation was sky high. We had all piled in and out of the stadium two times prior to that night for a game that never happened. Not the mention it was the third week of school, and I had used up just about all my free passes for skipping classes. So finally, there we were, potentially one win away from being the best.
The ValleyCats started out strong, and never gave up. We won the second game 5-1, sweeping the Brooklyn Cyclones and clinching the New York Penn League Championship. It was the first championship title for the Tri-City ValleyCats.
The ValleyCats reached the ultimate dream, and I got to be right alongside them for the ride. It was an incredible experience. In the favorite phrase of former ValleyCats assistant GM Vic Christopher, it was "next level."
Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be known as the best. It's a great feeling of accomplishment, and it brings a sense of pride to the team, as well as the area. This fall, Troy has a lot to be happy about. Not only can they boast a connection to the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, they have their own hometown champions in the Tri-City ValleyCats. It was an exciting summer of baseball, with a picture perfect ending. Everyone dreams of being the best and the Capital Region can definitely revel in that accomplishment this fall.