2013 was a tremendous year for the Tri-City ValleyCats and their fans, culminating with the organization's second New York-Penn League championship title in four years. Below is what we believe to arguably be the Top 10 ValleyCats Moments of 2013.
10) ValleyCats take their "Show on the Road!"
The Tri-City ValleyCats partnered with Hannaford Supermarkets to bring the 'Cats gameday experience to a game at East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League. As part of the "Show on the Road," there was pregame entertainment, ceremonial team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors' Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops, and a Relay Race.
9) Friday Night Lights at "The Joe"
For three consecutive Friday nights in late April and early May at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, the ValleyCats hosted six Section II high school baseball games. The first two nights served as a fundraiser for the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation, which helps to support the ValleyCats field renovation program. The final night was a fundraising event for Coaches vs. Cancer.
8) Community Grounds Crew Program
The ValleyCats and BlueShield of Northeastern New York continued their strong partnership with a new season of the Community Grounds Crew Program. Following the formation of the program in 2012, over a dozen youth ball fields have been fully renovated, with countless other field projects completed throughout the Capital Region. The 3rd Annual '4 in 24' field renovations took place at National Little League of Albany, Green Island Little League, Menands Junior Baseball and Hudson Valley Little League in Ravena. Each field received a complete overhaul which included the revamping of the entire infield playing surface.
7) BobbleVote 2013
The ValleyCats revived the Media Bobblehead Bracket Buster Tournament in 2013, as 16 prominent local media personalities of television, radio and print faced each other in a bracket style fan vote. Each participant chose a charity to represent throughout the tournament, with a cash donation being made by the ValleyCats to the top finishers. The winner would also be immortalized into a ValleyCats bobblehead giveaway. Ultimately, Greg Floyd from CBS 6, and his charity of choice, Hannah's Hope Fund, were victorious. 1,500 bobbleheads of both Greg Floyd and Hannah Sames were given away to fans on Monday, August 19. Hannah also participated in the festivities, which included an emotional performance of the National Anthem.
6) Happy Homecoming
Capital Region native and Saratoga Central Catholic High grad, Christian Garcia had the opportunity to begin his 2013 season of professional baseball with the ValleyCats. The right-handed pitcher made his 'Cats debut on June 19 at "The Joe" in front of his hometown friends, family and fans. He entered the ballgame in the ninth inning, securing three outs and an 8-2 victory for the 'Cats.
Garcia made just one more appearance with the 'Cats before being sent to the Astros Rookie League affiliate in Greeneville, Tennessee. Garcia was drafted by the Astros in the 29th round of the 2012 MLB Draft, and spent his entire first season in Greeneville.
5) Dineen Lets the Dogs Out
Ryan Dineen had one of his most memorable moments in a ValleyCats uniform on Bark in the Park Night on Monday, July 8. With the ballgame tied 1-1 in the 12th inning against the Aberdeen IronBirds, Dineen stepped to the plate with one out and nobody on. He crushed a 2-1 fastball over the IronBirds bullpen in right field to give the 'Cats a thrilling 2-1 walk-off victory.
4) Gregor Walks-Off
Throughout the 2013 season, there wasn't a more clutch hitter than Conrad Gregor. One of his biggest highlights came on August 7 during a Camp Day matinee game at "The Joe." After coming back from two separate deficits earlier in the ballgame, the ValleyCats chose the best time for number three.
Facing a heartbreaking defeat after giving up the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th, Gregor stepped to the plate in the bottom half with one on and one out. He battled his way to a 3-2 count, fouling off a number of tough pitches. Then he smashed a fastball to right-center field, clearing the wall and sending the 'Cats fans home happy with an 8-7 victory. It was Gregor's first home run at home, and the seventh of the ballgame.
3) Moustache Mania
On Saturday, August 24, the ValleyCats set an unofficial world record for the largest gathering of people wearing false moustaches. The first 3,059 fans through the gates of Joseph L. Bruno Stadium received fake moustaches. At the end of the second inning of play, a total of 2,685 fans took part in putting them on. After the minimum time of five minutes required to keep the 'staches on was over, the 'Cats had unofficially set the world record.
The promotion was held in honor of ValleyCats manager Ed Romero, a former major leaguer who is well-known for his moustache. Not only did the fans in attendance participate in the promotion, but even Romero, his coaching staff, the players, and Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow all sported the fake 'staches.
2) #1 Pick Makes Pro Debut for the 'Cats
July 5, 2013 will be written into the history books as the first time a Major League Baseball number one overall draft pick began his professional career with the ValleyCats.
Stanford pitcher Mark Appel was selected first overall by the Houston Astros on June 6, signed with them on June 19, and made his professional debut with the ValleyCats on July 5. It was an extra special night at "The Joe" as the team celebrated Veterans Night, while also surpassing the 1.5 million fan mark since their inception in 2002.
In front of a sellout crowd of 5,854, Appel , who was on a strict 30-pitch limit, went two innings, allowing three hits and two runs.
Eight innings after Appel departed, the ValleyCats walked off in the 10th inning in unprecedented fashion. With two outs and a runner on third, Luis Alvarez swung and missed on a 1-2 slider that got passed the Lowell catcher, allowing the winning run to score from third.
1) 'Cats Capture Championship!
The ValleyCats lost the first game of the NYPL Championship Series at home, a heartbreaking 2-1 extra inning defeat. Then they faced the challenge of traveling to State College in need of two straight victories. The Spikes held a 30-8 record at home, where they had not lost two consecutive games all year.
With an uphill battle in front of them, the 'Cats received solid outings from starting pitchers Michael Feliz in Game 2 and Kyle Westwood in Game 3.
Following a nail biting victory in Game 2 in which closer Gonzalo Sanudo worked a six out save, the same would be asked of him in Game 3. With a 4-1 lead in the 8th inning and a runner on first base, skipper Ed Romero turned to Sanudo.
Sanudo got through the 8th, but ran into trouble in the 9th. After giving up a two-run home run, a single and sacrifice bunt put the tying run in scoring position for the Spikes with one out.
However, Sanudo got out of the jam by striking out the next two batters to capture the New York-Penn League Championship.
What were some of your favorite moments of 2013? Feel free to leave your comments below!