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Capital Region earns affiliated Double-A baseball – Troy Record

ALBANY, NY — To paraphrase a tune from “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” that’s the life (that’s the life). That’s what all people say. There is no baseball in April. Opening day in May. As the Tri-City ValleyCats get ready to open their regular season, I find it strange that the Capital Region hasn’t seen Double-A baseball in April in 30 years.

How can an area this size not have at least Double-A baseball, let alone any affiliated baseball? It’s absurd!

As a result of the 2020 Major League Baseball decision, which reduced the number of affiliated minor league teams, 36 teams in 23 states were eliminated. That’s why the New York Capital Region has been without affiliated minor league baseball since 2020.

It’s confusing when you consider that the population of the Capital Region metropolitan statistical area (MSA) (pop. 941,000) is comparable to or higher than other regions of the state where baseball teams are affiliated. Buffalo, 1.1 million has the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons (Toronto Blue Jays), Rochester, 1.1 million homes, the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings (Washington Nationals), Poughkeepsie, 703,000, has the High-A Hudson Valley Renegades (New York Yankees), Syracuse, 653,000, hosts the Triple-A Syracuse Mets (New York Mets), and Binghamton, 243,000, has the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies (New York Mets).

You can’t blame Capital Region baseball fans for MLB’s decision-making. Since its inception in 2002, nearly three million ValleyCats fans have walked through the turnstiles of Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. Additionally, from 2010 to 2019, the team averaged 4,196 fans per game, or 93% of capacity. Additionally, the club has ranked in the top three in league attendance over the last five seasons in the New York – Pennsylvania League. One of the cities that surpassed Tri-City in attendance was Brooklyn, which is essentially a Major League city.

According to baseball-reference.com, Binghamton’s average attendance per game, one month into the 2024 campaign, is 1,442, Syracuse’s 2,449, Rochester’s 3,632, Buffalo’s 4,026, Hudson Valley’s 2,334 and Brooklyn 1,715.

Are you saying that this area cannot average around these totals? Please!

Unfortunately, no one from MLB to the ValleyCats to local officials has been able to tell me why the Capital Region was left out. Are there insufficient facilities? Lack of local ownership? Lack of corporate and business support? Lack of stronger political pressure from local, state and federal officials?

It’s also absurd that the Yankees could locate their Double-A or Triple-A affiliate here, but currently have clubs located in Somerset, NJ, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, respectively.

Yankee baseball once operated here, and if a real stadium had been built, it would probably still be here.

From 1985-1994, the Albany Colonie Yankees, a Double-A Eastern League minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees, called Heritage Park home for ten years.

Nearly 100 players who reached the major leagues honed their skills on the airport baseball field. Including Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and other players who contributed to their dynastic success in the 90s who played at Albany, guys like Jim Leyritz, Andy Fox and Brian Boehringer.

Among other notable names to have played here were Al Leiter, Gerald Williams, JT Snow, Roberto Kelly, Hal Morris, Doug Drabek, Pat Kelly, Randy Velarde, Andy Stankiewicz, Russ Davis, Sterling Hitchcock, Bob Geren, Brad Ausmus, Russ Springer , Mike DeJean and even “Primetime” himself Deion Sanders.

While their parent club in New York was sleepwalking in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Heritage Park was the place for exciting Yankee baseball on its way to the big leagues.

That explained why Albany broke and set the Eastern League record for attendance in 1985 with more than 324,003. As the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland A in 1983, Albany even drew more than 200,000 fans for a last-place team.

From 1985-1987, Albany led the Eastern League and from 1985-1990, Albany was in the top three in attendance every year. If you include the A’s days (1983-1984), Albany finished in the top three from 1983-1990.

Attendance numbers have been lopsided in recent years (1991–1994), partly due to a fan base alienated by constant rumors and attempts by the owners to move the team around.

As for on-field moments, perhaps no more memorable moment took place than in 1986, when Yankees legend Ron Guidry pitched a three-inning rehab start before a packed crowd of 14,491 that exceeded capacity.

Former players like Reggie Jackson or Willie Randolph also visited the park to help with the younger players, scouting dozens of radar guns to watch former Yankee fireballing lefty prospect Brien Taylor pitch in 1993, a year before he wrecked his arm. a fight.

In 1994, during the strike, Buck Showalter, who led the Albany-Colonie Yankees to a championship in 1989, their second of three (1988, 1989, 1991) with many of the players who would contribute to the World Series Championships in New York, get going. hand to scout players who would also contribute to those championships with Gene “Stick” Michael and Billy Connors.

After the 1994 season, the team left, along with cheap quality affiliated minor league baseball, until the Short Season Single-A ValleyCats arrived in 2002.

This happened mainly because there was no local ownership and no local company was willing to step up and keep the team in Albany. No one wanted to put money into improvements to a ballpark that was unfortunately built before the Camden Yards era. The failure also stemmed from the state level of government and local politicians in Albany County and the city of Colonie, who were never able to build a new stadium to secure another team years after the team left.

As a lifelong resident of Albany, I’ve noticed how people say it’s great that we’re centrally located, about two to three hours away from other major cities like New York, Boston and Montreal. That’s great, but tell me how many people can practically go to three games a week, forking out $100 per ticket, plus tolls, gas, parking, concessions, etc., getting home at 2 a.m. and going to go to work? If you said yes, then you are a better and richer fan than me.

That’s why I miss that high-quality, affordable, accessible baseball so much. You give me a state-of-the-art baseball stadium with approximately 7,000 seats, the high-end product of Double-A baseball, and combined with a promotional marketing team and organizational knowledge that the ValleyCats front office possesses, it will thrive here. It’s a guaranteed winner and this area with a rich history of Double-A baseball deserves it!