TROY, N.Y. — The Tri-City ValleyCats are now two full weeks into the 2018 New York Penn League season and already having an impact on the Astros' organization.
Their 7-6 record places them in a tie with the Vermont Lake Monsters in first place in the Stedler Division. Even though they lost 3-1 to the Hudson Valley Renegades last night, the Cats have won their last three series in-a-row. First-year head coach Jason Bell has his players developing at a fast rate and he was eager to start his coaching career up in Troy.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Bell after an 11-1 opening night win over Vermont. “The fans were great, energetic and it got the players all fired up.”
Bell is the second youngest coach in all affiliated baseball at the age of 27. He joined the Astros’ organization last year when he was brought in as a developmental coach with Quad Cities. After the team won the Midwest League Championship, Bell was promoted to be the ninth manager in ValleyCats’ history.
A few players have already gotten the call up to the next level after starting the season with the ‘Cats. One of those notable players was Seth Beer.
Beer is a left-handed first basemen/outfielder that is a force at the plate. He was drafted by the Astros in the first round at this year’s MLB draft. The Clemson product was selected 28th overall and has not fallen short of his first round expectations.
On opening night Beer launched a shot over the left field wall in his third at-bat and showed signs of things to come. In the 11 games Beer played in for the ‘Cats the slugger hit four home runs (most in the league), recorded 12 hits and touted a .431 on-base percentage. He is surely on a path to join the ranks of the over 50 former ValleyCat players to make it to the MLB.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about since about sixth grade,” said Beer. “I wanted to play professional baseball someday.”
On the other side of the diamond Tri-City’s pitching hasn’t been too shabby. Opening night starter Chad Donato had a 0.00 ERA after pitching three games with 16 innings of work. While on the mound Donato fanned 21 batters and only gave up just eight hits. The right-handed pitcher led the Penn League in ERA and just got the call to move up to Quad Cities where he will join ValleyCat teammate Beer.
Donato, 23, was the oldest opening day starter in the ValleyCats history. This was due to him missing the whole 2016 season because of Tommy John Surgery. Donato is behind the curve but is coming along in his rehab.
“It’s time to get things rolling,” said Donato. “It’s comeback season and I’m just trying to get out there and show what I can do and hopefully make an impact on the program.”
Another notable ValleyCat player, who hasn’t gotten the call up yet, is Enmanuel Valdez. The second basemen from the Dominican Republic is tied atop the league with three home runs and is hitting just shy of .300. Not to mention he’s been a sure fielder that has a bit of range. There’s still time to make it to Joe Bruno Stadium to see Valdez, but time is of the essence.
The ValleyCats are back in action tonight when they host the Hudson Valley Renegades at “The Joe” for the second game in a three-game series. First pitch is set for just after 7 p.m. The series will conclude tomorrow night then the team will travel north to square off with the Vermont Lake Monsters for a three-game set before coming back to a six-game homestand that starts on the 4th of July.