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Official Review by David Berger, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Tri-Cities encompasses an area of Upstate New York, which includes Albany, Schenectady and Troy. Formerly known as the Albany Polecats, the local team has become the more regionally focused Valley Cats. They play their games on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College, at the Joseph P. Bruno Stadium, otherwise known as “The Joe.”
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The 'Cats have a nice array of food options scattered around the park, but they lacked on this occasion in both quality and service. At the main concession stands, they were regularly out of staples, like French fries, pretzels and hamburgers, during pre-game, with 10-15 minute waits while they tried to get caught up. On this occasion, they were also running an "Italian night" special, where they attempted to serve spaghetti or penne with meatballs or sausage. While the option proved quite popular, I don't think they were prepared, and the line snaked its way through a third of the concourse for most of the game.
Hot dogs are also disappointing. The region is known for a smaller hot dog, but the ballpark variety is standard size. They serve Helmbold's hot dogs, and to my palate, they are quite bland. Some reviews state that Upstate dogs typically don't have the spice of a Nathan's, Hebrew National, or a Sabrett's, and are merely a conveyance for a chili sauce more than a meal in themselves.
For a park this size, games are well attended, but it does feel very much like a place where the game is just something to do while the fans wait for football season. You see a lot of football jerseys in the crowd, and the event is more social than game oriented.
The staff is trying stock promotions, but before and during the game, there is very little sense of connection. As an Astros affiliate for the last 14 years, there's only a sign out front regarding former ValleyCats who make it to Houston to let you know that they are connected in any way.
The park is set into a community college, so there's not really a lot of a neighborhood directly around it. However, within an easy 10-minute drive, you have New York's capital city of Albany, plus Troy and Schenectady. The towns offer more lodging and dining options, as well as just more of a general hustle and bustle that would qualify as a neighborhood. In August, horse racing is a huge draw in nearby Saratoga, as well.
For a small park, they do draw a nice crowd, but it seems to be more of a night out than a night at the game. They advertise as a family fun night out, and that's really what you get. With Upstate New York's cool summers, there are a lot worse ways to pack up the family and spend an evening outside.
This is primarily football country, and people wear a lot of football jerseys to the park, which feels anachronistic, especially when it's a Mark Sanchez Jets jersey.
It seemed that the big draw of the night we attended was fireworks and the pasta bar. There was a lot of milling about in the concourse with little desire to take their seats and watch the game.
For a small NY-Penn League park, they draw a nice crowd. The 'Joe,' as they call it, is set on a community college campus, and it isn't really clearly marked. It's hard to see from the street, and the only real marking for the entrance is a small A-frame parking sign.
There are no mass transit options, so driving is pretty much your only option. However, parking is free and convenient.
The goal is affordable, family-friendly entertainment, and that's what they provide. Tickets are under $20, and concessions are reasonable. The park is well kept, and short-season baseball can be a lot of fun. For the ballpark traveler, the NY-Penn League is more about seeing different parts of the country and people watching, and enjoying a night at the park. Tri-Cities has what you need to do all those things.
You won't be overly surprised, positively or negatively, by your experience at a ValleyCats game. I don't know that I would make a special trip to see a game here, but as part of a western New York swing, with Binghamton, Syracuse, Auburn and the Hall of Fame all within a reasonable 2-3 hour drve, it is well worth the stop.
Member Review by puckhound2469
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium is home to the Tri-City ValleyCats who are defending Champions in the Class A short season New York/Penn League. Fans in the Albany, Schenectady and Troy areas are fervent supporters of their team which celebrated their 10th Anniversary season in 2011. The team has much to offer fans who attend the game as it is one of the most entertaining experiences in baseball.
Member Review by vdp18 on Aug 14, 2013
Since Joseph L. Bruno Stadium was opened in 2002, they have only had one professional tenant, the Tri-City ValleyCats. The ‘Cats moved in from Pittsfield, Ma and Wahconah Park, where they were the Mets’ affiliate for 12 seasons, before becoming a member of the Astros’ farm system in 2001 and being a member ever since. Prior to 1989 the team played in Little Falls, NY as the Little Falls Mets, where they won their first league title in 1984. The team has been a member of the New York-Penn League throughout its entire existence. The ValleyCats won their first title in 2010, but have lost in the NYPL championship three other times (2004, 2006, and 2012).
“The Joe” sits on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College, and is also the home park of the school’s baseball team. It is named for former New York State Senate Majority Leader, Joseph L. Bruno, as he helped secure funding needed to build the ballpark. The stadium also hosted the MAAC baseball tournament in 2012. Being able to hold 4,500 fans plus additional berm seating and luxury boxes, Bruno Stadium is generally in the upper half of the NYPL attendance ranks. Measuring 325 feet down the lines, and 400 feet to dead center, the Joe provides a good minor league experience.
100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way
Grafton, NY 12052