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.
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You can find a wide array of things to nourish your hunger at the ballpark. You can "lead off" with chips or a cookie for $1 and a low price point or advance right to the "meat of the order" with a $2 hot dog or a $4 cheeseburger. As a "closer", get a large soda for just $3.50 or large beer for just $4.50. You don't have to break the bank to feed your family here.
However, a bag of peanuts is $4 and not worth, well, peanuts. Pass on those as they are neither priced right nor tasty. Or bring your own inside the stadium.
If you want a unique variety of things, send a drag bunt down the right field line. Sausage and pepper or brats are $5 each with kraut toppings for an additional $0.50 at Helmbold's Corner.
If you really want to step out, visit Fabulously Fried which offers fried Oreos for $2 and fried dough for $4. On the night I attended, there was mystery item offered. No, I did not try it.
Upgrade your entree choice at Buddy's BBQ (the Godfather of BBQ) deep into the corner in right. Angus burgers start at $5 with a side of salt potatoes added for $2.50. Jumbo hot dogs are $3.75 and worth it.
They also serve a chicken spiedie, but like the nearby Binghamton Mets who serve the regionally pleasing sandwich, the ValleyCats serve their version of it. While the seasoned meat is tasty, it is served on a regular hot dog bun making for a soggy and less-than-delectable treat. I get they are trying to cut corners and drive margin, but come on. Spend another quarter per bun for a densely baked sandwich roll that will keep the entire sandwich tasty and dense. Skip this spiedie and opt for something else.
For beer lovers, there is a choice of Guinness for $5 and the regular domestic beer, but skip it all and keep shopping down the right field line. Right behind third base, you will find a stand serving beer from Brown's Brewing Company, established in Troy, New York in 1993. This is where you want to be for beer.
For unique settings, there is a cozy Tiki Bar down the left field line and a picnic pavilion deep in right, but neither screams necessity. Mingle among these great fans in the seats.
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium is a fantastic place to see a game with all the necessary elements to enjoy watching a game. It starts with ample, free parking in the paved lot which surrounds the main gate, always a nice way to make it inviting for fans.
There are some added touches which make it special starting right outside the gate where just across from the ticket window sits a directional and distance pole indicating the tight relationship the team has to nearby ballclubs and their parent Houston Astros.
As you enter the stadium at concourse level behind home plate, visit the team merchandise store which is just inside to the left of the turnstile. The team continues to ride their Championship with a wide range of price points and unique merchandise sure to satisfy the visiting fan. Team baseballs cost just $5 and t-shirts are $15.
The game program is packed full of information, but at a very odd and large size. The program during my visit was an every bit of 10 inches x 14 inches, a much larger version of what you would expect at most ballparks. Call me crazy, but is not exceeding the 8.5" x 11" standard program size that wrong? It certainly costs more and is quite awkward.
Opposite of the entrance turnstiles and to the right, you will find a display of bats shown as they look during the entire production process. This is a nod to the wood that is grown in New York State and the bats that come from it. It is a very cool twist to what you would likely only expect in Louisville where the Slugger is manufactured.
Once inside the stadium, you will find the entire concourse stretches pretty close from foul pole to foul pole. All seating is below the concourse except for private boxes and the area in left field known as Top of the Hill Bar & Grill behind the digital scoreboard which shows subpar graphics, but no video replay. None of the seats have any overhead cover so during the day, wear a hat or bring an umbrella should storms approach.
The direction from home plate to the pitcher's mound is northeast. The sun sets behind the third base side of the stadium and you would be heading due east as you jump out of the batter's box on a batted ball, an important thing to know as you select your tickets.
Foul lines are 325 from home plate to the wall with a 400-foot distance to straight away center field. The wall is ten feet high surrounded by large planks of advertising double-stacked in most areas. Behind the home run wall sits a thick and lush span of trees setting behind the stadium.
The home team sets up shop with their dugout down the third base line and bullpen behind the left field wall while the visiting team mirrors the hosts on the first base side.
Section 100 is behind home plate. Sections 110 through 350 run down the left field line while sections 120 through 340 run down the right field line. The first digit in those sections indicate the type of seating.
100 series are premium box, 200 series are reserved box and 300 series is Grandstand. There is a grassy berm next to the right field foul pole which is not numbered. If you are trying to avoid the obstruction of the netted backstop, avoid sections 110, 100 and 120.
Sit behind the home dugout in sections 130, 150 or 170 or sit behind the visiting dugout in sections 140, 160 or 180.
There are eight suites which are high above the field and behind the backstop so there is slight obstruction from the screen.
Joseph L. Bruno stadium sits amidst an athletic complex where there is nothing nearby. Save your hunger for the stadium as there are no nearby restaurants.
Certainly a team coming off a Championship in 2010 has a following, but in their 10th season, the ValleyCats were having trouble competing. Still the fans are good sports and knowledgeable. They supported their team all night even though they had dropped out of contention for the playoffs.
There are plenty of restrooms on the concourse and the parking is free. You cannot ask for anything better.
Premium box seats are $11, reserved box seats are $9 and Grandstand seats are $6. Purchase them a day in advance and save $1. Seats for the grassy berm are always $6. Ticket pricing here represents a great value.
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