The Tri-City Valleycats opened their 12th season of play Monday night, picking up right where they'd left off last season, when they won their 4th Stedler Division title. The difference is, in addition to the annual player turnover, the entire on-field management team had changed as well.
Stubby Clapp was promoted after 2 seasons as manager, taking pitching coach Gary Ruby with him. Another ex-big leaguer, Ed Romero, who'd logged time with Milwaukee, Boston, Atlanta, & Detroit in his playing days, took over, and the results, at least on opening night, were fabulous, as Tri-City dispatched Vermont, 9-3.
It was just a month ago when Tony Kemp was lighting up the basepaths in the NCAA baseball tournament for Vanderbilt. The 'Cats and their fans are happy to have him playing 2nd base and leading off. Kemp got off to a fast start, going 3-4 with a run scored and 2 RBI's. A couple of Little Leaguers seated behind me wondered if he's related to Los Angeles Dodgers star Matt Kemp. I think so, but I'm not entirely certain.
Not every seat in the house was filled, but the afternoon rains had long since passed, and a brief sun shower early in the game didn't deter the action, barely noticed by the players. For no reason other than to call attention to their own sorry selves, a couple of drunken adults began razzing Vermont left fielder B. J. Boyd, but couldn't get his attention, which makes Boyd smarter than the idiots in the stands. I've a feeling there may be more of this as the season progresses.
Given that the Valleycats had come together as a team so quickly, after barely a week of training camp, perhaps the 'Cats can achieve a first this year. That being, back-to-back division titles. If last night was an indicator, it's certainly possible. However, I'm not too keen on the parent Houston Astros playing keep away with the media on certain roster details. The only thing I can figure is that new Astros owner Jim Crane isn't pulling something from the Bill Belichick CIA wannabe playbook, but rather his player development people just weren't sure until just a couple of days before the opener who'd be on the roster. Troy ain't exactly a media capital, like scandal-crazy New York, but the 'Cats have built more than a decade of goodwill & trust with their fans, knowing that such ersatz cloak & dagger stuff will be under-reported instead of micro-analyzed.
One game is but a small sample, and the 'Cats have 2 months and change to go. It's going to be a fun summer. Like, it's better than fussing through the morass that the WWE has become..........