TROY — Although rain may have washed out Friday night’s Tri-City ValleyCats game against the Lowell Spinners, the 2017 World Series trophy was kept dry inside the suites at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
As part of their World Series trophy display tour, the Houston Astros brought their 2017 hardware to the Capital Region for players and fans to feast their eyes on. The ValleyCats were the next affiliate in line to pay tribute to their major league club as the Class A New York-Penn League affiliate of the World Series champion Houston Astros.
ValleyCats General Manager Matt Callahan believes bringing the trophy to each affiliate shows how the Astros built a championship team from within the organization and how their plan turned into success.
“The Astros in particular are an organization that really built from within their farm system,” said Callahan, proudly wearing his World Series ring. “There were some lean years at the big league level where they were investing in the draft and they were investing in the development model and they continued to do that.”
Callahan went on to say, “I think bringing the trophy to the affiliates shows how that has come full circle and really shows how the players that played a key role in the World Series championship with Jose Altuve, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, I think it’s great for the Astros to show that process and where it begins, the steps along the way and then what the end result can be.”
Altuve, Springer and Keuchel were three of five former ValleyCats on the Astros World Series roster, along with Derek Fisher and Joe Musgrove. While the current ValleyCats were able to take pictures with the Astros World Series trophy in a private session, Callahan had some thoughts about what it may have meant to them.
“I think to some degree it makes it real for them, especially when they know some of those guys have been in the same clubhouse and the same dugout and gone through the same grind, struggle and challenge to adjust to professional baseball,” Callahan said. “They can see the work they are putting in now has an end result that you can get to.”
Callahan mentioned how excited the players were to get a glimps at what comes with success in the MLB. However, before the excitement came a moment of appreciation.
“To start off it was almost a reverence, it was almost a quiet respect,” Callahan said. “Like you might see when you go into the Hall of Fame and you see some of the memorabilia from the older generations of players, but there seemed to be a respect for the history and effort and process that went into it which I thought was pretty neat.”
— Tri-City ValleyCats (@ValleyCats) August 3, 2018
With a rich baseball history in the Capital Region, Callahan believes the ValleyCats’ ties with the World Series champion Astros have added yet another piece of history to the area.
“I think there is a lot of fantastic baseball history in the Capital Region, there’s a lot of baseball fans that expand generations and I think seeing the Astros grow and expand and the path through the Capital Region is just another piece of the puzzle for the history of baseball in the Capital Region.”
The Capital Region is home to primarily New York Yankees/Mets and Boston Red Sox fans. However, the approximate 1,750 miles between Joseph L. Bruno Stadium and Minute Maid Park, the home of the Astros, doesn’t make a difference to ‘Cats fans in the area, according to Callahan.
“One thing that we learned over the past couple of years as the Astros started to be competitive and make the playoffs, and of course the World Series run last year, was that if it was head-to head, Yankees and Astros, the Yankees fans are going to root for the Yankees unquestionably,” Callahan said. “But beyond that there is a connection here so there were a lot of people excited to see the Astros win the World Series because they remember when those guys were here. I think that connection to a certain point kind of transcends the color of the uniform and becomes more of a personal rooting preference and translates even to the biggest stage.”
Although the 518 is filled with Yankees, Mets and Red Sox fans, Callahan took note of the support the Astros had from those in the Capital Region throughout their World Series run thanks to the ValleyCats ties with the Astros.
“I think the ValleyCats fans track the guys and where they go, even as they make their way through the ranks (the fans) will know what the players are doing in Corpus Christi and Fresno and know what they are doing in the big leagues,” Callahan said. “I think last year seeing them on the World Series stage, it was a special year for Houston too with the devastation and the flooding so I think that made it even more reason to get behind them and support the team and city to win. But it was neat to see the outpouring support for the former ValleyCats players and channeling that up to the Astros.”