June 22, 2018
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium (Capacity: 4,500)
Tri-City ValleyCats vs Lowell Spinners
Final Score: 4 – 11
Two years ago, I had my first rainout of a ballpark visit, so I took advantage of unusual circumstances to head back up to Troy on a spur of the moment trip. The city makes up the Capital District in Eastern New York and the “Tri-City” team nickname also represents Albany and Schenectady. As for Troy, it has a population of 50,000 and sits on the other side of the Hudson River. After early prosperity in the iron, steel and clothing industry, Troy experienced a general dilapidation and became downtrodden for the latter half of the 20th century. It remains a city that experiences challenges in poverty (accounting for nearly 25% of the population) and crime rate. Still, the Collar City has things going for it which include an architecturally diverse downtown that is increasing with trendy restaurants and one of the best tech schools in the country in RPI that has helped grow the economy. The local baseball team is the ValleyCats and they moved to the area from Pittsfield in 2002. They play in the NY-Penn League (Single A) and have been quite successful with 6 playoff appearances and 2 league titles (’10 and ’13). Troy’s debut in the league coincided with the opening of Joseph L. Bruno Stadium in 2002.
Prestige Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
The ballpark is on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College, which is on the very southern edge of Troy’s boundary. In fact, part of the ballpark is technically in the town of North Greenbush. The college is on Route 4 and it overall is a quieter area that features a few newer strip malls here and there. A couple of them have restaurants, including Junior’s, a large and popular bar/grill that was very crowded when I stopped in before the game on a Friday.
Location Ranking: 4 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Getting to Route 4 comes simply from nearby Interstates 90 and 787, though the 3-minute trek from the latter uses a few hilly roads. Signage to the stadium is pretty good and the college offers adequate parking. Paved lots nearest to the ballpark fill up quite fast as I arrived an hour before the game and they were close to full already. This leads to attendants directing cars to the lots (or garage) that are further out, about a 5-10-minute walk to the gate. Traffic wasn’t much of an issue, just be aware of the state government-led traffic that clogs the roads in the Albany area after 5 PM on a weekday.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 7.5 out of 8
The structure itself may not be all that appealing, but the area around it is. Really nice landscaping frames the walkways as the combination of flowers and shrubs makes for a pleasant walk to the main gates. As for the ballpark, walls are made of brick that varies between a dull brown / tan color and the top framework (specifically on the suite-level) is a faded green, which doesn’t help the visuals. Silver lettering for the stadium name has a bold font and it is placed above the entrance to the Southpaw Den (team store). One suggestion: I love how they have games of cornhole set up on the outside, but can this be moved to a different spot so it is not right in the middle of where people walk in?
Exterior Ranking: 6 out of 10
Fans enter The Joe behind home plate into a bit of a covered area that features the team store to the left and a bar to the right. I like the use of that space as the game on the field can be seen while at the same time enjoying a drink in a traditional bar set-up. The concourse rings the ballpark above the seating bowl and unfortunately most of it is exposed as the suite/press level is set too far back to produce overhead cover. Building color on the far side is a sort of gray and the walls occasionally have red, white and blue banners around in a funky design. Walkway space looks wide enough, but I found myself several times feeling crowded as the area was often filled. Bathrooms were also surprisingly tight. The ballpark did offer some concourse space for alternative seating that was nice, albeit small. This included the Tiki Hut Bar, the Tap Room at Brown’s and two picnic areas that bookend the park. An expansive Fun Zone offered a lot for the kiddies.
Concourse Ranking: 3 out of 5
Near the front entrance, there is a sign that shows every food option at The Joe and where to find it. I wish more stadiums would do this and it is a welcomed direction for the hungry fan. They don’t do anything crazy with the food here, but they have several variations of the main theme at each stand. For example, A Mac & Cheese concession has 5 options as does the Taco Stand. Bonus points for the pizza coming from their own brick oven and the hot dogs being from Troy’s local variety with Helmbold chili sauce. Buddy’s had the best and most popular burgers and they also (strangely) offered other regional delicacies (Salt Potatoes – Syracuse, Spiedies – Binghamton). Beverage choices were boosted by Nine Pin Cider and Brown’s Brewing Company, which had 6 offerings including ValleyCat Ale.
Food Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
Inside is a type of seating bowl that I’ve complained about many times before: one that features a large number of sections and a small number of rows. This leads to many seats that are along the outfield, far from the action and not facing the main area of play. Here, seating nearly reaches the foul pole and the rows number just 10-15 throughout the park. Sections towards the ends do angle inwards slightly, but not enough to make a difference. Another problem at The Joe is the very slight incline to each row. Sightlines are poor and that was accentuated by the guy in front of me, whose head was in my way. On the positive side, the green seats have enough space and many include cupholders. Ten luxury suites are contained in the aforementioned box set well above, yet behind, the concourse. The outfield view consists of plenty of trees, though it is worth pointing out that the small grassy areas in left and right are quite worn and tired.
Interior Ranking: 5 out of 14
Left field is the location of the scoreboard at The Joe and it is one of the nicest in the league with a display that has video. It’s small, but the video touch is a nice one and it is periodically used for in-between inning promotions. As the game is going on, the stat screen is adequate. Below, is a line score that uses red numbers, making it easier to see in the setting sun. There is no ballpark name or special design feature on the scoreboard as the top header is taken up by Berkshire Bank.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3 out of 4
The ValleyCats have a fair number of displays around the stadium and there are also a nice amount of subtle ones too. My favorite area is around the home plate entrance, particularly near the bar, where the Wall of Champions is painted red and each division/league title is prominently displayed. There’s also a large team picture celebrating one of Tri-City’s championships. Other wall displays include “From The Joe to The Show” and an “All-Time Team”. The little things add up nicely here like the little paws on the walkway, the display on bats made by New York State wood and a section on the history of area teams in the team shop. Speaking of the Southpaw Den, it has a lot of Astros gear and that coincided with lots of promoting for Houston throughout the park. Given that they just won the World Series, it’s a good time for that and I did see a few around the park wearing Orange and Blue. I loved the 430 feet sign on an outfield building that also said “79 Altuves” next to it. Jose Altuve played here in 2009.
Displays Ranking: 4 out of 6
Free parking…yea! Tri-City rates quite well in this category as most tickets are $9-$11, though they go up a bit on the day of the game. Programs are free and the concessions are relatively inexpensive for ballpark food. A cheeseburger is $4.50, hot dog: $3.50, small fountain sodas are less than $3 and the most expensive beer is $7.
Cost Ranking: 8 out of 8
The Joe filled up nicely as I would estimate a decent crowd of about 3,500 on this Friday Night. The last several seasons have seen the ValleyCats rank second in the NYPL attendance standings behind only Brooklyn. They also have the highest playoff average over the last 5 seasons.
Fan Support Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
Fan numbers rate well, but the atmosphere did not as I just did not feel it for this game. The amount of people getting up and down during minor-league baseball games is many and that is to be expected. It happened more than normal at The Joe and that is saying something. More annoying was the handful of people who decided to stop on the steps and have a conversation while the game was going on or better yet, stop in their tracks and ponder for a second. Argh!!! More proof of the lack of attention (or caring) was the loud cheer that went up for the rundown that led to an eventual out. Mind you this came after two runs scored, which was of little cause for concern. At the plate, hits were initially met with gentle, scattered applause, though this did get better as there was more legit cheering for home team success during the middle innings. I became increasingly annoyed with the crowd and tried to seek refuge with the few hardcore fans keeping score in Section 100.
Atmosphere Ranking: 5 out of 14
Troy is the official birthplace of the person that Uncle Sam was based on. That’s why you will find roaming the ballpark a man on stilts dressed in red, white and blue from head to toe. He does his job, but can get annoying given the amount of times he stands on the dugout during play….Seating sections have an interesting pattern as they are grouped by type/ticket price. The Premium’s are 100s and they go by intervals of 10. Sections 120, 140, 160 go off to the left and 110, 130, 150 go to the right. The same pattern continues down the seating bowl with Reserved sections being in the 200s and Grandstand seats numbered in the 300s……The ValleyCats logo could use an update….A rarity: No Pepsi or Coca-Cola here, it’s RC Cola.
It was a beatdown on the home team as starter Juan Robles gave up seven runs in three innings. A stupid infield shift got the ball rolling for Lowell as a huge gap on the left-side of the infield led to the first couple runs. The Spinners began with a 9-0 lead after just four innings and they had no trouble winning 11-4. Lowell’s Tyler Esplin had 5 RBI.