The only thing better than going to a baseball game is going to a baseball game when you’re supposed to be at school.
Connor Cunningham, an 8-year-old second-grader, wasn’t cutting school Tuesday to be at a rare morning Tri-City ValleyCats game at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium. He was sitting along the third base line with classmates from Van Schaick Elementary School in Cohoes amid thousands of other Capital Region kids from 20 area elementary schools at The Joe for Education Day.
According to Cunningham’s calculations, baseball is much better than a mid-June multiplication lesson.
“Because instead of doing math, you are at a game and you can catch foul balls,” he said. He agreed there are very few if any foul balls in math class.
The high-pitched, squealing crowd of 5,507 was part of a trio of well-attended morning games the ValleyCats host each season (the other two are tied to summer camps). General Manager Rick Murphy said the outings for area schools and camps have roles beyond developing a new crop of minor league fans.
“Not only do we promote baseball, but also the community aspect, while being ambassadors of baseball,” Murphy said.
Educators said the outing is a reward of sorts for students in the final inning of a long school year.
“This is something they look forward to,” said Christina Fourman, a teacher’s aide at Duanesburg Elementary School.
“This is my first baseball game,” added 9-year-old Michael Wilmont of Esperance, a Duanesburg fourth-grader.
Kids chanted a TV theme song and erupted when a ValleyCat stepped to the plate for the first time, but soon the game settled into a gentle hum. There is a lot more at the ballpark for a kid than just a ball game.
“They played ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ between innings, and you have kids screaming the whole song,” outfielder Marc Wik said. “It’s a little different atmosphere.”
By the end of the ninth inning, most of the elementary school kids had left the stands to return to classes. They didn’t see the ValleyCats come up short, 2-1, to the Lowell Spinners.
Manager Ed Romero, in his second season with Tri-City, said an early start that required players to head to the ballpark at 7:30 a.m. after a night game is no excuse for a team.
“We’ve both got to play at 10 o’clock,” he said. “It’s the same for everybody.”