TROY — Presumably, they were cheering for the Tri-City ValleyCats’ most-hyped player.
It was either that . . . or, by the sixth inning of Friday’s season opener against the Vermont Lake Monsters, fans at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium were looking for a free round.
“Let’s go, Beer! Let’s go, Beer!”
In response to the cheers, which carried intermittently throughout his plate appearance, ValleyCats left fielder Seth Beer — the Houston Astros’ latest first-round draft pick — worked a walk.
“You know, you’ve got to enjoy it,” a smiling Beer said of the fans’ reaction to his name. “It was my first day, my first game as a professional. I was smiling, I was grinning a little bit. Kind of had to step out of the box at one point and collect myself and get back into it.”
Beer quickly gave fans a reason to cheer him. In his prior plate appearance, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Beer chugged along the bases after his first professional hit cleared the fence in left-center field for a two-run home run in the ValleyCats’ 11-1 win in front of 4,627.
“That’s the stuff you dream about,” Beer said after his 2-for-4 debut, which also included a double and saw him score three runs.
Through a nice bout of luck, the ValleyCats were ready to capitalize on Beer’s arrival. Available online and in the team’s stadium store, the club has been selling red T-shirts emblazoned with “Beer. Baseball” stacked alongside a graphic of the team’s logo.
“I might have worn [one] to the field underneath a jacket, but nobody knows that,” Beer said. “I was pretty stoked when they gave me one of the shirts. . . . My dad wants one so bad, so I’m going to have to give him one.”
But . . . the shirts have nothing do with Beer.
“That’s just a shirt we’ve wanted to do for the past few years and our assistant general manager Michelle Skinner — she picks out all the merchandise out and decides what to put in the team store — orders everything starting in February or early spring,” ValleyCats spokesman Chris Chenes said with a laugh. “So those shirts were ordered months ago.”
Since the Astros tapped Beer for an assignment with Tri-City, though, the ValleyCats have ordered a second round of the inadvertently perfect tees. One of Beer’s first acts as a ValleyCat was to throw on one of the shirts for a picture the team posted on social media.
“We needed to get his picture in that shirt,” Chenes said. “Now we’re just hoping he sticks around for a bit.”
Against Vermont, Beer showed why he might not last long in the New York-Penn League. Besides one great game with the ValleyCats, Beer produced all spring for Clemson University, where he slugged 22 home runs in 63 games.
As a team, the ValleyCats hit three home runs in their 2018 debut, with first baseman Luis Encarnacion and third baseman Kyle Davis also homering. Chad Donato earned the win for Tri-City with six innings of work during which the run he allowed was unearned.
Beer signed his contract Wednesday with the Astros and arrived Thursday in the Capital Region. ValleyCats manager Jason Bell only met Beer approximately 24 hours before slotting him to hit No. 2 in his lineup, but the 27-year-old manager took a quick liking to the 21-year-old prospect’s work ethic.
“He really likes to learn,” Bell said. “I felt like this was a great fit for an organization for him.”
The Astros took Beer with the No. 28 overall selection, seven picks after the Milwaukee Brewers passed on the aptly named outfielder. The ValleyCats only found out last weekend that Beer would head their way, so the club — busy with Opening Day preparations — hasn’t had time yet to plan out any promotions related to the player’s name.
“But that will be a conversation we have in the office as soon as we have some down time,” Chenes said.
Beer needs time to settle in after a whirlwind week, too. He’s thrilled, though, to be living his dream as a professional baseball player.
“At the end of the day,” Beer said, “this game is meant for 11-year-olds. You’ve got to play like one sometimes.”
After he was drafted, Seth Beer said Evan Gattis reached out to him.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) June 16, 2018
Gattis likes the name. pic.twitter.com/fIwITx9AUR
After the Astros drafted Beer, he was stunned to see Evan Gattis — a veteran on the Astros — had followed him on Twitter . . . and more stunned to see Gattis had sent him a direct message.
“You’ve got the best name in baseball,” it read.
Vermont 100 000 000 — 1 5 1
Tri-City 202 124 00X — 11 8 1
Kelly, Kohler (5), Lebron (6) and Akau; Donato, Garcia (7), Tejada (8) and Campos.