TROY, NY – Following the conclusion of the ValleyCats 2021 season, slugger Denis Phipps determined to proceed his season with the Atlantic League’s Lexington Legends, in Kentucky.
After the ValleyCats closing recreation this yr, as a substitute of on the lookout for extra baseball to play, Phipps headed dwelling to the Dominican Republic wanting ahead to being along with his household for his younger daughter’s birthday.
Whereas Phipps intends to play winter ball in Venezuela, the 37-year-old isn’t positive if that might be his closing season, or if he’ll return to Tri-Metropolis subsequent spring.
“I do not know. I do not know. The winter ball season again dwelling, I am unsure if that is going to be my final one,” Phipps stated. “I’ve received quite a lot of issues occurring again dwelling with my household and baseball academy. We’ll see.”
This season Phipps led the Frontier League with 33 dwelling runs and was tied for a second in RBI, with 91. He posted a .296 batting common, whereas additionally stealing ten bases.
“That we did not make the playoffs,” Phipps stated on what he’ll take away from this season. “I have been on so many groups, I feel this workforce had the items to have gone far within the playoffs. Generally it was pitching. Generally it was protection. Generally it was hitting. I simply do not suppose we ever had the mixture.”
Tri-Metropolis completed the yr with an total file of 54-41, lacking the ultimate playoff spot by two video games. In 2021, the ‘Cats had been eradicated from playoff competition on the ultimate day of the common season.
“I feel we put collectively a reasonably good season, particularly put up all-star break, however we got here up just a little quick this yr,” stated nearer Trey Cochran-Gill. “You take a look at the place we’re at, the expertise we’ve, I really feel like we’re proper on the high of the league. Having that skid proper earlier than the all-star break actually damage us, wanting again on it.”
The ValleyCats had a stretch from July 6-17, proper earlier than the all-star break, the place they went 2-9. Additionally they misplaced 5 straight video games from August 24-28, placing a dent within the playoff push.
For Phipps, he’ll now flip his consideration to his household and his baseball academy within the Dominican Republic, which is geared in the direction of younger gamers ages 12 to fifteen.
“I’ve two stunning daughters and my boy, and I am at all times comfortable to see them after being away. The long run, you by no means know. I stay within the current,” he stated. “That is the robust half. I miss them they usually know they’re missed. I be sure I speak to them every single day.”
This may even mark Phipps’ fifth yr working with the children at his academy, which he runs out of the Robinson Cano facility in San Pedro de Macoris.
“I like it. That is my ardour, working with the children,” Phipps stated. “Even the ValleyCats too, if I get an opportunity to assist out one of many guys right here, I attempt to assist them.”
After his two seasons at ‘The Joe,’ Phipps is the ValleyCats all-time chief with 54 dwelling runs, 153 RBI and 194 hits.
“If this was it for him, what an unbelievable expertise it has been for us to have him as a part of our first two years in unbiased baseball,” stated Common Supervisor Matt Callahan. “He is a man who performed within the huge leagues and got here in there to be a pacesetter for our clubhouse, led the league in dwelling runs set a bunch of data right here. It has been fairly particular. He is anyone that I am going to undoubtedly at all times bear in mind after I look again on my profession. We’re hopeful that he’ll nonetheless have an itch to play and are available again for yet another.”
“If I am nonetheless capable of be in form, why not? I will be 38 subsequent yr,” Phipps added. “This yr I have been DHing a lot of the video games, however I prefer to play. I inform Pete (Incaviglia), simply put me on the market. It helps me keep in form.”
“We’re hoping quite a lot of them come again,” Callahan added. “Hopefully a few of them get signed by MLB organizations, but when not, I feel we’ll have a great nucleus coming again.”
BRANTLEY BELL MVP
On the conclusion of the 2022 common season, ValleyCats’ second baseman Brantley Bell was named the Frontier League’s Most Helpful Participant.
He led the league with a .368 batting common and picked up 138 hits, six away from the league’s all-time file for hits in a season. The infielder, who was launched by the Cincinnati Reds group following the 2021 season, had a chip on his shoulders this yr.
“It was actually, am I adequate to play on the subsequent degree? Am I adequate to get to the massive leagues? Issues like that,” Bell stated. “Clearly this is not the massive leagues, however doing what I did this yr and having the help of everybody round me, simply helped out tremendously.”
“To start with of the yr, my dad informed me, ‘exit and be one of the best’. Getting the MVP actually simply proved to myself that I used to be at my greatest this yr. It is a actually cool factor to do, coming from a spot the place I had some doubts about components of my recreation. After I was capable of actually play every single day and present it off, it was a extremely cool expertise for me this season.”
Bell’s father, Jay, who’s a former main league shortstop, even frolicked teaching with the ValleyCats this season, getting a first-hand take a look at his son’s MVP season.
As Bell seems to the longer term, he is hoping his standout season will garner the eye of an MLB affiliated membership.
“I might hope so,” he stated of getting again to affiliated ball. “I feel I’ve confirmed that I can do it. Generally folks take a look at unbiased baseball just a little otherwise, however I can not inform you may have many arms I confronted that they had been low-to-mid-90s and a few guys even larger. That is what you may see in affiliated baseball; it is actually the identical recreation.”
It is no secret that the ValleyCats attendance is down from the place it was in 2019, to time earlier than COVID-19 and when the ‘Cats had been nonetheless the low-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.
“Total, I feel it was a strong season for us, each on the sector and with attendance,” Callahan stated. “On the sector we clearly got here up with a pair video games in need of making the playoffs, which was our purpose. Attendance sensible, I do not suppose we received fairly to three,000 – which was our purpose – however we had been shut. It is most likely round 2,900. It provides us a great alternative to construct as we proceed to be taught this new mannequin and get again to a extra regular operation.”
A key distinction between the previous New York-Penn League and the Frontier League, is that the season now begins over a month earlier, that means extra bills and extra seats to fill. A problem being, seats are robust to fill throughout the week whereas college remains to be in session.
“Our attendance went up each month from Might to June, July and August with the couple video games in September coupled in with August,” Callahan stated. “It is a good step ahead and I am wanting ahead to proceed to develop.”
For Cochran-Gill, if the 30-year-old reduction pitcher is not picked up by an MLB group, he intends on being again subsequent season, in addition to supervisor Pete Incaviglia, who introduced his return on the ultimate day of the common season.
“I prefer it right here.” Cochran-Gill stated. “I feel it is top-of-the-line setups within the league, simply based mostly on how they deal with you, the services, that kind of stuff. The sector is superior.”