The ValleyCats have a familiar player from the team’s championship past



TROY – Tri-City ValleyCats wide receiver Oscar Campos had a double take in batting practice before Friday’s home opener at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.

He glanced behind him and saw the mural on a wall that commemorates the ValleyCats’ three titles in the now-defunct New York-Penn League – 2010, 2013 and 2018.

The large photo to the right shows Campos and Jason Bell, then ValleyCats manager, smiling broadly while holding the 2018 Championship trophy.

“I saw the picture and I said, ‘Oh, wow, who is this guy? Who is this guy? ‘ “Campos said with a laugh.” I was really proud of myself and I’m honestly happy to be here. “

Campos is the only player from Tri-City-affiliated days with the Houston Astros to play for this version of the ValleyCats, in their first season with the independent Frontier League.

On Saturday night, Campos went 2 on 4 with a brace as the ValleyCats (1-7) lost their seventh straight game, a 7-5 loss to the New Jersey Jackals in front of 1,501 fans at Bruno Stadium.

“I went to warm up and some of the fans were like, ‘Hello, Oscar, it’s good to see you again,’” Campos said. “It was really nice to see people who believe in you.”

Campos left the Houston organization as a free agent after the 2019 season. He played in his native Venezuela last year before returning to the ValleyCats.

“I want to thank the Tri-City organization for believing in me,” he said. “And I’m here to help the team and give my 100 percent… New people, new faces, but I just have to try to meet each other and make a family. We have a really great team, great guys. We are here to try to win the championship.

He already accomplished it once three years ago. When a center flyout ended the championship series against Hudson Valley at Fishkill, Campos fell to his knees at home plate. He thought of his mother, a diabetic who died of an illness at age 50 in 2017.

“That year was for my mom,” Campos said. “I feel so, how can I say, happy and sad and all – a combination.”

Bell, now the Astros’ fundamentals coordinator, remembered Campos for his throwing arm and ability to block shots.

“I think he was one of the tone givers because he was there from the start,” recalls Bell. “You have a lot of other players coming and going or what it could be, but he showed what we expect from our players, which helps a lot of players coming into the system.”

Still, it wasn’t a good sign for Campos when the Astros drafted wide receiver Korey Lee in the first round of the 2019 Draft, then took on wide receiver CJ Stubbs in the 10th round.

“It’s difficult on the exciting side of things to have a lot of playing time and we had so many new guys that we didn’t know as many, so it was more of those guys who needed a chance and we had already seen (Campos) for a while, ”Bell said.

Campos spent the 2019 season between Single-A Quad Cities and Triple-A Round Rock and hit .300 in 60 games. But the Astros didn’t want him.

“I’m really, really proud of myself because I never quit, I never give up,” Campos said. “I continue to work and work and I am here.”

After his stay in Venezuela, Campos got a call from ValleyCats General Manager Matt Callahan. He started the season on the inactive list due to travel issues. He had to spend a few weeks in Colombia to get his visa.

Since joining the ValleyCats, manager Pete Incaviglia has used Campos as receiver and left fielder.

“I like it,” Incaviglia said. “He’s a really helpful guy. He can play the outfield and he’s obviously a more defensive receiver. I think this will be a guy who will probably play for us every day until he gets hot and someone comes and gets him.

Bell said Campos can return to affiliate baseball if he can hit with more power. Campos said he only focused on baseball and spent all of his time at his foster family’s home or at the baseball stadium.

“For me just keep working and have a little luck and that’s it,” he said.

To note: Keaton Weisz, Carson Maxwell and Denis Phipps hit solo home runs for Tri-City on Saturday.

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