League: Eastern League (Double-A)
Affiliation: Detroit Tigers
Home Field: Jerry Uht Park
Fun Facts: The Erie Seawolves started out up in Welland, Ontario as the Welland Pirates, affiliated with Pittsburg, and played in the short season NY-Penn League. The Pirates relocated to Erie in 1995 to become the Seawolves. This move caused the Frontier League franchise Erie Sailors to move themselves, over to Jamestown, NY. There was another Sailors team in Erie, who also played in the NY-Penn League, but they relocated to become the Hudson Valley Renegades before the independent team used the Sailors name. The Seawolves were upgraded to Double-A status when the Eastern League added two new teams in 1999. They became affiliated with the Angels after the upgrade for two seasons, then signed with the Detroit Tigers in 2001. Since 2003, the team has been rumored for another relocation, but upgrades to Jerry Uht Park have kept the team in place for now. Their mascot is named C. Wolf, and can be seen all over Jerry Uht Park, and in the Erie community. I’m really looking forward to visiting Erie, and taking in my first Seawolves game this summer. Seeing another Tigers affiliate will be a plus also, as many Whitecaps alumni will probably be in the lineup.
Notable Alumni: Justin Verlander, Alex Avila, Curtis Granderson, Omar Infante, John Lackey, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross
Over the weekend our own Fox Sports Detroit Girls, Stephanie and Angela, paid a visit to the Kalamazoo Women’s Life Style Expo. Here’s a description for the Expo’s website:
‘The Women’s Lifestyle Expo is Kalamazoo County’s premier event created for women by women. The Expo features businesses, communities, artists, workshops and celebrities from the greater Kalamazoo area including Portage, Mattawan, Schoolcraft, Richland, Vicksburg, Paw Paw, Plainwell, Otsego and Battle Creek’
Wow, lots of familiar towns on that list for sure. We have lots of family in Battle Creek, used to live in Richland, and played against the likes of Mattawan and Paw Paw in Little League when I played for Kellogg’s (yes, THAT Kellogg’s, the cereal). It seemed the FSD Girls had a great time, especially when they were visiting with the Girl Scouts, and representatives of the Kalamazoo Growlers. Entering their first season, the Growlers will be playing in the Northwoods League along with the Battle Creek Bombers this season at Homer Stryker Field. We are very much going to try to make down to K-zoo for a game this season. We never had a chance to visit there when the Kalamazoo Kings were playing in the Frontier League. It would be great if we ran into the FSD Girls at a game this summer, too. They didn’t make any appearances at any of the minor league ballparks here in Michigan last summer for some reason. Maybe they’ll be at the Midwest League All-Star Game this June (ordering tickets for that this week!). Anyway, just very happy that baseball is starting up, and April can’t come soon enough.
Photo courtesy of the Fox Sports Detroit Girls/Kalamazoo Growlers
Langbehn to Cleveland: Manager Gregg Langbehn has left the Beach Bums organization to take a job with the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball. He will be in charge of the new instant replay system in Cleveland, and report to the Indians’ bench on what calls should be challenged. He’s worked in organized baseball with the Houston Astros, but not at the major league level.
“It’s an incredible opportunity and challenge to be in the big leagues and one that I couldn’t pass up,” Langbehn stated on the Beach Bums website. “I’m really excited about it.”
Langbehn is the most successful manager in Beach Bums history, compiling a record of 267-212 in his five-year run with the club. He led the Bums to three playoff appearances including the Frontier League championship series in 2010. His 2012 season was one for the record books, as the Bums’ 64 wins was the third most in league history, and the best record for the organization. He was named the 2012 Frontier League Manager of the Year, and managed the 2012 and 2013 East All-Star teams.
Team president and CEO Jason Wuerfel also stated on the Bums website: “I’m excited. Any time a player or one of our coaches moves on it’s a real compliment to our organization and the area. We sincerely thank Gregg for the job he’s done over the last five years and we part ways as friends.”
Rohn promoted: With Langbehn leaving for Cleveland, this opened the door for bench coach Dan Rohn to take the helm of the Beach Bums. He started with TC in 2011 as a special assistant, then was promoted to bench coach in 2013. He is a native of Alpena, Michigan, and played ball down at Central Michigan University for the Chippewas. Rohn played in the pros for 13 seasons, including three in the majors. He began his minor league coaching career back in 1990 as hitting coach for the Triple-A Portland Beavers. Rohn went on to become a four-time MiLB Manager of the Year winner, in the Double-A Eastern League (2000), and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (2001, 2004, and 2005). He worked in the bigs with the Seattle Mariners as an administrative coach, and last managed the Triple-A Las Vegas 51′s of the PCL in 2010. This seems to be a great situation for both Rohn, and Traverse City.
“I’d really like to thank the Wuerfel family for the opportunity. I love the chance to work in the city that I live in,” Rohn stated on their website. “We have a strong ball club coming in this year; I’m really looking forward to putting a winning team on the field.”
It’s by great coincidence that Rohn was residing in TC, and that his wife teaches at a nearby arts academy. Matt Pulley will return as the Bums hitting coach, but the rest of Rohn’s staff has yet to be named. Jason Wuerfel seems very thankful that Rohn was available, also, as stated on the website.
“We are very fortunate to have a manager with his qualifications. There are a lot of good managers in this league but none with the experience Dan has. Dan will manage the team professionally on and off the field; the timing is perfect, we are just very fortunate.”
Again, this seems like a win-win situation for all involved. We’d like to wish all the best to Langbehn in his new journey, and we’ll be at Wuerfel Park cheering on Rohn and his Beach Bums whenever we get a chance this summer.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. San Antonio Rampage
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: After a fun afternoon at the West Michigan Whitecaps’ Open House, and a great meal at Enza’s Pizza, we made out way to the Van Andel Arena for an evening of AHL hockey featuring the home town Griffins taking on San Antonio. The Griffins won the Calder Cup last season, and were out to their best start ever in 2013, but injuries to parent club the Detroit Red Wings have depleted the roster here in GR. The Griffins still have a lot of fight in them, though, and it was fun to finally make it down to a game this season. The kids really like Van Andel Arena, also, as it’s the biggest one they’ve had a chance to visit so far. They also had a free hockey figure promotion, and we all know how much kids love getting free stuff. Brian finally got to meet one of the Griffins’ mascots, so he was all his glory at that point.
The game itself was a rough one for the hometown Griffins, as they got spanked 3-0 by San Antonio. They really just didn’t look like a typical Grand Rapids team, and made too many mistakes. The only stand out player was Petr Mrazek in net, who made 22 saves on the night, but was hung out to dry on the three Rampage goals. Head coach, and Sault Ste. Marie native, Jeff Blashill should have this team back to their winning ways by next weekend, though. The games are always a little more fun with a win like they did for us last season, but we still had a great time together. I’m not sure if we’ll make it down to another game this season, but if not we surely wish the Griffins luck on another championship run. Looking over the Whitecaps schedule, I was hoping to find a baseball/hockey double-header we could go to, but their games just don’t match up. All together, another day with the kids and my dad that I’m extremely thankful for.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Yes, I know there is still about ten feet of snow on the ground, but that fact couldn’t keep us from visiting Fifth Third Ballpark over the weekend. The West Michigan Whitecaps held a special Open House for their fans. There were many fun things going on, and the kids and I really had a good time despite the cold. In Michigan, the weather can always be worse, so at least the sun was out for us. Outside, Brian really enjoyed the carnival rides, Trevor showed off his throwing arm, and Lily taught her little brother how to make s’mores! Inside the Pepsi Stadium Club, we enjoyed some free hot dogs, and I was able to purchase some tickets for opening day and another weekend in April. We also got to interact with the Whitecaps’ mascots, Crash and Franky. Crash is all excited, because they will be joined by a female River Rascal on opening day. I was able to get some pictures of the progress of the ballpark reconstruction, also. I really couldn’t believe how many fans showed up, and even the staff on had been a little blown away by the attendance. We all had a great time, and again, it was just nice to get out to the ballpark, no matter what time of year it is.
The Lake Superior State University Lakers kicked off the 2014 season with their annual ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ spaghetti dinner this weekend. The kids and I had a fun time, and proceeds go to the team to help fund their trip to California on February 27. While out west, the girls start their journey at Vanguard, while also visiting La Sierra, Concordia, Cal State San Marcos, Hope International, and Azusa Pacific. The Lakers are scheduled for their first home stand on March 22 against Ohio Dominican, but I think we’ll still have about ten feet of snow on the ground, so we’ll see how that goes! I hope they get some home games in this season, though. Due to the numerous softball/baseball clinics the kids have attended, along with other college functions, the kids have gotten to know a few of the players, and always feel good when they say hi. The dinner also gave us a chance to wish them luck on the coming season. You can view the Lakers full schedule HERE.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Parrish to mange Erie: Lance Parrish is back in the Detroit Tigers organization. In what seems to be the final game of the Tigers’ minor league manager roulette, the former catcher will take the reigns of the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. Parrish’s last managerial job was with the Great Lakes Loons back in 2007. He led them to a 57-82 record, despite having Clayton Kershaw in the rotation. From 1999-2001, he served as the Tigers’ bullpen and third base coach under managers Larry Parrish (now with the Mud Hens) and Phil Garner. He was also the bullpen coach from 2003-06 under Alan Trammel. He really didn’t think he’d have another chance at a job in baseball until Al Avila gave him a call last week.
“What can I bring to this job? I can just bring me,” Parrish told the Detroit News. “My desire is to be the very best at my job and try to help the players out the best I can.
I’ve always felt I develop a good rapport with the players, whether in the minors or the majors.”
As a player, Parrish played most of his career in Detroit, helping the team win the 1984 World Series, was a six-time All-Star, and won three gold gloves behind the plate. Although he regretted leaving Detroit to play for Philly, among other teams, he always wanted a job back in Detroit.
“I always consider myself a Detroit Tiger,” Parrish said. “Even when I went to Philly, I didn’t want to go to Philly. After I was gone a year or two, I was hoping some time or way the Tigers would get me back.”
We had the opportunity to meet Parrish back when he was with the Loons, and he was nice enough to sign some baseball cards for the kids. We wish him the best with the SeaWolves this season, and look forward to seeing him back on the field while we’re in Erie this June.
Brookens retires: Someone who didn’t seem to be interested in the Erie job was Tom Brookens, who told the Detroit Free Press yesterday that he was retired. He was not asked to join new Tiger manager Brad Ausmus’ staff after spending the last four years under Jim Leyland as first and third base coach.
“I talked with a couple of teams,” Brookens told the Press. “There was basically minor league positions available, and that was it.”
He did talk to the Tigers about different jobs in the organization, but decided that if he couldn’t work in the major leagues, it was time to spend time at home with family. As a player, Brookens was also part of the 1984 Championship team with Parrish and Trammel. He played in Detroit from 1979-1988. He also managed in the Tiger system, as skipper for the Oneonta Tigers from 2005-06, Whitecaps in 2007 (leading them to the Midwest League championship), and Erie from 2008-09. We wish him all the best in his retirement. We were also lucky enough to meet him during his time in West Michigan, and he was great to the fans, and to my kids!
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
The off-season is a time to reflect in the season past, and at the same time look to the future. With sports in general, fans have always conversed on the ‘what if?’ factor, and I’ve been contemplating an idea for months now, ever since last season’s baseball trip. First, let me state that my two favorite Minor League’s are the Midwest League and the South Atlantic League. The MWL has three teams here in Michigan, and is where my hometown team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, reside. We also attend some Great Lakes Loons games over in Midland, and that is a great venue, also. In fact, I’ve been to every stadium in the MWL except two, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. We’ll get back to those teams momentarily, as they’re important. As for the SALly league, through work training down in Charleston and southern Georgia, I’ve was able to attend a few games of the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Charleston Riverdogs. During my baseball trip to North and South Carolina last year, I was able to visit another five SAL towns. Through my experience, these leagues have a lot in common. Between the two, we can see some of the best logos, nicknames, and mascots in all of sports. Both have teams in some great towns, with stadiums ranging from state-of-the-art, to simple and classic. Some of the best baseball fans we’ve had the luxury of interacting with attend games of these great leagues. Oh, the MWL and the SALly league have one more thing in common: they are the only two Single-A league. Now, I know there is short season and advanced ‘A’ league, but these two are just plain ol’ Single-A. The only two. These two league also have a link, so let us back up to two teams mentioned earlier, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Captains organization played in the South Atlantic League from 1991-2009, hosting their All-Star Game in 2006. The franchise started out in Columbus, Georgia, as the Columbus Indians (1991) and RedStixx. The franchise moved up to Eastlake, Ohio in 2003 and became the Captains. Lake County joined the Midwest League in 2010 with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Hot Rods were previously the Columbus Catfish up until 2009, and the two northern most teams jumped to the MWL to alleviate travel expenses.
So, now that the link between the two has been established the fun can begin. We can ask ourselves ‘what if the teams from these leagues played each other?’, and if so, ‘in what capacity?’. Due to the aforementioned travel expenses, any interleague play between the two is illogical, so we’ll just scrap that right away. It could be possible to have a Single-A All-Star Game, pitting the MWL against the SAL, but I don’t care for that, either. It may work at the Triple-A level, but I don’t like it for this one. What I would purpose is to have a simple championship series between the two leagues. For the Triple-A National Championship, they have a pre-determined neutral site to hold the event, and the winners of the International and Pacific Coast League play a one game winner-take-all. This could work at the Single-A level, also, and would ensure the fans of every team to have the opportunity to witness the championship game, and be exposed to the other Single-A league. Another route would be to have a three game series, with game one and games two and/or three at each of the participating teams’ stadiums. Last season, the Quad Cities River Bandits won the Midwest, while the Sand Gnats reigned supreme in the SAL. What an amazing series this would make, and not for just the prospects involved. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting both Modern Woodman Park with its breath taking sight lines in right field, and Historic Grayson Stadium, where you can feel the ghosts of baseball past when you enter the gates. What if the Loons would wind up playing the Greensboro Grasshoppers at some point? It would be awesome to cover the games from both ends with my buddies from Hoppers Fan, with both teams having phenomenal venues and fantastic community support. On a personal note, what if my transfer down south is granted next year, and the ‘Caps end up opposing the Greenville Drive. Where would my loyalties lie between my birth city and my adopted home? Although the possibilities my be endless, the one fact that stands out is this would be a win-win situations for all baseball fans involved, as well as the teams from both historic leagues. It would also be fun to see a game like this featured on MiLB.tv or the MLB Network. This is still nothing but a pipe dream, but it’s fun to imagine who the first team might be to win the ‘Minoring In Baseball Cup’…
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
The Arizona Diamond Backs have purchased the contract of hurler Johnny Omahen from the Traverse City Beach Bums. In his first and only season of indepandant league baseball, Omahen went 8-9, with a 3.37 ERA in 21 starts. He also led the Traverse City squad in strike-outs with 78, only gave up two home runs, and his 115 innings pitched were a personal best. The right-hander was the second man in the Bums rotation, just behind Frontier League All-Star Scott Dunn. This will be Omahen’s second stint in affiliated baseball, being drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2011 out of California State University San Marcos. His pro career started with the Gulf Coast League Marlins, then the Jupiter Hammerheads, going 4-1 with an impressive 1.94 ERA in 41.2 innings, while only surrendering one home run. He was released after a rough season with the Greensboro Grasshopper in 2012, where he went 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA. Miami’s loss was the Beach Bums gain, however, and now the Diamond Backs. The Beach Bums COO Jason Wuerfel will miss Omahen in their rotation, but seems to wish him the best.
“While it’s tough to lose a pitcher of Johnny’s caliber,” Wuerfel stated on the Beach Bums website, “we are pleased to see his ability recognized. He’s a first class young man.”
There’s a chance we might see him in the Midwest League this season, with Arizona’s affiliate the South Bend Silver Hawks. If we do, we’ll certainly wish him our best.
Photo courtesy of the Frontier League
Whitecaps Winter Banquet: Last weekend the Whitecaps held their annual Winter Banquet, and over 20 current Detroit Tiger players, along with GM Dave Dombrowski attended. The players who attended included Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, Bryan Holaday, Austin Jackson, Steve Lombardozzi, Justin Miller, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, and Drew Smyly. Former Whitecaps now with Detroit also attended, like Nick Castellanos, Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, Hernan Perez, and Bruce Rondon. Some Tiger coaches also made an appearance, along with announcer Dan Dickerson. Whitecaps’ owners Lew Chamberlin and Denny Baxter spoke about the ballpark situation, and feel confident it will be ready by opening day, and fully restored by the Midwest League All-Star game in June.
“It will look better than ever, and we will be ready to go into the future for another 20 years”, Chamberlin stated. “Those are ambitious goals, but that’s what we’re going to do.”
Dombrowski also spoke, and showed the Tiger organizations support for their Single-A affiliate. He stated: “When you see the commitment of Lew and Denny and their staff, and also the community involvement and what you are doing and what you are overcoming, it shows what type of individuals that run this franchise and are involved in this city. From the Detroit Tigers perspective, we have no doubt that the West Michigan club will be ready to play and we’ll do whatever we can. You have our total support.”
There were also auctions that took place at the event, and they raised $58, 528 for YMCA Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball programs. Jon Connolly was unable to attend the event, but the former ‘Caps pitcher was inducted into their Hall of Fame. The event at DeVos Place was also a homecoming for other alumni like Castellanos, who is slated to be the Tigers starting third baseman this season. He seemed to have fond memories of his first full pro season.
“At this point, that was still my most favorite season that I ever had,” Castellanos told MLive. com. “I had the most fun, I learned the most and it definitely gave me an idea what pro ball was going to be like. It’s a day-in, day-out grind, and I fell in love with it. I think that we had a great deal of the fan support that we had here, they made playing so much fun. It was definitely a reality check. It introduced me to professional baseball.”
Tiger Fridays: Oh, yes! The Tiger Fridays are back in West Michigan this season, with some great former players making appearances. The ‘Caps brass has secured another impressive list of Tiger alumni, as well as one special guest for a special night. We kick it off on May 30, with Ron Leflore making an appearance. I remember ready his book, and it was really eye-opening. I recommend it for any baseball fan. On June 6, they welcome Daryl Patterson. He was a member of the 1968 World Series Champions, going 11-9, with a 4.09 ERA. Glenn Wilson comes to West Michigan on June 27th. Wilson suited up for Detroit in the early 80′s. July 18 will be a homecoming for Grand Rapids native, and ’68 Champ Mickey Stanley. Stanley was an excellent fielder, winning Gold Gloves in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973. On August 1st, the ‘Caps will be celebrating the 1984 World Series, with former manager Tom Brookens (who led West Michigan to the 2007 MWL championship) representing the Tigers, and Steve Garvey (who played at Michigan State), representing the Padres. The Tiger Fridays will conclude on August 22 with Craig Monroe, who now works as with Fox Sports Detroit. I would really love to make it down to meet Mickey Stanley, though. We’ll see how the summer goes!