December 2009

Lakers put on Winter Softball Clinic

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bugandfreinds.jpgYesterday my daughter took part in the LSSU Winter Softball Clinic. Girls from all over the Eastern Upper Penninsula came to learn from the Lady Lakers. The clinic took girls from 8-18 and went over the basics of throwing, fielding, hitting, and base-running. I got there in time to watch my girl in the batting cage. And, unlike Willie Mays Hayes, she did put on a hitting display. I couln’t help beam with pride as she was stroking line drives over the pitchers head. Why shouldn’t I be proud? I’m the one who taught her to hit like that, right? We all live vicariously through out kids, just not everyone admits it. She did have a lot of fun at the clinic, which is what is really important anyway.

The Lakers are a Division II team that plays in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conferance. Unfortunately due to the weather up here, we only get to see them play one or two home games a season.

And, yes, I know my daughter is beautiful, and yes I know it’s because she looks just like her mother.

Photos property of MIB

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Ballpark Review: Pohlman Field-Beloit, WI

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beloit2.JPGIf you’re looking for the most modern and technological ballpark, then Pohlman Field isn’t for you. In fact it’s not even a stadium, but actually just a field. It looks like any field in a residential area across the country with a fence around. I do, however, recommend this ballpark. It’s simplicity screams old-fashioned baseball and the fans who are diehards make it a trip worth taking.

As I stated before, the park is located in a residential area. I believe it is also community owned and ran. The parking was free, but there was on a handful of parking spaces, which makes me believe most of the fans probably walk to the game from their homes in the neighborhood. Both the souvenir shop and the concession stand are located beneath the grand stand. The shop wasn’t real big, but had a decent selection of memorabilia. They put another concession stand on a porch down the right field side, which is really nice and has a good selection of food. On the left field side, they built the Hooters Party Deck where you can watch the game, eat and drink for one low price. Unfortunately, no Hooters girls were present, or that’s probably where I would have spent most of my time. Most of the seating was metal benches, so not real comfortable. Some stadium seat are right behind home plate, but not a great view of the action from there.

The fans, like many from Wisconsin, were all very nice. The Whitecaps had beat the Snappers for the 2007 Midwest League title, so I wasn’t sure how I’d be received with my ‘Caps jacket and hat, and so one. No one really cared, and were very welcoming. We had the pleasure of meeting ‘Kaptain K’, who is a diehard fan that sits behind the Snappers dugout and puts the ‘K’ signs up for strikeouts. He showed us around the park and let us know what prospects to look out for. He was a great ambassador for his team and a class act. They had some other colorful fans, like the bug guy with the tuba, and the older lady and her cow bell.

My trip there in 2008 was a truly unique experience that I’ll never forget. Pohlman Field is a throw back to the older days of baseball that any baseball fan would really enjoy.

The ballpark was built-in 1982, and also hosts the local high school and American Legion teams.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Baseball Trip Finalized for 2010: Is this Heaven? No, it’s…

IOWA.jpgI finally got things finalized for next years baseball trip. This might sound obsessive on my part, but where I work we have to have our vacation leave picks submitted by the first of the year. I actually needed the dates and times of games to garauntee I can go. Here’s the rundown.

The Games: Day one of next years trip starts at the college level in DeKalb, IL watching the Central Michigan Chippewas face the Northern Illinios Huskies. I’m really impressed with the college game, and glad we’ve added these to our trip. From there we have to make haste to Davenport, IA to see the Quad Cities River Bandits host the Burlington Bees (Class A). The Bandits home field is right on the Mississippi River, and is gorgeous at night. Day two takes us to Des Moines, Iowa to see the Triple-A Iowa Cubs host the Omaha Royals. Triple-A ball is always a good chance to see future MLBers. Day three takes us back east to see the Cedar Rapids Kernels face the Kane County Cougars. The game’s at noon, so plenty of time to check out Cedar Rapids. Day four will take us to Clinton, Iowa to watch the LumberKings host the Beloit Snappers. Our trip ends on day five, and starts out in Burlington with the Bees taking on the Cougars. From there we’ll head to Peoria to watch the host Chiefs play the Kernels. There you have it-seven games in five days. But the games are only a part of the trip.

Bob Feller Museum: Just west of Des Moines is the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter Iowa. This should have some great memorabelia of the this HOFers career. One piece I know they have on display is Feller’s bat that Babe Ruth used to hobble out onto the field at Yankee Stadium in 1948. We’ll go here on day two before the Cubs game in Des Moines.

A touch of Hollywood: On day three on our way from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids we’ll be stopping in Norway, Iowa. This is the setting of the film The Final Season based on the true story of the high school baseball team there that won 20 state baseball championships despite being one of the smallest schools in the state. It’s a great movie and a greater story. If you havn’t seen the movie yet, I do recommend it for all baseball fans. I believe they just opened a baseball musuem there this year, too.

On day four we’ll be heading north of Cedar Rapids to Dyersville to see the movie site of a film most reading this have seen many times:

‘This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be good again. Oh people will come. People will most definately come.’ -Field of Dreams.

That’s right, Darth, you guys build it, and I’ll be there. The site is open to the public to play catch, take a few swings, or just sit and enjoy the setting. I can only imagine this being some sort of sureal experience. The games mixed in with the other sites should make for a memorable vacation. I’m sure when I get back, though, it will be awhile before I eat any corn.

The Origin of the Baseball Trip

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cobrown2.jpgSitting here looking out the window at the nasty weather outside, snowing and blowing, it’s hard to believe it’s been seven months now since this years baseball trip. The good news, is that it’s only five months until my 2010 trip. Those will be five very long months, though.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself: how does one start a baseball trip? How did this tradition of yours originate. OK, NOT, but here’s the story anyway. Like most of us, my love for baseball started as a kid. Playing Little League, sandlot ball, collecting baseball cards, and so on. Even just playing catch with my dad or grandpa in the backyard (reference: Field of Dreams). It was, and still remains today at that level, a pure and fun game. I played baseball all through high school at the Varsity level, but that was it, though. I was done. After high school, I moved north and my focus really shifted toward hockey. And why shouldn’t it have? It was my other favorite sport, and my teams did quite well in the 90′s. The college I was attending (Lake Superior State) won two NCAA D-1 National Championships on three Frozen Four appearances from 1992-94. They won a combined seven league championships counting regular season and playoffs during the 90′s, too. The Red Wings made three Stanley Cup appearances, winning in 1997-98. All was good in my hockey world, while the Tigers were, well, not winning, to put it lightly. All of the heroes from the quality 80′s teams were gone. So long Trammell, Whitaker, Sparky, and so on. I didn’t forget about baseball completely. I did go to some Buffalo Bison games in 1993 while out there working security for the World University games (thank you, tax payers). And in 1996 saw the Cubbies at Wrigley Field while visitig a freind in Chicago. Whether you like the Cubs or not, Wrigley is a must see. I even took in a Tigers game at the new Comerica Park in 2001, just to see the new ballpark (which can’t compare to Tiger Stadium in any way, shape or form). Then something happened in 2005, which is where out story truelly begins…

Like most traditions, whether baseball or not, they start with family. In Battle Creek, Michigan I still have a lot of family. Unfortunetly, not as much as I used to. We did get down to BC and watch the Big 10 baseball championships at C.O. Brown stadium a few times, but for some reason I never had been to one of the Minor League games there. The Michigan Battle Cats arrived in 1995, becoming the Battle Creek Yankees, and finally the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays in 2005-06. At this point in 2005, I was married with two kids-and needed a break. My dad suggested we go to Battle Creek, visit some family, and take in a few ball games. It sounded good to me. Getting away from the family for a few days, and seeing some baseball which I actually was really excited about. When we got to C.O. Brown, we got box seats right on the field. Literally-right on the field. The game itself was fun, with the Devil Rays winning 4-3 in extra innings. Ok-I was officially hooked. The next day, we were back at the ballpark for an 11:00 am game. There is something magical about a day game. The dew still on the grass before the sun warms things up. The tast of a cold beer for brunch. This is what it was all about. My gandpa was gone about 12 years at this time, but I swear he was right there with us. After the morning game, I experieced my first Whitecaps game in Grand Rapids on our way back up north. That was quite the experience, too. I was now a Minor League junkie. That’s really how it started. Pretty simple: three games in a two day span. A month later, I was sent down to Georgia for 16 weeks of gruelly training. On the weekends, they bussed us down to Jacksonville to watch the Double-A Suns or up to Savannah to take in a Class-A Sand Gnats game (again, thank you, tax-payers). This fueled the fire even more.

The next year in 2006, we added the Lansing Lugnuts to our journey. Still pretty simple. One game in Landing and Battle Creek, two in Grand Rapids. All in Michigan and not a lot of travel. Still fun for us, and a good get away. Unfortunately, 2006 was out last trip to Battle Creek for baseball. The team couldn’t come to terms with the city and get a new ballpark built, so they jetted to Midland, MI to become the Great Lakes Loons. We did get to see the Loons as part of our 2007 trip. That also included the Dayton Dragons, Toledo Mud Hens, and the Whitecaps. In 2008, we added college and the Majors to our trip. This one started at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI. We then took the S.S. Badger to Wisconsin to see two Milwaukee Brewers games and one Beloit Snappers game. That trip ended with the Whitecaps on our way home. This years trip (2009) sent us to the South Bend Silver Hawks, Indianapolis Indians, Louisville Bats, Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Michigan State University, and the Lugnuts. We do keep busy, and meet a lot of nice people along the way. The 2010 trip should be finalized soon (there is always ONE team that doesn’t put their schedule out on time). I know your on the edge of your seat wondering where I’m goint next year, but you’ll find out soon enough….See you at the ballpark.

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Photos property of MIB

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