May 2010

Whitecaps Update 5/10

capslogo.jpgCellar Dwellers: Yes, ‘Caps fans, it’s true. As of last night West Michigan is in last place of the Midwest League East Division with a record of 20-31. This young team is just way too inconsistant at bat and on the field to get the job done. Manager Joe DePastino better set the ship right, or the ‘Caps will be making a rare absence from the playoffs.

Solid on the Hill: One bright spot for the Whitecaps this season has been the pitching. Trevor Feeney was named the MWL Pitcher of the Week ending 5/17. On the 10th of the month, Feeney hurled a complete game against the South Bend Silver Hawks in route to a 3-1 WM victory. The one run scored was unearned, as he struck out seven and issued only one walk. He only threw 107 pitches in the game and gave up six hits. In his eight starts this season he’s 4-3  with a 3.38 ERA. Also steady on the mound is nineteen-year-old Giovanni Soto. Last week facing the first place Lake County Captains, he struck out two and only walked one batter in a 3-1 victory. This season Soto is 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA, which is in the top ten of the Midwest League.

turner-habitat.jpgPitching In: On May 13, Whitecaps players and staff participed in the second Whitecaps Day of Service with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. The players and staff painted a large house in Grand Rapids for a single mother of six children. Helping out on the project were Billy Alvino, Mike Gosse, Kenny Faulk, and Jacob Turner(pictured). The Whitecaps players volunteer their time all season long for various engagements such as visinting kids in children hospitals and schools.

Tigers GM in GR: Detroit Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski was in town to visit the Class A Affiliate and check out the prospects. The good news for Whitecaps fans is that it looks like Turner is staying in Grand Rapids for the time being. Dombrowski told the Grand Rapids Press: “There are no immediate plans to move him. I don’t know about later in the year, but at this point, this is a good place for development perposes. Right now, I think our thought process would be to keep him here and let him continue to develop and get the ball every five days. Will things change as the year goes on? Perhaps. But it won’t be in the near future.” The eighteen-year-old Turner is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 26 IP so far this season. Domrowski continued: “We like what we’ver heard and our people like what they’ve seen. We’re very happy with him, and he’s going to be a very good pitcher for us in the future.” He also commented on the young ‘Caps team struggles: “It’s a younger team than in the past, but we like a lot of the players here. I think it’s the type of club that will get better as the year continues because you look for younger players to improve. They have a good work ethic and a good staff.”

wells1.jpgAlumni Up and Downs: Outfielder Brennan Boesch continues to contrubute to the Tigers, who are trying to keep pace the Twins in the AL Central. In 25 games Boesch is batting .340 with 22 RBI’s and a .617 Slugging Pct. He was also named MLB Rookie of the Month for May.  Due to his performance, second baseball Scott Sizemore has been sent back to the Toledo Mud Hens for more conditioning. He’s batting .250 with four doubles and two RBI’s in his seven games of Triple-A ball. Dombrowski also commented on Sizemore: “It’s tough to break into the big league level. Many very good players come up to the big leagues that (struggle) and are optioned out and come back to be real good players. It’s an adjustment up there.” Also making his Major League debut with the Tigers this month was Casper Wells. In four games he’s hitting .222 with one double and a pair of RBI’s. Wells was a MWL Mid-Season All-Star with the Whitecaps in 2008 before being promoted to Double-A Erie. He set a Midwest League recond on May 2 of that year by getting hit by a pitch four times by Quad Cities. He’s a native of Grand Rapids, MI, and it’s a proven fact that great men are born in GR.  

 

sedon1.jpgRoster Moves: Memorial Day weekend will be kicking off with a new look roster for the Whitecaps. With there current record, some knew changes would be coming, with four players joining the team and five being removed. Joining the team from extended Spring Training are second baseman Chris Sedon and shortstop Jimmy Gulliver, both 2009 draft picks. Sedon played college ball for Pitt and was named to four different All-American teams, including the Louisville Slugger First Team and Baseball America Second Team. Gulliver is a product of Eastern Michigan, was born in Detroit, and grew up in Allen Park, MI. His father Glenn was drafted by the Tigers in 1976. Also Joining the team are pitchers Jared Wesson and Zach Samuels. Both were signed by the Tiges after going undrafted last summer. The lefty Wesson made a solid impact in his first outing over the weekend. He threw six shut-out innings and gave up only three hits in a 7-4 victory over the Dayton Dragons. Wesson told the Grand Rapids Press how excited he was: “Playing in front of a crowd was great and they were really energetic. I like the home fans, and I’m just trying to help the ball club as much as I can.” He played college ball for Mississippi State and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005. Leaving the ‘Caps for extended Spring Training are infielders Luis Plalacios and Elvin Soto, and pitchers Melvin Mercedes and Luis Sanz. Mike Gosse was given his release from the Tigers organizantion.

wesson1.jpgPhotos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 5-Burlington, IA

Burlington Bees vs. Kane County Cougars: Our trip concluded in Burlington, Iowa, with the Bees. Community Field is the smallest Class A stadium in the country, but it is very intimate and well maintained. They get pretty solid attendance here for such a small community. The team and field are both locally owned, so no plans on this team going anywhere. We had good seats next to the thrid base dugout, but there was the protective netting in front of all of the primary seats. Still very close to the action and players, though. No problem chatting with the guys taking their cuts in the on deck circle. My colon and liver were both glad this was the last beer and cheesey brat of the trip. Luck here, too, to have a foul ball hit right to me on my way to the rest room. The Baseball Gods were good to us on this trip again. Final: Cougars 6, Bees 1. Best: Season tickets for box seat are only $270. Wow, that’s cheap, folks. Worst: No mascot present. The attitude seemed to be that it was a night game during the week, so why go all out. I wanted to see a giant bee, dammit.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 5-Dyersville, IA

Field of Dreams Movie Site: Our next stop was in Dyersville, Iowa for the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie site. Not much to write about this, but is was just cool being on the field where the movie was filmed. We played catch, took some infield, and I pitched off of the mound a bit. They do a nice job of keeping it in good shape for the tourists like me. Oh, yeah, it’s May, so NO corn stalks in the background. It would have been cool to get a pic of me walking out of the corn, but we got some good ones anyway.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 4-Clinton, IA

Clinton LumberKings vs. Beloit Snappers: After leaving Norway, we headed back east to the banks of the Mississippi River once again. This time our destination was Alliant Energy Field, home of the Clinton LumberKings who we saw the night before in Peoria. Alliant Energy Field was built in 1937, and is a great throwback to the older Minor League parks. Remodeled in 2006, this is really a nice place to watch a ball game. The grandstand is completely covered, and the seats put you right on the field. The fans were friendly and very baseball knowledgable. We ate dinner at  the ballpark, had a cold beer, and watched a good baseball game in the oldest city currently in the Midwest League. I like to think of this ballpark as ‘classic’ instead of old, and despite it being not as fancy as some of the other parks we’ve been too, I really enjoyed myself here. Final: Snapper 2, LumberKings 0. Best: The trash pail: for only $5:50 you get loads of food including mini tacos, mini corndogs, onion rings, waffle fries, chicken tenders and more. Worst: Finding the ballpark. GPS couldn’t find it, and there are absolutely no signs anywhere in town to direct you there. My advise is to follow the riverfront until you run into it.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 4-Norway, IA

Iowa Baseball Museum of Norway: Making a stop in the baseball Capitol of Iowa, Norway, was a must for me on this trip. The true events of this towns rich baseball histrory prompted the movie ‘The Final Season’. This small town’s high school team won 20 Iowa State Baseball championships before being forced to merge with another local school after the 1991 season. I became a fan of the movie after watching it, but I am a bigger fan of the true story here. If you are ever in this area, this town and museum are a must for you. The museum itself is small, but packed with memorabelia from baseball’s history as well as the history of baseball in Norway. They had displays of former Major Leaguers from Norway such as Hal Trosky, Bruce Kimm, and Mike Boddicker. Also on display are the school’s state championship trophies, little league trophies, and coaching awards. The people who run the museum are all on a volunteer basis, as well as the people who helped put it together. We were given a first hand history of the town and it’s teams while we were there. There is a great pride in Norway about what they accomplished. My pictures and words really can’t do this place justice. A highlight for me was meeting legendary coach Jim Van Scoyoc who led Norway to 12 of it’s state titles and was named National Coach of the Year. After being forced to retire before the merger, he coached the Detroit Tigers system and founded Perfect Game to help teach young ball players. This was just a great experience for me.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 3-Peoria, IL

Peoria Chiefs vs. Clinton LumberKings: We didn’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate the Kernels victory before hitting the road again to Peoria. We made it to O’Brien Field about 30 minutes before game time, which is good enough to get our merchandise, grab a brew, and get ready for more baseball. It was Monday, and unfortunately not much of a crowd. We missed the big crowds over the weekend with Star Wars night and a Little League ceremony. Still, half price tickets should be drawing the people in anyway. O’Brien Field is nicely fit into downtown Peoria, and the Chiefs share their home with the NCAA Bradlay Braves. It was a beautiful night for baseball, but a quik game tied at 1-1 in the ninth. The Chiefs sent up a pinch hitter with two outs who hit a walk-off homer with the bases loaded for the win. Pretty exciting at the end. Final: Chiefs 4, Lumber Kings 1. Worst: The scoreboard. One half never worked, the other half only part of the time. Best: Half priced seats every Monday.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 3-Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids Kernels vs. Kane County Cougars: Day three had us up early, and backtracking east through Iowa to Cedar Rapids for a noon start. Day games are usually a lot of fun, and this one didn’t disappiont. Vetrans Memorial Stadium is located basically in a residential area, but still had plenty of parking and decent site lines. Of all the ballparks on our trip, this one simply had the best atmoshpere. The workers were all very friendly and everyone just seemed to be happy it was game day. We had great seats behind home plate just off of the Kernels dugout. My oldest son is an Angels fan, so it was easy for me to get some autogaphs from some prospects like Mike Trout and Michael Wing. Trout is a first round draft pick, but seemed very down to earth and was great with the fans. He also homered in his first at-bat. After getting shut out our first few games, it felt good to get a couple of foul balls here. I got two, but gave one away to a little girl. Yeah, I know, aaawwww. The cool thing if you catch a fly ball here, you recieve an honorary lifetime contract with the Kernels. Now I can finally put Minor League Baseball player on my resume. It’s pictured at the very bottom along with the fouls balls I caught in Cedar Rapids and Peoria. If I could choose any ballpark from our trip to visit again, it would be this one. Final: Kernels 8, Cougars 1. Best: The baseball atmoshpere. You fans know what I’m talking about. Worst: No souvenier cups. It’s a small thing, but I like to take the plastic cups home, wash them out, and drink a beer. It reminds me of the games I’ve been to.


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Contract.jpgPhotos property of MIB

2010 Baseball Trip: Day 2-Des Moines, IA

Iowa Cubs vs. Omaha Royals: Our only game on day two took us to Des Moines for some AAA Pacific Coast League action. The game started at 1:00 p.m., and the day was hot and sunny. About the third inning, though, all that changed. A huge storm cloud decided to nest over the field and give us some rain. Not too much, enough to get you a little damp, but not enough to call the game. If you think that a little rain is enough to chase me from a ballgame, though, you’re wrong. We stayed as long as the game was on, and that was the 8th inning. It finally decided to pour on us. Oh, well, 8 innings is still pretty good. I didn’t get a chance to explore Principal Park as much as I would have liked, but our seats were good and there really didn’t seem that there was a bad seat in the house. There was a lot of fans packed in for a Sunday game, but a lot left after the rain started. Our lunch consisted of a beer, a Chicago Dog, and some popcorn. I did like the park, though, and would recommend a game here if you’re in the area. Final: Royals 5, Cubs 4. Best: The scoreboard reading ‘Out of Towners’ and ‘Local Boys’. Worst: Lots of people. If you don’t mind large crowds, this shouldn’t bother you.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 2-Van Meter, IA

Bob Feller Hometown Museum: The second day of our pilgrimage took us west via the exiting I-80 highway, past the World’s Largest Truckstop, and into the small town of Van Meter, Iowa. Van Meter is just west of Des Moines, and home to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller. A nice little museum was constructed in his honor there, and since we were going to Des Moines anyway, it seemed like a good stop on our trip. The museum wasn’t very big, but it was packed full of memorabelia from his early baseball days, to his MLB career and no-hitters, to his days in the Navy during World War II. Yes, Feller was one of the brave men who gave up his baseball career for a couple of years to server his country. Thank you for that, too, Bob. It was hard to get some really good pic because the building wasn’t big enough for me to back up and get some wide angled shots. We were also just shy of meeting Dwight Gooden, who was there the day before signing autographs. Some of the cooler stuff they had was the bat that Babe Ruth used to lean on during his retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium, which belonged to Feller, and a couple seats from the old Cleveland stadium. It was a fun time and definately worth the trip.


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2010 Baseball Trip: Day 1-Davenport, IA

Quad Cities River Bandits vs. Burlington Bees: Our second game of the day took us to beautiful Modern Woodmen Park, home of the River Bandits. This ballpark was listed #1 on the Minor League ‘must see’ list, and it didn’t disappoint. The bridge going over the mighty Mississippi River in right field was really breathtaking. It had already been a long day, so it was nice to sit back, relax with my $6 brat and beer, and enjoy the game. There were a lot of walks, so we were able to scout many pitching prospects during the game. The weather stayed nice for us, too. It was hard to concentrate on the game at times, as we’d get mesmerized by the bridge and river. A perfect night for baseball. Final: Bees 9, River Bandits 6. Best: The view. Great site lines with the bridge. Worst: Pricey concessions.


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