April 2011

Ten Questions with Nick Castellanos

opening day 009.jpgContinuing with the ‘Ten Questions’ segment over at MiLB.com, Josh Jackson caught up with Nick Castellanos at spring training this year. Nick is ranked by Baseball America as the Detroit Tigers number two prospect in their system. So far this season with West Michigan, he’s hitting .186 with two doubles and four RBI’s in eleven games. Not real impressive numbers so far, but he’s just 19, and getting the playing time, so I’m sure things will turn around for him. We had a chance to meet him on opening day and he seemed real nice and autographed a ball for Lily, so we’re wishing him the best, and hope to see him up with the Tigers here in a few years.

MiLB.com: You only had time to slip into seven pro games last year, all in the GCL. It must be pretty incredible to be playing in the Grapefruit League. Have you been able to take a moment to reflect on that or have you been too concentrated on business?

Castellanos: You know, every day you have to come and play baseball, so I try and stay focused on that. I don’t really think about how I got here, [because] I really don’t have time to look back and appreciate it yet.

MiLB.com: What have you been working on most in camp?

Castellanos: Probably my defense. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot. I’ve been putting in a lot of early work on that, working with my coaches on that a lot.

MiLB.com: When did you start playing third base or having coaches identify you at a third baseman? What other positions did you play?

Castellanos: I played short most of my career, all throughout Little League and high school. Third base is still a little bit new to me, so I’m still learning it a little bit. [The biggest difference is] pretty much the reaction time, the way they’re teaching me to be set up before the pitch. It’s working on slow rollers, working on fielding bunts.

At shortstop, you have more time to play the ball where you want to play it. But at third base, you just have to react. There’s no time to do anything but catch the ball.

MiLB.com: What was Draft day like for you?

Castellanos: Draft day was a great experience. I had my family there, and I have some of my family in Detroit. I knew [the Tigers] were interested, but not more than some other teams.

 MiLB.com: Was it especially exciting to be picked by a team with such a rich baseball   history? And by the team that has Miguel Cabrera?

Castellanos: Oh, yeah, of course. It’s been really cool. I’ve looked up to him when I was a little kid, and now I’m here playing on the same team as him. Not very many kids get to have that experience.

MiLB.com: You ended up with a nice signing bonus. Was it weird to suddenly have that money — and to have everybody know about it?

Castellanos: You know, yes and no. I really didn’t think about it like that. My friends and family didn’t treat me any different, so, in a way, no. Everybody treats me the same.

But I don’t need to ask my dad for money when I want to go out for friends, so that’s different.
<p MiLB.com: The Miami area generates a lot of strong prospects. Do you remember playing against Orioles first-round pick Manny Machado at any point?

Castellanos: I played with him on the USA team. We both knew [we'd be in the same Draft class]. We really didn’t talk about it much, but we both knew we were the better ballplayers in the area. We knew that. He did his thing and I did my thing, and that’s why we are who we are.

MiLB.com: In your limited time in the GCL, you put up good numbers. Were you at all nervous, coming into that first pro experience?

Castellanos: My first at-bat, I was a little bit nervous, but I just remembered I was there for a reason. After that, baseball was baseball, and I did well.

MiLB.com: You’ve played in Wrigley Field and in Venezuela and now with the Major League club in Spring Training. It’s a weird question for somebody at the beginning of his career, but what’s been the highlight so far?

Castellanos: Probably Wrigley Field. [That day was] really, really good.

MiLB.com: It’s been reported that you’ll likely start 2011 with [Class A] West Michigan, a couple hours from Comerica Park. What are your expectations or goals for the season?

Castellanos: Just to play smart, play hard and do well. I’m guessing [my family members who live in the area] will come and see me play a couple times.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs
 
Photo property of M.I.B.
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Earning Their Keep

Anyone thinking that being a grounds keeper at a professional ball park is an easy task, think again. After a freak snow storm dumped over three inches on Fifth Third Ball Park on Monday, first year head groundskeeper Adam Ferrell and his crew took action. Actually, more than 20 staff members, including front office personnel, the grounds keepers, and salesman all chipped in to remove the snow. It was a three hour process, with snow ball fights, snowmen, and Christmas music keeping the mood light. Even a Christmas tree was placed on the Whitecaps dugout.

Ferrell told the Grand Rapids Press: “I was a little nervous when I first woke up and it was coming down good, but we got some manpower behind it and everybody chipped in. We removed the snow off the tarp, flipped it over, and let Mother Nature do her thing. It melted by 3 p.m.”

With eleven forign-born players on the West Michigan roster, some were seeing this type of weather for the first time. Outfielder Luis Castillo from Panama and Clemente Mendoza from Venezuela are two of them.

“I was like, oh my God,” Castillo told the Press. “This was the first that I’ve seen this and couldn’t believe it.”

Mendoza chimed in, “It’s really depressing, and nobody from the Latin countries have seen this before. I didn’t think we would be playing baseball, I thought they would cancel the game because of the snow on the field.”

Ferrell, an intern with the Whitecaps in 2008, though, was up to the task. He worked under Heather Nobozny and the Detroit Tigers in 2009, and was head groundskeeper for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League last season. He was named the NWL Sports Turf Manager of the Year for 2010.

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grounds5.jpgThe ‘Caps were able to play Monday’s game, but were rained out Tuesday night. They were able to beat the Fort Wayne TicCaps by the score of 7-3, much due to the return of designated hitter Billy Nowlin. Nowlin drove in four runs including a two-run homer to lead the way for West Michigan. After being hit in the head and sustaining a concussion in spring training, he was just activated from the DL on April 14. In his four game so far this season, he’s hitting .400 with two home runs and six RBI’s. Nowlin was a Midwest League All-Star in 2009, and split last season between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie.

“I’m just going to keep going out and playing hard, playing with my team here and see what happens,” Nowlin told the Press. “It’s always nice coming back to a place where you already know the ins and outs and stuff like that. Being familiar with a place is always a good thing.”

Manager Ernie Young seems happy to have Nowlin on the roster as well, “He swung the bat very well tonight. Billy being here is definately a good thing because it solidifies the middle of the order.”

Catcher Rob Brantly also drove in two runs in the game, and Hernan Perez scored three runs. On this hill, Jeff Ferrell picked up his first win of the season.


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cold4.jpgPhotos courtosy of the Grand Rapids Press 

Lakers Sweep Rare Homestand

The Lake Superior State Laker girls softball team was able to beat the nasty weather on Friday and sweep Ohio Dominican. They won the first game 9-8 in extra innings and pounded their oponents 18-8 in game two. The Laker double-headers on Saturday and Sunday were rained and snowed out, so I guess we were lucky to see at least a couple of games. Lily knows many of the girls from their softball camps, so she was able to get plenty of autographs and they took the kids into the dugout. It’s also fun to talk with the parents and get their take on things. A lot of positive comments on new head coach Lori Shimasaki and how she’s building a solid softball culture at Lake Superior. The team is scheduled to play some more games, so hoping the weather hold up for them.


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homeopener5.jpgPhotos property of M.I.B.

One Week Down

One week ago, I was sitting at the ball park in 80 degree weather. As I sit here now, I’m looking out the window at a snow/ice storm that could rival any that we got pounded with in January. Funny what a difference a week makes. This also marks one week of the Whitecaps 2011 season, and the team has yet to play a game on the road. The first three games of the season were postponed in Lansing due to un-playable field conditions. The last two nights, the ‘Caps games in South Bend have been postponed due to rain. Lucky the team has played a few homes games in between to stay loose. After winning on opening day against the Lugnuts, West Michigan was only able to scrape up one win against their other in-state rival, the Great Lakes Loons. With a record of 2-3 there’s no use panicing, but just hoping they can get some games in. Also hoping all the make up double headers won’t hurt the rotation too much. UPDATE: The Whitecaps finally played a double-header in South Bend, beating the Silver Hawks 8-1 and 6-3 improving to 4-3 on the season. Here’s some pics of the first week of 2011.

Whitecaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts


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opener4.jpgWhitecaps vs. Great Lakes Loons


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loons3.jpgPhotos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Hurray for Opening Day

opening day 004.jpgHeading downstate, I wasn’t very optimistic about this game actually taking place, as all the weather reports called for thunder storms. The baseball gods must have felt generous, though, and after the first three games of the season were postponed from Lansing, the Whitecaps and Lugnuts were finally able to kick the season off in Comstock Park. The sun was shining as I packed the kids kid in the car. The boys stayed back at my sisters due to illness, so I got to spend the day at the ball park with my favorite girl (my daughter, not Avril Lavigne). The weather was sunny as we played catch in the parking lot before the gates opened at 11:00 a.m. When we were finally let into the ball park our sences were overloaded with the smells of popcorn, hot dogs, and freshly cut grass as we recieved out free hats and found our seats. Lily played at the park for a bit before we got in line for autographs on the field at 12:15 p.m. They only allowed about fifteen minutes on the field, so we had to hustle to get her baseball and cards signed. Lily did get to meet the Tigers number two prospect Nick Castellanos and former Major Leaguers Ben Oglivie and Ernie Young. The rest of the day was perfect for baseball, topping low 80’s (a record high for the ‘Caps openers) with a nice breeze for us to enjoy the action.

The game itself was a real pitchers duel, with the Whitecaps winning 13-12 with a walk-off hit in the ninth. Trailing 12-7, they scored the last six runs of the game for the win. West Michigan battled back with a seventh inning two-run homer by Luis Castillo, and a three-run shot by James Robbins to even the score in inning eight. In the ninth inning, Dixon Machado stole second and scored the winning run on a two-out base hit by Rob Brantly. Machado was 4-5 on the day with a stolen base and three runs scored. Brantley went 2-4 with the home run and a two-run double. Bruce Rondon came on in the ninth to close the door and earn the win.

I simply can’t wait for the next ball game we can make it too. Just another month until our trip in May, which will include a Whitecaps game, too.


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opening day 017.jpgPhotos property of M.I.B. 

Whitecaps Tie Opening Exhibition

Today is the official Opening Day for Minor League Baseball, but some MiLB teams such as the West Michigan Whitecaps jump-start the season with an exhibition game. Last night the Whitecaps took the field for the first time as a team to take on the local Grand Valley State Lakers. GVSU is ranked #4 nationally in NCAA Division II play, and have already played 22 games this season. Nick Castellanos scored the only run for West Michigan on a sacrifice by P.J. Polk. The game ended as a 1-1 tie as new manager Ernie Young and Whitecaps fans got a first look at this young team.

Young told the Grand Rapids Press: ” It was good for the guys to get their feet wet, and almost everybody got to into the game, so that was good. It doesn’t matter who the team is, you still have to play. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major league team playing against a single A or double A team. You still have to hit the ball, catch the ball and make plays.” He also stated, “I was excited to get north, and I’m really excited for the season to get under way. I’m sure the kids are going to be excited to get on that bus and head for Lansing to play.”

The Whitecaps play three in Lansing before hosting the Lugnuts in their home opener on Sunday. I’m really hoping the rain holds off and we can get this game in. The kids are pumped and we’re ready to watch live baseball.  


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Say It Ain’t Snow

As another blizzard hit our small humble town here in lush Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I find myself more and more concerned with the fact that I’m supposed to be sitting in a ballpark just a few short days from now enjoying baseball. I assumed this ghost was exercised a couple of weeks ago during a tradition that makes my also small and humble university as unique as it’s five National Hockey Championships and it’s banished words list. For the last 41 years at Lake Superior State University we burn a snowman in effigy to signify the end of winter and bring on spring. Apparently the snow gods, or baseball gods, or whatever, must have missed it this year, because the snow just keeps coming. I’m hoping they are one of the three or four people (or gods) who read this blog…just to remind them that it’s supposed to be over.

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snowmanburn3.jpgThis was Brian’s first year watching, so he was a little awestruck. He enjoyed the free hotdogs, though.


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Tigers, Whitecaps set 2011 Roster

capslogo.jpgThe Detroit Tigers organization along with the West Michigan Whitecaps have set the opening day roster which includes ten returning players and seven that are on Baseball America’s top prospect list. This will be a young team just like last year, with six teenagers being asigned to Detroit’s Single-A affilate in Grand Rapids.

The top prospect making the team is third baseman Nick
9436990-small.jpgCastellanos (pictured), who is ranked number two on Detroit’s list after former ‘Cap Jacob Turner. The 19 year old was Detroit’s first pick and 44th overall in 2010. Castellanos impressed scouts at the 2009 Under Armor All-American Game at Wrigley Field where he won the home run derby and was named Player of the Game after hitting 4-4 with four doubles. Playing at Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida, he was named 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year after hitting .542, 41 RBI’s, six homers, and 22 steals.

Other prospects joining this years club are relief pitcher Bruce Rondon, catcher Rob Brantley, shortstop Dixon Machado (sweet baseball name btw), and starting pitchers Kyle Ryan and Ramon Lebron.

The amount of young talent has first year Whitecaps manager Ernie Young optimistic about the upcoming season. He told the Grand Rapids Press: “It’s going to be and exciting group of guys. We’re going to do a lot of things baseball-wise–we’re going to hit-and-run, steal and take extra bases. We’re going to do little things to help us become a better ball club.”

Returnig to West Michigan are Brantly, Lebron, Antonio Cruz, Shawn Teufel, Patrick Cooper, Jordan Pratt, Luis Alberto Sanz, Hernan Perez, Jimmy Gulliver and Jeff Rowland.

Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Press

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