Before hitting the books this fall, a group of young baseball players from all around the county banded together to give the Battle Creek Bombers their best season in history, winning the Collegiate World Series and Northwoods League Championship. After a rough 2010 campaign, the Bombers added a new GM, new manager, new pitching coach, new front office staff, and even adopted a new logo for 2011. The formula seemed to pay off….especially new manager Donnie Scott, who known as a ‘players coach’. He brought Major League playing experience and Minor League coaching experience to his post in Battle Creek. The Bombers finished 43-26 for the best season in franchise history, and after going 20-50 in 2010, their success this season is the biggest turn around in Northwoods League history. Their 27 win improvement shatters the record of 19 set by the Kenosha Kroakers back in 1995. The Bombers defeated the Green Bay Bullfrogs to win the Southern Division Pennant, and then beat the Northern Division’s Mankato Moondogs for the title. Scott credits his players, though, who had some great individual efforts this season as well. Bryce Redeker broke the home run record with 11, Jordan Dean set the record for hits, doubles, and at-bats, Danny Rockett knocked in a franchise record 53 RBI’s, to name a few. The Battle Creek roster included players from Central Michigan, Taylor University, Evansville University, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Texas San-Antonio, and Miami of Ohio. Winning also helps at the gate, and Battle Creek fans helped attendance reach a record high at 1,176 per game in 2001, which is a 49% from 2010. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be part of there numbers, as we didn’t get a chance to get down to BC this summer. We were rained out in our attept at a Bombers game last season, and will try to make it down in 2012. Battle Creek is a great baseball town, and I’m really glad to see the team earning some success and attendance numbers up.
Also helping the Bombers this season was right-handed pitcher Nolan Sandburn from the University of Arnaksas. Sandburg is ranked as the #1 prospect in the Northwoods League by both Baseball America and Perfect Game. A sophomore, he appeared in six games for Battle Creek, striking out 24 and walking nine. He was 0-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Sandburn’s fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. Also appearing on Baseball America’s prospect list at #18 is Bombers pitcher Ben Ballentine, who is a junior at the University of Michigan.
Photos courtesy of the Battle Creek Bombers
For the first time in 2003, the West Michigan Whitecaps will not be playing in the post season and competing for the Midwest League crown. The seven consecutive appearances is a franchise record, though, and shows a commitment to the farm system by the Detroit Tigers. The ‘Caps lost to the Fort Wayne TinCaps on the last day of the season 7-2, to end their bid for the final Wild-Card spot in the MWL’s Eastern Division. Not even the presence of the famous San Diego Chicken could give them a little luck.
“It’s definitely tough,” first baseman James Robbins told the Grand Rapids Press. “Especially from where we started with that slump in the beginning of the season. And then to grind it out and put ourselves in position like we did at the end of the season and today to make the playoffs. The postseason is always something you want, and it hurts a little right now.”
Robbins helped his club out, by driving in Nick Castellanos in the eighth inning of the final game to make it 3-2, but the bullpen couldn’t hold on.
‘This leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Castellanos stated. “We had such a great team win (Sunday), and we definitely thought the momentum was on our side. But they ended up getting hits when it counted and at the end of the day the scoreboard didn’t favor us. It sucks.”
The Whitecaps finished the season with an overall record of 70-69 winning 11 of their last 16 games. As disappointing as the loss is, I like the attitudes of the players. It’s good to see them not taking things for granted and wanting to win as a team. It really speaks well as to the character of these guys. Castellanos also tied Robert Fick’s record for hits in a season with 158. Good luck to him next season, as I’m sure he’ll probably at least be in Double-A. Hopefully we can make it to next year’s opening day, too, as we’ll be missing our baseball throughout the winter.
Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Rockford RiverHawks
It looks like this was our last game of the summer…bummer. At least we had some nice weather for our last game, and a lot of fun at Wuerfel Park in Traverse City. After a full day of fun and school shopping, it was nice to chilax at the ball park. Papa met us at the game from downstate, and continued to spoil the kids rotten. Trevor hurt his ankle while on the playground, but the Beach Bum medics fixed him up with an ice-pack and wrap. Turns out he is fine, and was up and playing on it the next day. Kids are so resilient sometimes it’s amazing. We had a fun time, and I even did a little school shopping in the gift shop (nothing wrong with baseball shirts on gym day). The game itself was a slugfest, with the Beach Bums knocking three over the fence on their way to victory. Again, it’s hard knowing I won’t be at a live game until next April, but what a fun season we had together and great memories. Lucky for us, though, we live in the original Hockeytown, and games start this coming weekend. That should keep us busy through the winter until baseball starts up again. Final: Beach Bums 8, RiverHawks 6.
Ok, this may not be a game or anything, but we did visit two fun parks over the weekend, and it’s fun to compare them and determine where we will spend our time and money in the future. Our first stop was at the Pirate’s Cove in Traverse City before the ballgame. We really like the mini golf here, and we tried some new things. The bumper boats were great, with a large pool and squirt guns. Brian manned the guns to drench his brother and sister, while I drove him around. We then went to the go-carts, and Trevor was happy to find that he is now tall enough to drive himself. This didn’t go over well with Lily, due to the fact that she is actually a year OLDER than he is. I got to drive a few laps, taking Brian and Lily around, and these go-carts could really move. Lily and Trevor took a ride on the water slide, while I drove Brian around again. He wasn’t too happy the he wasn’t tall enough for the water ride, but he got over it pretty quick. Lily and I next went on the ‘zip line’. She was a little nervous when she got up to the platform, and looked down about 50-60 feet. She’s a tough girl, though, and once her harness was snapped in, she was good to go and had a lot of fun on it. I would have loved to snap a pic of that, but dropped my camera, and couldn’t get it to focus (I ended up fixing it in the van on the way to the ball game, by beating it on the dashboard..it works). Pirates Cove gets a great overall grade in my book. The next day, we visited Adventure Island in Cadillac. We also went on the go-carts there, but they seems slow compared to the ones the day before. We’d been on the bumper boats here before, but decided on to partake in that activity on this day, due to the fact that we waited almost 20 minutes with no one helping us onto the ride. The kids got to do the water slides, which was what they really wanted to do, though. Brian came up less than an inch short to go on them, and the staff wouldn’t let me go down with him. Sooo….anyone keeping score, lets compare them like this. Mini-Golf: Tie-both are good. Bumper boats: Pirate’s Cove. Go-Carts: Pirate’s Cove. Zip Lines: Pirate’s Cove-maybe unfair because Adventure Island doesn’t have them, but it’s defiantly worth a run. Water Slide: Adventure Island. Final: Pirate’s Cove 3, Adventure Island 1. No doubt, we’ll be spending more time at Pirate’s Cove next summer.
Photos property of M.I.B.