November 2011

Baseball Trip for 2012 Finalized

Working for the government, we have to pick our vacation almost a year in advance, which can cause problems in making plans, and planning trips. It used to be we had to pick our vacation days by January or December, which wasn’t bad because most Minor League ball clubs had their schedules posted by that time. Now we have to have them submitted by October, and all I can really do is pick a couple of weeks in May, and hope for the best.

This year the Baseball Gods smiled on me a bit, as I was able to put together a nice little trip in my allotted time, featuring Minor League Baseball, NCAA Baseball, and even a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There is a lot of fun and excitement for me when the 2012 schedules come out, and I can start writing games down on the calendar and see how everything will fit into place. It’s not always easy, as I like to pack as much baseball into one week as possible, but it is so much fun, and really gives me something to look forward to over the long winter months. Starting the first of the year, I can start making reservations, ordering tickets, and doing some research on the best sports bars in the areas we’ll be at. Here’s a little rundown of our plans for next May, and if the world is ending in 2012…then at least I die seeing the HOF…

The first leg of our trip takes us to Syracuse, New York, to see the Chiefs host the Rochester Red Wings in International League action (Triple-A). Our first game is a Sunday matinée at 2:00 p.m., then after a long drive it’s early to bed, as the Chiefs host the Red Wings again on Monday afternoon, with a 12:00 start time. I absolutely love doubling back to be at the ballpark in the morning when the grass is still wet with dew, and it brings so much more ambiance to the experience. No time to rest on Monday, though, as we travel to Rochester after the Chiefs game to watch the Scranton/WB Yankees host the Durham Bulls (Int. League/Triple-A). Wait..what? Yes, due to the S/WB Yanks renovating their stadium, they will be playing some home games in Rochester while the Red Wings are on the road, so we pick up an extra game due to that…thanks Yanks! I’ve always wanted to see the Durham Bulls play, too, and will probably be part of their cheering section. Ok, take a second to catch your breath…

The next stop on our trip is in fabled Cooperstown, New York, home to the one and only National Baseball Hall of Fame. This will be my first time here, and probably not be able to grasp how amazing it will be until I’ve actually seen it myself. I’ve been to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, which is breathtaking in itself, but no sport has the history that baseball does. No sport has had an impact on our country’s history the way baseball has, and right now I can’t even comprehend all the things that I will be seeing while there. I’m setting aside a full day and a half to take it all in, and maybe check out Doubleday Field and see if anything is going on there. All I can say is that I’m sure I’ll have lots of pictures to share! After the second day in Cooperstown, we travel south to see the Binghamton Mets host the Trenton Thunder in Eastern League action (Double-A). I’ve heard nothing but good things about the ballpark in Binghamton, and really enjoyed all of our Eastern League games last year, so I’m looking forward to this one. Hold on, though, ’cause we’re not done yet…

The next leg on our trip takes us back west, as we stop in Rochester once again, this time seeing the real home team Red Wings host the Louisville Bats. We saw the Bats a few years ago while in Louisville, so it will be nice to see them in action again, also. After a good night rest in Rochester, we’ll keep heading west to Buffalo, New York, for a pair of games. Our first stop will be the University at Buffalo where the Bulls host the Bowling Green State Falcons of the Mid-American Conference (NCAA). This game starts at 1:00 p.m., and gives us a chance to enjoy the campus before heading downtown for the night game. Keeping with the International League, we’ll be watching the Buffalo Bisons host the Gwinnett Braves in our final game in the state of New York. I actually saw the Bisons play a couple of time back in the 90’s when I was out that way working security for the World University Games and that was my first taste of the Minor Leagues. After the Bisons game we head back to Michigan…but why stop there?

After getting back on our Great Lake State, you’d think we’d just want to get home and get some rest, right? Wrong! Plenty of time to rest later, and while we’re heading back, we go right by Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and lucky for us the Central Michigan Chippewas will be hosting  their biggest rival, the Western Michigan Broncos at 2:00 p.m. in more MAC action (NCAA). After that game, we’ll hit a cross-roads. The Whitecaps will be playing that night, and we could jot down to Grand Rapids to see them play or call it a day, or trip, or whatever, and head home. In all honesty, we’ll be making that a game-time decision. If my dad’s feeling up to it, I’ll be more than happy to take in one last game. The only problem is, I usually need a vacation to rest up after all of this…but that’s what I call a good problem.

By the time this trip comes around, I’m hoping to join this century and be able to make Twitter updates from my phone or something, and if anyone is in the area for any of these games, let me know and I’ll be happy to have a ticket waiting for you at the gate. I’ll also be bringing back the ‘Logo of  the Month’, featuing each of the home teams until the trip, so keep an eye out for those.

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‘Caps Dominate Detroit All-Stars

Recently MiLB.com released the Detroit Tigers organizational All-Stars. Basically they honor the players who had the best seasons in their organization, regardless of age or prospect status. The Whitecaps are highly represented here, in players from the 2011 season, and alumni from previous seasons. Plenty of players here that we’ve seen and met, and hoping to see at Comerica Park someday.

Henry pictured here with the Whitecaps in 2008, is one of the Tigers Organizational All-Stars at an outfielder.

Catcher-Rob Brantly. Brantly was hitting .303 with seven homers in 75 games with the Whitecaps before being promoted to Lakeland. He totaled a .274 average, 10 long balls, and 62 RBI’s between the two leagues.

First Base-Ryan Strieby. Spending the whole Minor League season in Toledo, he led all Minor-Leaguers in  home runs with 19, and second with 76 RBI’s.

Second Base-Brandon Douglas. I remember Douglas well from his time in West Michigan. He spent the entire 2011 campaign in Double-A Erie. He hit .281, had a career-high 46 RBI’s, nailed 30 doubles, and scored 72 runs.

Third Base-Nick Castellanos. We saw Castallanos play plenty of times this season, and had the opportunity to see him progress. After a very slow start, he ended up hitting .312, had 76 RBI’s, 36 doubles, and 156 total hits. Tigers are banking on him, but he’s still a few years away.

Short Stop-Audy Ciriaco. Played most of the season with Erie (101 games), but also saw some time in Toledo (14 games). Between the two levels he batted .255, with 58 runs, and 57 RBI’s. This is the third season in a row that he’s seen a little action in Triple-A, so he needs to make the jump for good next season.

Outfield-Justin Henry. Believe it or not, I’ve been sitting on this pic of Henry since 2008 when he was with the Whitecaps, and playing second base. Not sure why they moved him to outfield with the Tigers needing infield help, but maybe Douglas playing the position so well could have something to do with that. All said, Henry split time with Erie and Toledo also. He hit .314 between the two, and stole 23 bases. He drove in 47 runs for Erie to be named to the Eastern League Midseason All-Star Team.

Outfield-Jamie Johnson. In only his third season as a pro, he spent the entire season with Erie, setting personal highs in RBI’s with 51, doubles with 33, and stolen bases with 14. His 93 runs scored was tops in the Eastern League.

Outfield-Timo Perez. Perez is 36, a former World Series Champion, and still going strong. Playing in Toledo, he hit .304 and stole 16 bases. He also pounded out six homers and 32 doubles. Most impressive, though, is that he only struck out 41 times in 473 at bats.

Utiliy-Tony Plagman. Plagman spent the season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, scoring  97 runs that led the organization. He hit .257, with 18 homers, 32 doubles, and 62 RBI’s. Good turn around for him, as he only hit five homers last season for the Whitecaps.

RHP/Starter-Brennan Smith. Smith played 14 games in Connecticut, and nine games in West Michigan. He was 4-3 with a league leading ERA of 1.53 in the NY-Penn. He had an impressive scoreless streak through 34 2/3 innings.

RHP/Starter-Jacob Turner. Turner played in Detroit this season, but before that he split time between Erie and Toledo, posting a 4-5 record with a 3.44 ERA and 110 strikeouts. Kevin Eichhorn was also mentioned, after an impressive season in West Michigan where he went 11-5 with a 3.61 ERA.

LHP/Starter-Drew Smyly.  Smyly pitched 14 games for Lakeland and eight for Erie in 2011. His 2.07 ERA is the lowest in the organization, and went 7-3 in Erie, and with Toledo posted a 1.18 ERA with 53 strikeouts.

LHP/Starter-Jay Voss. Between Lakeland and Erie, he won 12 games and struck out 131 batters. While with Lakeland, he won an organizational  best 15 wins.

Relief Pitcher-Chance Ruffin. Ruffin played in both Erie and Toledo before swept up by Seattle as the ‘player to be named later’ in the deal that brought Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers. While with Erie, he made 10 saves in 14 attempts, with a 2.12 ERA and 3-3 record. In Toledo, he saved nine games in 10 tries with a 1.84 ERA.

Photo property of M.I.B.

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