February 2012

Season ends early for Whitecaps Alumns

Joel Zumaya: Former West Michigan Whitecap and Detroit Tiger relief pitcher Joel Zumaya has seen his season end prematurely once again. In 2011, he suffered a season-ending injury that required a screw to be inserted to stabilize a fracture at the tip of his right elbow. Ouch. Zumaya, now a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, just tore his ulnar collateral ligament, and will miss all of 2012. I’m no doctor, but that just sounds bad. Bad to the point where he may have to under go Tommy John surgery, but the so far Zoom-Zoom is undecided on whether he’ll go that route. He’s have to go through at least a year of rehab after having the ligament replaced. His other choice may be to hang up the glove, and pick up the toy guitar connected to his PS3, and go from there. Zumaya’s injury troubles started by injuring his wrist playing Guitar Hero, and hurting his shoulder helping move boxes in this parents attic. His comments make it seem he’s leaning toward retirement:

“Right now, my perspective is probably not (get the surgery). I know I’m pretty young, but I’m probably going to go on six surgeries if I get another one. I’m only 27 years old. I’ve taken a lot of wear and tear on my body, especially my arm, and then rehab, and it just mentally takes a lot out of you.”

The Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland is still close to Zumaya, and stated: “I sure will call him. I hear he’s pretty upset.” Maybe Leyland can give him some advise on the situation. It’s too bad, because guys that throw 100 mph. don’t come along all that often. As a player, he really got the fans to rally behind him and the Tigers on 2006, but has only pitched about 39 innings since then.

Scott Sizemore: Another former Whitecaps and Tiger Scott Sizemore will miss all of 2012 with a torn anterior cruciated ligament. In layman’s terms…he messed up his knee. Now a member of the Oakland Athletics, he hurt his knee during fielding drills on Saturday…the same day of Zumaya’s injury. Sizemore was slated to be the A’s every day third baseman this season. Too bad this kid can’t catch a break. He injured his ankle during play in the Arizona Fall League just after the Tigers announced that they would not be re-signing second baseman Placido Palanco, and that Sizemore would be given the job. His ankle never really had time to heal properly, and he never found his swing to stay in the Tigers lineup. He hit .223 in 65 games for Detroit in 2010-11 before being traded to Oakland for pitcher David Purcey. Last season he hit .249 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI’s in 93 games for the A’s.

I’m glad Sizemore had an opportunity to play in Oakland, and hope next season will bring him some more success there. He was one of my favorite players off of the 2007 Whitecaps Midwest League Championship team. As for this season, though, it looks like these former Whitecaps will be spectators just like us…

Photos courtesy of the Associated Press

Facebook page courtesy of Tauntr.com

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Former Whitecap getting Leyland’s attention

Spring Training for the 2012 season is still in its infancy, yet already a former Whitecaps player is catching the eye of Detroit Tigers skipper Jim Leyland. Reported by Chris Iott of MLive, Avisail Garcia is getting some looks for his batting practice displays.

“I think if you watched that young Garcia kid hit, you would have had to have been pretty impressed”, Leyland stated. “But you try not to get too carried away… But he’s a talent that’s coming. It’ll take a little time, but he’s a really good talent.”

Garcia has is 6′ 4″, and was listed last season at 230 lbs. Now he’s tipping the scales at about 240-45 after all the hard work he put in Venezuela in the off-season. Not bad for a prospect who’s only 20 years old. He played for the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2010, hitting .281 in 125 games. He also hit 17 doubles and knocked in 63 RBI’s. He’s been compared to Miguel Cabrera in both his facial features and body type, which isn’t a bad thing, and considers his fellow Venezuelan his friend. He also seemed very proud that Leyland was taking a close look at him at the plate.

” I feel good,” Garcia stated. “I work for that, you know. I’m proud of what he said.”

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Lakers ready for California dreamin’

The Lake Superior State Lakers softball team is ready to this the road this spring, as the first leg of their season takes them to California. Trips like this are expensive for small programs, especially since LSSU is the smallest state funded college in Michigan. One of the ways the girls earn money for the trip is the annual Take Me Out To The Ballgame dinner. This has also been a tradition for the kids and I, who’ve been going since Lily and Trevor were probably Brian’s age. We had fun again this year, and the kids Papa was able to join us, too. One of Lily’s favorite things to do is to put a pie in the face of her favorite player. They started doing this last season, and it’s been a big hit. A lot of the players already know Lily from the local softball camps and clinics, so it’s fun for them, too. The girls were also raffling off a flat screen TV and went out on the ice during the hockey game that night to announce the winner and promote the team. Pictured above is the team sporting their very cool new uniforms.  The photos below are from the banquet, and feature Lily sporting her new softball hoodie and us enjoying our spaghetti dinner. Good luck to the Lady Lakers this season, and we hope the weather is decent this April for their home games here in the Sault. Here’s the link to the girls 2012 schedule:

http://www.lssulakers.com/sports/w-softbl/2011-12/schedule

Top photo courtesy of LSSU Athletics

Bottom photos property of  M.I.B.

The future of Brandon Inge

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while, now, so I thought I might as well vent my feelings on the subject. Brandon Inge continues to be a sensitive topic for Detroit Tiger fans, and has become a player that some simply love, hate, or love to hate. I like Brandon Inge, I really do, and would like nothing more than to see him succeed and have a very productive MLB career. The fact is however, he batted .197 last season and is a career .235 hitter. So… I can understand why fans have a problem with him making $5.5 million a year this season, when it’s not even a ‘gimme’ that he’ll make the Major League roster. I think he will, though, and we’ll find out here in a few short weeks if all of the work he’s done in the offseason will pay off. The signing of Prince Fielder didn’t help Inge’s case, either, with Miguel Cabrera now being moved back to his old position at third. A bit of deja’ vu, as Inge went through this before when Cabrera was originally signed, and even back when the Tigers got Pudge Rodriquez who took his catching position. Tigers manager Jim Leyland really didn’t help matter either, by stating at the Prince press conference that Inge “isn’t the happiest camper”. I guess he could have put a positive spin on it, or not really mentioned Inge at all. All this does is give the media a chance to open up a Pandora’s Box of Inge bashing, without him even making a statement himself. I really think that I can step back and see both sides. I can see how fans may have a problem with Inge’s average and salary, but how can you blame a guy for just wanting to play? I don’t see what’s wrong with a guy stating that he wants to work hard enough and play well enough to earn a starting position. I would like to think that Cabrera will be the DH much of the time, with him being gradually inserted into the hot corner throughout the season. Inge’s defense is enough to at least earn him a spot on the bench, but if he can out-hit Don Kelly in spring training, he could see plenty of starts at third until Miggy gets used to third base again. Leyland stated that he wants Inge on the team, but he’ll have to accept the position as a reserve player, which isn’t bad considering he doesn’t have many options. It’s doubtful that any other team will pick him up with his salary, unless Detroit eats most of it. Last season he was demoted to Triple-A Toledo, and stated he didn’t want to play anywhere else but Detroit. When he was called back up to the Tigers and hit a home-run in his first at bat, you would have thought they won the Series. Despite all of the haters, many fans still like Inge, and would like to see him stay. Even GM Dave Dombrowski seems positive about Inge’s contribution to the Tigers in 2012 stating, “Probably the best thing is to let him come to spring training, let him play well, and let’s see what happens from there. He’s still an important part of our club at this point. “

Now we come to the impass on how well the 2012 season goes for him, though. This is the last year of his contract, but even if he plays well enough, it’s doubtful that he’ll get more than a one year deal, and with Victor Martinez returning to the DH spot next season, the hot corner will be completely owned by Cabrera. They also have Nick Castellanos being groomed in the Minors and should be big league really in a few seasons, though they may move him to the outfield. With 2013 not looking like there will be a place for him, I do have a suggestion….I’d like to see Inge get into coaching. Hear me out…please. This is what Inge needs to do in 2012: work hard, don’t get caught by the press bad mouthing the organization, no matter how much he plays, or doesn’t play. The fact is, that Mike Illitch is one of the best owners in pro sports, and does a good job of taking care of players who are loyal to him. Look at all he’s done for some of the Red Wings alumni like Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Chris Chelios, and Chris Osgood. They all have pretty nice cushy jobs within the organization. Inge has been in Detroit longer than any other Tiger on the roster, and if he plays his cards right, could still be employed by the organization when his playing days are done. Granted he’s only 34, but is he starts coaching at 35-36, he could still be able to relate to the younger players. The fact that he’s played so many positions in at catcher, infield, and outfield, will also help his case. Just because he’s a career .235 hitter doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective hitting coach, either. Many players who don’t even have much of a Major League career have had success in coaching, including Leyland himself. I think Inge’s attitude would go long way in his coaching career, and could even lead to a manager job. Where else would I like to see him coach, also, than West Michigan? Inge lives in metro Detroit year round, and moving to Grand Rapids wouldn’t be much of a change for him. He’s also one of the most popular players to ever play for the Whitecaps and the crowds at Fifth Third Ballpark are riddled with Inge jerseys/shirts (though Brennan Boesch is starting to give him a run for his money). He also was part of the inaugural class of the Whitecaps Hall of Fame. Inge has only good things to say about his time in West Michigan, too. During a rehab game in 2010 he stated to the Grand Rapids Press, “I love it here, I really do. It’s kind of the starting point for me. This was the first full season I had in the Minor Leagues. This place produces great ball players, and it’s the first place you go to where you have larger crowds. People are very loyal here-the most loyal I’ve ever seen.” It seems like the Whitecaps are a perfect fit for Inge’s post-playing career. His alpha and omega….

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Fifth Third Ballpark update

During the off-season, they are busy at work in West Michigan, getting the new scoreboard and video board ready for game play. Things seem to be coming along nicely, and I can’t wait to get to our first game of the season and check all the changes out. I think I’m really going to like the new manual scoreboard, as it brings baseball tradition to the modern ballpark. The new state of the art video board will satisfy the fans of the modern age, too. With the way things look, everything should be up and running by April.

The only change I wish would be made is the ballpark’s name. The stadium’s name was originally Old Kent Park in 1994, but was changed to Fifth Third Ballpark in 2001 after the merger of Old Kent and Fifth Third banks. The name generally wouldn’t bother me so much, if it wasn’t for the fact that Fifth Third bank has been digging it’s claws into so many Minor League stadiums here in the midwest. Just south in Toledo, the MudHens(International League) play at Fifth Third Field, and in their same state of Ohio, the Dayton Dragons(Midwest League) also play in a Fifth Third Field. Confused yet? To make things more confusing, this season the Kane County Cougars changed the name of their stadium to…you guessed it….Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. So, here’s the break down: West Michigan=Fifth Third Ballpark; Toledo=Fifth Third Field; Dayton=Fifth Third Field; Kane County=Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Where is the originality that we love about the Minors? I’m not niave…I know money talks and make these teams possible, but I’d rather have a stadium named after a local ballplayer, coach, or even a local business or benefactor than another large bank. Then again, I’ll take Tiger Stadium over Comerica Park, too. I would love to see the Whitecaps play in, say a Mickey Stanley Stadium, named after the Tigers legend who’s from Grand Rapids. Anyway, this blog is just more of a rant than anything else. Enjoy the pics, and I’ll have some of my own in April.

Photos courtesy of  the West Michigan Whitecaps

Indy on Super Bowl Weekend

Trevor and I at Victory Field in 2009. Photo property of M.I.B.

I have to say, I’m really glad it’s time for the Super Bowl. Really, I am. To me, it means the end of the football season, and we can finally concentrate on baseball. The fact that this years ‘sporting’ event of funny commercials and laughable half-time shows takes place in Indianapolis, does hold a special place in my heart. The city’s football stadium (I’m sure it has a name, I just don’t care) is right next to one of my favorite Minor League venues in Victory Field. This house of baseball mastery has been around since 1996, and has been voted the best Minor League stadium in the past. While there on our baseball trip in 2009, there was a lot going on already to get the city Super Bowl sound. Out over the left field wall, we witnessed constant construction on a brand new hotel big enough to house all the players and celebrities. That didn’t distract us from seeing some great baseball, though, or taking in all of the ambiance of one the best stadiums to feature the best sport.

Trevor with Rowdy in 2009. Photo property of M.I.B.

Victory Field has been, and will be a part of the festivities this weekend, however. So far Dan Patrick has been broadcasting his syndicated sports show from there this week. Today it will also host the DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl, and will be transformed into a nightclub tonight and Katy Perry will put on a show. I’d prefer Avril, but, hey, that’s just me. Making a beach atmosphere on a baseball field in February is no easy task for the Victory Field grounds keepers, either. Along with a million pounds of sand, there will constructed a concert stage, LED robbonboards and specially constructed bleacher sections. It’s basically a giant airplane hangar, that can house a beach, stage, and fit in 5,000 rapids fans. Below is a promo pic and a good photo of the preparation being done on the field.

Photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Indians

Here are some artists rendition of the completed beach and night club. Looks like a lot of fun to me, but he grounds crew will have their work cut out for them getting the field back to being baseball ready in a couple of months. Last year, Victory Field was voted Triple-A ‘Field of the Year’ and head groundskeeper Joey Stevenson was named Triple-A ‘Sports Turf Manager of the Year’, so there is a reputation at stake, here. In all, though, it’s good to see this field get a little publicity, even if it’s not just for baseball.

Photos courtesy of Minor League Baseball

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