Former West Michigan Whitecaps second baseman, and current Toledo Mud Hens outfielder Justin Henry has been named the International League’s ‘Batter of the Week’ for August 20-26. Hitting in the lead-off position for the Mud Hens, Henry had 14 hits last week with a .538 batting average. He collected hits in five different games in a Toledo five-game win streak. Henry had three consecutive three-hit games during his hot streak, with four games with at least one run scored. He was second in the IL with a .581 on-base percentage after collecting four walks, and adding a pair of stolen bases. Justin is now third in the IL with 135 hits this season. While with the Whitecaps in 2008, he hit .295 with 24 doubles and one home run. Henry was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the ninth round of the 2007 draft. I’m not sure why the Tigers would turn him into an outfielder, with so many in the system, and not having too many infielders. I’d like to see Justin get the call this weekend, but my gut feeling is that Detroit will go with Avisail Garcia from Erie. All the best to him, though!
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Fifth-Third Field–Toledo, OH: Last Saturday the Fox Sports Detroit Girls blessed Fifth-Third Field in Toledo with their presence (not to be confused with Fifth-Third Field in Dayton, Fifth-Third Ballpark by Grand Rapids, or Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark in Kane Country….my god…). The Girls were on hand to help root on the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate and help support the military, who was being honored all week by the Mud Hens. It’s a pretty fair drive from the Canadian border straight down to Toledo, but if I would have known that the Girls were going to be there, we would have tried to make plans! My window of opportunity for the kids and I too meet them is running out quickly, with the Minor League regular season ending in less than a week. My only hope now is for the baseball Gods to smile upon me, with Lauren and Allison magically appearing at the West Michigan Whitecaps game this Sunday…our last outing of the 2012 campaign. My only other chance for removing the Fox Sports Detroit Girls from my baseball bucket list is if they make it to a Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL hockey) game this winter. The Girls were a lucky charm, too, as the Mud Hens beat the Louiville Bats 5-1.
It’s been an extremely hot summer for us up north here. We’re not really used to the high 80’s to 90’s we’ve been experiencing the last few months. Along with the humidity, it can be brutal. The kids had a tough time playing in the heat sometimes, especially Lily, who played ball during the heat of the day. It’s starting to cool off, though, and we’re getting the rain that we really do need. This just makes fall look like it’s closer than it is, though, and with school just a couple of weeks away, and Trevor already in having football practice, it just reminds me that the summer is very quickly coming to an end…
Peanuts comic courtesy of the late great Charles M. Schulz
Yesterday would have been the 58th birthday of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. The age of 58 is considered fairly young, as ‘The Bird’ was taken from us early in a tragic accident in 2009. Also ending early, was Fidrych’s baseball career. For that one magic season, though, in 1976, he showed the world what baseball was really all about. He started the season as a non-roster invitee at spring training, and ended the season leading the American League in wins with a 19-9 record, a 2.34 ERA, and winning the Rookie of the Year award. He also finished second in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer. More than all of that, the captured the imagination of a certain child in mid-Michigan…making him a baseball fan for life. I admit, I was caught up in all that Fidrych did on the mound, and it was no wonder opposing GM’s would beg Detroit to alter its rotation to make sure he would pitch in their stadium. They knew it would be a sell out. Fans all over the country couldn’t get enough of antics of talking to the ball and manacuring the mound. He would even congratulate his teammates on a good play, or go give them a pat on the back if they made an error. For years I carried a Fidrych card in my back pocket that I had cut off of the bottom of a Hostess Twinkies box. It’s corners are jagged and it has a crease down the middle, but I still have that card to this day and it is one of my most prized possessions. I was lucky enough to meet him back in 1995 at a baseball card show and he was very thankful for his fans. When my kids were born, I mailed him a coupled of cards and he was nice enough to sign them for Lily and Trevor and send them back. He is actually Lily’s favorite player, as she grew up with stories of his craziness on the mound, but I feel bad she will never be able to meet him. He had made a few appearances at the Whitecaps ’70’s nights, too, and that would have been a fun experience. I do have a DVD of a Monday Night Baseball game during the ’76 season, where he pitched a great game en route to a victory over the New York Yankees. I’m still always in awe that the crowd would not leave until he made a certain call. I think a lot of us kids saw in him what we saw in ourselves, just a kid having fun playing a game, which is the way it should be. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych was larger than life. He was a super hero and a rock star all rolled into one. After all, he was the first athlete ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone…
Wuerfel Park–Traverse City, MI: Well, it was that time of the summer again, when I packed up my scruffy lookin’ nerf-herders and headed downstate for our annual ‘Star Wars Night’ trip. This year we decided to check out our favorite characters from a ‘galaxy far, far, away’ at the Traverse City Beach Bums instead of in Grand Rapids at the Whitecaps. The kids were excited, and had fun meeting the characters. There weren’t nearly as many as we’ve seen in the past at the ‘Caps, but we had a good time regardless. They had Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers, an Imperial Officer, and the lovely Princess Leia on hand. I would have liked to have seen Boba Fett and maybe some droids, but maybe next year. It was pretty hot and there was an impending storm, so it could be that limited some of the costumes and attendance. Lucky for us we made it through the game without a drop on us! In the game itself, the Bums were taking on the Southern Illinois Miners. TC was leading up until the 5th inning, when the Miners stormed back to take the lead. Scott Dunn took the loss on the mound for the Bums, giving up two runs, and striking out three in 4 2/3 innings. Final: Miners 5, Beach Bums 1. May the Force be with you…
A trip to Traverse City wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Pirate’s Cove. It was a beautiful day out, and the kids and I were lucky enough to spend it doing the zip line, bumper boats, go-karting, and the water coaster. I had to fudge Brian’s age a little so he could drive his own kiddie kart, but he did a great job, and is actually a better driver than his mom… Anyway, this was a great day, a day spent with family (we met Papa and Nana at the ballgame) and fun, and one you feel very lucky to have had. I feel lucky to be able to do this for my kids, and hope we can take in at least one more game before school starts.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Swift Field-Village of Bay View, MI: This is something I’ve wanted to see for a while now, but trying to find out when and where these games are taking place can be a challenge. The kids and I travelled to Petoskey over the weekend to see one of the games of the Kilwins Fudge Bucket Classic tournament, featuring the hometown Mossbacks and the Regular Base Ball Club of Mt. Clemens, also known as the Mt. Clemens Regulars. The tournament does have a website, but it still states the participating teams and schedules are still to be determined, despite the fact the games are all over. Lucky for me, though, one of the participants answered one of my e-mails and let us know when and where the games were. When we arrived at the game, there was a small crowd, and I’m sure that they would have some more fans will just a little advertising. The kids are I thought this was a lot of fun, and there were picnic tables for us to sit at and a park for the kids to play on, too, when they weren’t watching the game. The game was played basically in an open field, with ‘bases’ that I assume were just bags filled with sand or something. The most amazing thing is that in the 1860’s era, there were no baseball gloves, and seeing these guys catch and field bare-handed is quite impressive. A few line-drives smacking off open hands can really bring you into the reality of the game. Make no mistake, these guys know how to swing the ‘timber’, as well, and can run the bases pretty effectively. There were many ‘tallies’ scored during our time watching the game. Going back to the beginning, though, the game starts with both team lined up on the field and the one umpire explaining the rules and so on. The home captain welcome the visiting team and thanked them for coming before the home team introduced themselves. The visiting team captain then thanked the home club for having them, and the visitors were announced. There is just the one umpire who sits at the scorers table, and the game is played on the honor system. The umpire is only called upon if there is a dispute. Although these games are played for fun, they are very competitive and everyone plays hard. These games are so much fun to watch, and I highly recommend them to any baseball, or base ball, fan. The kids got a kick out of the old uniforms and style of play, and were impressed with the players making plays without gloves. I wish I could report the results of the tournament, but we only stayed to watch the first game, and results are not posted on the website or their local newspaper. I guess the one thing that these players have in common with the trail-blazers of the mid 1800’s is that they play this game for fun and pride. No large contracts or scandals here…
The Standings: The West Michigan Whitecaps are still treading water in the Midwest League Eastern Division, but are sinking a bit. They are currently 21-22 in the second half, and are six games out of first place. They hit a little speed bump with a five-game losing streak, but have bounced back and won two games in a row from the talented Lansing LugNuts, 7-1 and 6-3, who ran away with the first half title. Manager Ernie Young, though, will have to have some Aces up his sleeve, if the ‘Caps are going to capture a playoff spot this season…
Ferrell Honored: Whitecaps pitcher Jeff Ferrell has been named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for July 30-August 5. Ferrell had an extremely impressive showing against the Lake County Captains last week in the ‘Caps 6-0 shut-out win. He retired all of the 21 batters he faced before being taken out of the game after seven perfect innings of work. His outing included 11 ground-outs and six strikeouts in 79 pitches, and gave up only three hits. Ferrell, just 21 years old, underwent Tommy John surgery just 14 months ago. He started the 2011 campaign with the Whitecaps, before injury his elbow that led to the surgery. He missed the rest of last season and the start of this season, before joining West Michigan in May. So far, he has a 4-4 record with a 4.42 ERA, with 60 strikeouts, and holding the opposition to a .209 batting average. Ferrell is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina and a 26th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.
Fifth-Third one of fifth best: The Whitecaps home, Fifth-Third Ballpark, was mentioned as one of five Minor League ballparks on the Fox News website recently. The story titled ‘Five Minor League Baseball Parks You Have To Visit’, stated that the stadium in Comstock Park, Michigan has the best food for baseball fans. The Fifth-Third Burger certainly still packs a mighty punch. The story can be found here: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2012/08/01/five-minor-league-baseball-parks-have-to-visit/?intcmp=features
MudHen Marathon: The Tigers Triple-A affiliate in the International League, the Toledo MudHens suffered a tough 10-9 loss Monday night to the Rochester Red Wings. One-run losses are always hard to swallow, especially when they are in extra innings….19 innings to be exact. The contest took over 6 1/2 hours to compete, and featured plenty of former Whitecaps. For the Red Wings, Clete Thomas went 2-8 with a walk and two runs scored. Wilkin Ramirez was 4-9 with a double, run scored, and an RBI. Pitcher Luke French threw for 3.1 innings, giving up two hits and five strikeouts. For the MudHens, Andy Oliver pitched 2.0 innings giving up one hit and striking out 3. Luis Marte gave up one hit, but was burned for two runs in just 0.1 innings. Luke Putkonen pitched five innings, giving up four hits, no runs, and striking out three. Jose Ortega threw for 2.0 innings giving up six hits and three runs.
Rond-on the move: Former Whitecaps pitcher Bruce Rondon has been promoted from the Double-A Erie Seawolves to Toledo. He fills a spot after on of the MudHens’ pitchers was injured in the 19-inning loss. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski stated that he believes that he’s ready for the Triple-A level, though. Rondon started the season at Lakeland, going 1-0, with a 1.93 ERA, with 15 saves, and 34 strikeouts. With Erie, he was 0-1 with a 0.83 ERA, with 12 saves on 23 strikeouts. He struggled with his control last season with West Michigan, issuing 7.6 walks per nine innings, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio this season is 3.8.
Fifth-Third Ballpark photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Ferrell photo courtesy of MLive.com
Thomas photo property of Minoring In Baseball
As Brian wrapped up his T-Ball season a week before, Lily and Trevor ended their softball/baseball seasons, too. Lily had a very good year, and did great at the plate. She had many multiple hit games. She liked to play catcher, but did play other positions in the field, too. The coaches get them playing all around to get a feel for everything. The coaches in the Sault Girls Softball league are all from the local high school team, so the kids get a solid and consistent amount of coaching. The league is run by the high school softball coach, and it really does a good job of building the girls skills. Lily had a lot of fun this summer, but because her games were during the day, it was so hot for her. Many times these girls toughed it out in 80-90 degree heat with the sun beating down on them. Lily also helped me coach Brian’s T-Ball team and did an excellent job. She had parents coming up to her and telling her how impressed they were with how she dealt with the younger kids. I am so proud of her, and am convinced there is nothing this girl is not capable of!
Trevor had a lot of fun this season, and for sure wants to play again next year. After taking a year off, he finally got his swing going and had some solid at-bats. He played catcher at the beginning of the season, but took over the third base slot for most of the year. He really likes the hot corner, and made some really good plays over there. I’m really proud of him for all of the work he puts into his playing. He hustles on the field and works very hard in practice. When I have extra time, he’s always up for playing catch or hitting a few baseballs. I really enjoyed being a coach on this team, too. This was a great bunch of kids and I hope they all come back and play next year. You might not believe that you can become attached to some kids after only a few months, but you definitely can. Especially with all of the unique personalities. Looking at the yellow unis, it’s hard not to compare them to the Bad News Bears…