I always enjoy visiting Grand Rapids, but usually its to see the West Michigan Whitecaps play some baseball. Obviously, there’s no way baseball can be played in the crap weather Michigan is experiencing this time of year, so we watched the next best thing…minor league hockey. It was a perfect day to watch the Grand Rapids Griffins defend their home ice against the San Antonio Rampage. The kids absolutely loved Van Andel Arena, and Grand Rapids as a whole. As the second biggest city in the state, it’s a little more interesting than anything in the U.P. It was a great hockey game as the Griffins won 7-3 with five power-play goals. We even saw a penalty shot in the game. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get the kids down to see the Griffins. Maybe because there is so much hockey up here, it never crossed my mind to travel to see it. We had so much fun, this will be and annual trip for us now. The Griffins play in the American Hockey League, which is equivelent to Triple-A in baseball. Grand Rapids has so much else to offer, too, as we also went to the Van Andel Museum and saw the Titanic relics exhibit. The kids were in ‘awe’ of the whole museum, and the Titanic display was amazing.
A little extra bonus to our trip…ok, this was the highlight…meeting the newest Fox Sports Detroit Girls, Stephanie and Brittney! The girls were extremely nice to the kids, and signed autographs for them. Brian played shy during the photo, but they still signed a baseball and his Whitecaps hat. Trevor wasn’t feeling well at first, but caught up them later during the game for a pic. The FSD Girls were more than happy to get another picture and chat with us for a while. We may have talked them into going to the Crosstown Showdown in Lansing on April 11th, but I hope we get to meet them at a Whitecaps game this summer!
Here’s a video the Griffins released on their YouTube channel featuring the FSD Girls! See us at the :55 mark:
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
I am absolutely excited that I’m now watching some baseball, even spring training games. Actually, I really enjoy these games, since there is a better chance of me seeing some players that I saw play for the Whitecaps last season. I know I’m going to drive the kids nuts, too, with all of the baseball I’ll be watching this spring. Nick Jr. and Disney Channel will have to take a rest. I snapped this photo over the weekend while in Grand Rapids (more on that later). I’m really excited to see live baseball, though. I’ve already received my tickets to the Winston-Salem Dash, and just ordered front row seats for the Hickory Crawdads over the weekend. Just excited, so bear with me this spring!!!
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
There’s really no sign of spring up here in Michigan’s crazy Upper Peninsula. In fact, it seems that there is even more snow, cold, and wind than ever. Things will be heating up for the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team, however, as they start their season today in the Superior Dome over in Marquette. The girls play three game today, taking on Lakeland, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and Wisconsin-Superior. Good luck to the girls this weekend, and all season long. Their season actually kicked off last weekend, though, with the annual ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ spaghetti dinner. There was fun and games, and the kids were thrilled that they won two of the raffles. They won a movie package that included, movie passes, popcorn and candy, along with different popcorn seasoning. Also includes some free movie rentals. The other raffle we won was a cooler, beach towels, beach toys, water bottles, and sun screen. Uh…we’ll have to put that one up on the shelf for a few months, but very thankful that we got lucky. And all the money for the tickets goes to the softball team, so it’s a good cause. Brian had a good time showing off his throwing arm and playing with the balloons. Lily and Trevor drew pictures for the girls on the paper table cloths. We had a great time, but we’re sick of the snow and ready to burn the snowman, already.
Late last month the Detroit Tigers Caravan pulled to a stop in Cadillac, Michigan. Attending the event was my dad, a fellow baseball fanatic and companion on the annual baseball trip. He was able to earn the right to attend the festivities by being named to citizen of the year after receiving the ‘Spirit of the Community’ award last summer. He was able to meet the players attending the event, and sit at the main table during the Chamber of Commerce ceremony. In the above picture, he’s with Quintin Berry, Drew Smyly, and Andy Dirks. Guests were not allowed to ask for autographs, but meeting the Tigers was a real thrill for him! All three players were great with all the baseball fans that showed up to support them. I’m very happy that my dad was able to be a part of this, and proud for all that he’s accomplished. He was given the award at last year’s Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, and had no idea he had even been nominated. He was nominated for this due to all his selfless acts around the community, and all he’s done for charity. He’s been an active member of the Kiwanis Club for thirty years, and is a Big Brother to a local high school student. He helps his student with his homework, and takes him fun places like baseball games. As a member of Kiwanis, he works the concession stand at area athletics events to raise money, has helped to renovate the local children’s camp, and build local playgrounds. Instead of being honored to meet the Tigers, the players should have been honored to meet him!Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Former West Michigan Whitecap and Detroit Tiger Brandon Inge was looking for a new home this coming season. Looks like his ship has found port in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. He has signed a minor league contract with the Pirates with an invitation to major league spring training. Inge’s season was cut short in 2012 with a right shoulder injury which needed surgery. Splitting the season between Detroit and Oakland, he had a .658 on base percentage and 12 home runs. Inge has much versatility, playing third, second, and every outfield position in his major league career. He’s had many games as catcher, too, but hasn’t been behind the plate since 2008. If he makes the Pirate roster, it will most likely be at second base or as a utility player. He could also be assigned to the Indianapolis Indians, and play in one of my favorite ballparks, Victory Field. Inge played for the Whitecaps way back in 1999, batting .244, with 9 home runs, 46 RBI’s, and swiping 15 bases. I still think that when his playing days are done, he’ll be back in the Tigers system as a coach, hopefully in West Michigan.
Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com
Recently Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, has been honored by Stadium Journey magazine as the best overall Minor League experience. This is the second year in a row that Parkview and Fort Wayne has received this award. In Stadium Journey’s ‘Top 101 sports venues of 2012′, Parkview ranked #14 overall.
“The thing about Parkview Field, is that it combines all of the elements that we recognize as making a stadium experience great”, stated Stadium Journey’s president and co-founder Paul Swaney. “The food and beverage is better than you’ll find most places and (the concessions options are) related to the overall theme. When I go to Parkview Field apple turnovers are something I seek out. Having a downtown location is an important factor as well. The variety of seating selections is important, too. Fans can go back again and again and have different experiences each time depending on where they want to sit.”
Stadium Journey ranked the venues on many different factors, including the neighborhood, food and drink options, fan experience and atmosphere. The access to the outside and inside of the stadium is also taken into consideration.
“This award is a testament to our great community and fans who continue to make Parkview Field an enjoyable place to be,” TinCaps president Mike Nutter stated to Stadium Journey. “We’re honored to be ranked among the best venues in all of professional sports.”
We were lucky enough to visit Parkview Field in its first year during our 2009 baseball trip. We had a great time at the game, and the ballpark does live up to the hype. Our seats were directly next to the Fort Wayne dugout, to the point that we could literally look right into it and interact with players. It didn’t take much for Trevor to snag a game ball that night. It had been raining all day, and we were pretty lucky to even get the game in.
The Detroit Tigers seem to have the pitching rotation for the 2013 season all but set. With Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez almost surely taking up the first four spots, the real competition will come down to the fifth starter. In the eyes of most fans and the Tigers front office, this looks to be a two-man race between Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello. Smyly, the lefty, did well last season, and would be the only south-paw in the rotation. Porcello is the kid with tons of talent, but his numbers could be better. He’s still young, though, and most fans feel his numbers would be much better is the Tigers were a little tighter in the infield. The two-man race aside, spring training is just around the corner, and usually their is a player or two who steps up and forces the coaches to take a good long look in his direction. This spring the guy who could turn some heads in Lakeland could be right-handed pitcher Luke Putkonen. No doubt the Tigers are high on this 6’6″, 210 pounder, and placed him in the Arizona Fall League last, well, fall, to hone some skills. Putkonen’s stats from the AFL aren’t amazing, posting a 5.06 ERA while allowing 19 hits and seven walks in 21 1/3 innings. Last season, he made 24 appearances (two of those starts) for the Toledo Mud Hens, with an ERA of 4.29. When called up to the Tigers, he appeared in 12 games, striking out 10 with a 3.94 ERA. It seems Putkonen needs to develop his secondary pitches to get outs, though, if he’s going to make that jump to the bigs permanent. Statistics show he throws his fastball 65% of the time, with an average speed of 94.6 mph. It also looks like working some long relief may be his calling, but don’t count him out as a starter. Recently Detroit’s assistant general manager Al Avila made some comments about him to the Detroit Free Press:
“He actually impressed us in the Fall League that we feel real good about Putkonen. I know Jim Leyland likes him and lot. He’s a real big guy with real good stuff. We’ve had many conversations about him being a starter or reliever. My thing is-this is just my philosophy-if you can keep a guy a starter and work with him as a starter and all of a sudden he shows he can be a starter, that’s the best-case scenario. If it doesn’t happen, you can always make him a reliever.”
It seems like Putkonen is already getting some positive attention, and it will be fun to watch him in Spring Training here in a few weeks. It’s no secret I love watching the guys we’ve seen play in West Michigan move up the ladder, and we wish him the best. He pitched for the Whitecaps back in 2009, going 7-8 with a 3.13 ERA and 63 strikeouts!
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press
Larry Parrish may be entering his first season as skipper of the West Michigan Whitecaps, but he has plenty of experience under his belt. On Tuesday the Triple-A International League announced that Parrish will be rewarded for that experience, and success, by being inducted to their 2013 Hall of Fame class. Managing the Toledo Mud Hens, he won the IL Manager of the Year award in 2005, and is the teams’ all time leader in wins with 569. Parrish’s first stint in Toledo started in 1994, leading them to a 56-62 record. After being promoted to become the Detroit Tigers manager in 1998-99, he came back to the Mud Hens from 2003-06, and 2008-10. He guided the Mud Hens to back-to-back Governor’s Cup championships in 2005 and 2006. He has also served as the Atlanta Braves hitting coach in 2011. Parrish played in the majors for 15 seasons with the Rangers, Expos, and Red Sox. The International League Hall of Fame was originally created in 1947, and ran through 1964. It was then re-established in 2008, the leagues 125th anniversary, and went through a three-year transition period where 50 inductees were selected by a committee. Parrish, along with Mack Jones and Don Richmond, represents the third class to be chosen by the HoF’s current standard.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps