After we watched the Lake County Captains drop a double-header at the Great Lakes Loons, they headed over to western Michigan to take on our Whitecaps. The Whitecaps won the first game of the series by the score of 8-4. West Michigan was led offensively by second baseman Devon Travis, who went 4-5 on the day, with two home runs, and five RBI’s. Travis’ first home run was a bomb over the old-fashioned green scoreboard, but his second one took a little more effort on the base path. He drove the ball to the centerfield wall, and after a missed attempt by the center fielder, he just kept going. Manager Larry Parrish gave him the go-ahead, and he slid safely into home with a ‘in the park’ homer.
“I was running to third base assuming it was a triple,” Travis told MLive.com. “I was hoping that LP (Parrish) wouldn’t send me home. I was too tired. It’s one of those games that you won’t have very often, that’s for sure. I don’t try to hit the ball out, it just happens sometimes.”
Travis leads the Whitecaps with four home runs and 14 RBI’s, and is hitting .362 in 15 games. Parrish has been in pro baseball for 41 years, and stated he’s never seen a player knock a traditional home run and inside-the-park home run in the same game. On the mound, Yorfrank Lopez earned the win for the ‘Caps, striking out three batters in five innings, and giving up three runs. In relief, Brennan Smith worked three innings, allowing no runs and striking out four. The next day was another first for Travis, though, as he witnessed a little thing called snow, that we see way too much of here in Michigan.
“The guys were giving me a hard time because I was really excited. I was walking out of the gym, and I saw snow, and I started jumping around because I was excited my first time seeing it ever come down. I was definitely happy to see it, but I’m glad we didn’t have to play in it.”
The snow wasn’t all that kind to the ‘Caps, however, as they lost the second game of the series 8-5 to Lake County. They would bounce back in the rubber match in a big way, though. They won 10-1, on the back of Danry Vasquez and his four hits, four RBI’s, and two stolen bases. And he has country music to thank for it…. Manager Larry Parrish convinced him to listen to country instead of latin music in the locker room, and the rest is history.
“I think I will do it again,” Vasquez told MLive.com. “I will be superstitious.”
Vasquez played in West Michigan last season, before being moved to the Connecticut Tigers of the NY-Penn League, but is batting .302 with 11 RBI’s this year.
“I’m just much different than last year.” He stated. “I feel more comfortable, and I feel much stronger.”
Also pitching in offensively, Jeff Holm contributed two hits, with a triple and two RBI’s. Relief pitcher Josh Turley earned the win, with three strike outs in two innings. Julio Felix also pitched two innings with only one hit, and Jose Valdez took care of the ninth. In all, a pretty good way to end a home stand.
Dow Diamond-Midland, Michigan: The second game of our double-header was a little chillier, but we toughed it out anyway. The kids stayed warm on the playground, and trying to get a game ball, which Brian finally did! He also gave the ball to Trevor, which I thought was pretty nice. Lily stayed warm by visiting the Loons’ Loft gift shop and Trevor hung out by the fire pit to get some heat. After all that, the kids were still up for some cold ice cream…go figure. After the game Brian was able to run the bases at Dow Diamond, and he got a kick out of that, and being on the field with the mascots Lou E. Loon and Rall E. Camel.
The game itself was yet another low scoring pitching duel, with Ralston Cash taking the rock for Great Lakes. The Loons took an early lead this game, however, as Corey Seager singled in the second inning, than advanced to third on a Pat Stover single and a Captains’ error. Dashenko Richardo drove in the run with a sacrifice fly. In the fifth inning, James Baldwin got a bunt single, but advanced to third on another Captain throwing error. A Malcolm Holland singled scored the winning run. Cash earned the 2-1 victory for his team, going five and a half innings, giving up one run on one hit, and striking out eight. Luis Meza and Scott Griggs finished the game on the mound for the Loons. Final Score: Loons 2, Lake County Captains 1.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Great Lakes Loons vs. Lake County Captains (Midwest League)Dow Diamond-Midland, Michigan: Despite having plans to attempt another Lugnuts game in Lansing, the weather report prompted the kids and I to head south over the weekend a little early to avoid the storms. Our journey took us to Midland, Michigan to attend a pair of Great Lakes Loons games, and I’m pretty sure we made the right choice! The weather was a little cool, but with not rain and sunny skies, it was fine for us. After the rain-outs earlier this month, is was just nice to watch baseball and get these first games in. The kids were happy that their Papa was able to make it over to the game, too. Brian headed right for Lou E. Lookout (playground) and the mascots Rall E. Camel and Lou E. Loon entertained the kids throughout the game. It was a fun game to watch, and good to get the first one in for the kids and I.
The game itself was a solid pitchers duel, with the score 0-0 going into the seventh inning, with Jharel Cotton getting the start for the Loons against the Lake County Captains. The seventh inning started off good for Great Lakes, as top prospect Corey Seager shot a single to right field. He then advanced to second on a nice bunt by Pat Stover. Outfielder Jeremy Rathjen then scorched a single to score Seager and give the Loons the walk-off victory! A great way to start the season for us, and a nice win for the home team.
It was just another day at the ballpark for this Mud Hens fan. Sit back, have a few beers, throw peanuts at former Tiger Brandon Inge…wait, what? Yes, fans do heckle players at the games, especially at the minor league games where the fans are so close to the action. Last night, however, one fan took things a little too far and began belittling Inge, and even started throwing peanuts at him. Inge, who signed with the Pirates this spring, was playing for the Indianapolis Indians on a rehab assignment against the Mud Hens in Toledo.
“It was just an agitate fan that took it a little too far”, Inge told The Toledo Blade. “That stuff is unfortunate. You can’t avoid it. There’s always going to be a couple of idiots at every game. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can handle it the best you can, and I think we did.”
When the fans assaults became unbearable, Inge’s teammates were quick to defend him. Pirate prospect Jerry Sands and Felix Pie had to be restrained from going after the unruly fan. Sands actually cleared the fence between the stands and dugout, an action that brought a one game suspension from the International League. The fan was escorted out of the ballpark, but still tried throwing beer at the players on their way out (alcohol abuse?). Inge did his best to continue the game, and make it enjoyable for the remaining fans, especially the kids in attendance. He handed out more than a half-dozen baseball to kids.
“Everything was handled very professionally,” Inge stated. “The Mud Hens handled it professionally and I think we handled it as professionally as we could.” Uh, except for Sands, though, Brandon? He did take care of the kids, though: “I know the face of a kid that’s scared. And that man was definitely scaring those kids around the area. I actually saw a couple of kids sitting by themselves, I’m sure their parents were nearby, and I saw them actually get up and move a couple of seats back. They were just like, ‘Wow, we need to move,’. I didn’t want them to feel like that. So I pulled them over and gave them some baseballs. It turned to be, I think, ok.”
None of the Mud Hens players were involved. The Detroit fans have always had a love/hate relationship with Inge, though. Personally I’ve never had a problem with him. He always worked hard and wanted to contribute the best he could. He’s also recently stated he’d like to come back to the Tigers organization when his playing days are done. This is prediction I’ve made many times, however.
“I’d probably, one day, like to stay part of that organization in some way,” Inge stated to the Detroit News. “ One thing I learned through the years in this game is reading people. It’s why I respect Al Kaline so much. He’s still helping the Tigers in so many ways. But what impresses me is that he’s such a great personality reader.” He also stated to the News, “Detroit is home for me. It’s not something you experience for as long as I did and not call it home. In my mind, I’ll always be a Tiger.”
There you have it, folks…. Any way you slice it, though, the fan was in the wrong, and I’m glad he got tossed without anyone getting hurt. Best of luck in your rehab, Brandon.
Photo courtesy of the Detroit News
The West Michigan Whitecaps are competing in their 20th season in the Midwest League. To celebrate this event, the team is having the fans vote on the best players they’ve seen in each position for the last two decades. Even three managers are up for the vote, in Bruce Fields, Matt Walbeck, and Tom Brookens. All three won the Midwest League Championship in West Michigan. Catchers such as Brandon Inge, current Tiger Alex Avila, and Miami Marlin Rob Brantley are all up for the best behind the plate. At first base, I think that Robert Fick has the inside edge. He was voted into the first Whitecaps Hall of Fame, and has the honor of hitting the last home run in Tiger Stadium. That’s just my vote, though. Second base is my favorite position, so I’ve followed the players there pretty closely. It will be tough for me to choose only one of my favorites such as Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, and Brandon Douglas. At short stop, in my opinion, the vote might come down to current Tiger Ramon Santiago, or last’s years MiLB Gold Glove winner Eugenio Suarez, which is a tough call. At the hot corner, top prospect Nick Castellanos may be the favorite despite being moved to the outfield last season with Lakeland and Erie. He may get a push from guys like Wade Gaynor and Wilkin Ramirez, though. Fans are allowed three choices for outfielders, and there are plenty. While players like Matt Joyce, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, and Brent Clevlen have all seen action at the MLB level, Gorkys Hernandez had a great season in West Michigan in 2007. He was also named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year that year. Fans are also allowed to vote for three pitchers. Players like Andy Van Hekken, Casey Crosby, Duane Below, and Joel Zumaya all found success on the hill in West Michigan. Rounding out the relief pitchers, fans can vote for two, including Michael Torrealba and Anthony Claggett. This is another great way the Whitecaps are celebrating so much success the last 20 years. VOTE NOW!
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Cooley Law School Stadium-Lansing, MI: Last Thursday we gambled…and lost. As mother nature continued to punish us in Michigan with freezing rain, sleet, and snow, the 7th Annual Crosstown Showdown, pitting the Lansing Lugnuts against the Michigan State Spartans, has been postponed. The Lugnuts announced that the game will be made up on May 1st, as a seven inning game. We won’t be able to make it to that one, but the Lansing ticket office staff was more than helpful in helping us exchange our tickets for a game that we will be able to make it back down for…weather permitting. The kids and I still had a fun day together, though. We took a tour of the State Capitol building that was very enjoyable and informative. Lily and Trevor have been studying government in school, and it’s good for them to actually see where and how it’s applied. Our love of cars also took us to see the R.E. Olds transportation museum. We love to see the old cars and memorabilia. So much pride and workmanship went into the classic vehicles. The most fun the kids had was at the Impression 5 Science Center. This is a hands on play area for kids to build, do experiments, and encounter science and nature first hand. They could have spent all day there, and we’ll probably visit this again after the Lugnuts game here in a couple of weeks. It does get you down a bit, waiting for the weather to clear up to see some baseball games, but we still had fun, and the kids were able to spend some quality time with their Papa for his birthday. We also had dinner at one of my favorite sports bars, the Nuthouse Sports Grill!
It’s that time of year again, when sports fans relish the opportunity to watch multiple events all through the month of April. For Tigers fans, and fans of all the Detroit sports, it’s a special time also. With the Tigers season just beginning, the Red Wings vying for yet another play off run, and the Pistons, well, I’m not sure what they’ve been doing, but I’ll root for them anyway. Helping spread the joy of Detroit sports are the lovely Fox Sports Detroit Girls. This year Lauren is joined by newcomers Stephanie and Brittney, who are doing a great job representing our sports teams. This is April in the ‘D’, and it’s a great time for me to watch baseball and hockey. I’m hoping the Tigers get on track, and start playing like a premiere team, but I’m grateful just to be watching baseball at this point.
Just a quick entry before the kids and I head off downstate. The West Michigan Whitecaps have gotten off to a pretty good start this season. An early record of 3-2 isn’t amazing, but we’ll take it in this Michigan weather. After a great 7-6 comeback win against the Dayton Dragons on opening day, they followed that up with a nice 6-0 shutout. They faltered the next couple of games, losing to Dayton by the scores of 8-3 and 4-1, however. The ‘Caps bounced back in a big way, taking the first game of the series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps 11-4. Jake Stewart is currently leading West Michigan with a .462 average, followed by fellow outfielder Michael Hernandez at .429, and second baseman Devon Travis hitting .381. Travis is also one of the RBI leaders for West Michigan at five, tied with outfielder Jeff Holm, and trailed by Lance Durham with three. It’s a little early to judge the pitching stats, but Endrys Bicendo and Brennan Smith lead the team with four strike-outs each. Today’s game with Fort Wayne has been rained out, and the weather doesn’t look good for the rest of the week. High percentage of rain is anticipated for both games in Great Lakes and Lansing we planned on going to.
I don’t think that the West Michigan Whitecaps could have scripted last night’s game any better. Opening Day. Celebrating 20 years. Ten innings. A walk-off win. Add those together, and you get a night that Whitecaps fans won’t soon forget. West Michigan gave their fans something to cheer about right away in last nights’ game against the Dayton Dragons, by jumping out to a 3-0 lead. They let that slip away, however, but fought back to take a 6-3 lead. Things got more exciting, as the Dragons would tie it up again, and set up the extra inning. With Jeff Holm on second base representing the winning run, Jake Stewart blasted a fastball to right-center field to give his team the win, and Larry Parrish‘s debut a success.
“It was exciting,” Stewart stated to MLive.com. “I was looking for a fastball, something up in the zone, something I could hit through the infield, and I was fortunate to get something I could hit.”
The ‘Caps pitching staff struggled in the cold Michigan weather, as five pitcher combined for eight walks and three wild pitches. Josh Turley earned the win, however, after shutting down the Dayton bats in the ninth inning. He pitched two innings and only gave up one hit. Starting pitcher Endrys Briceno lasted 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs, walking three, and striking out four. Offensively, West Michigan was led by Stewart, who was 3-3 with two RBI’s, and a run scored. Also pitching in was second baseman Devon Travis, who went 2-5 with a triple, RBI and run scored. Designated hitter Lance Durham also went 2-5, with two doubles, and RBI and run scored. Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez also added RBI’s in the game. First year skipper Parrish seemed happy with the effort and end result, too.
“I thought we hit the ball pretty good, made a couple of nice plays in the field and, overall, we pitched very well when we threw strikes,” Parrish told MLive.com. “I mean, obviously, we had way too many walks and they really hurt us.”
Although the Minor League Baseball season officially started tonight, the Lansing Lugnuts won’t play their first home game until next Thursday’s Crosstown Showdown against the Michigan State Spartans. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, as the weather reports don’t look good for next week, and I’m sure the kids will be disappointed if we don’t see the game. Since the Lugnuts released their 2013 roster, though, let’s take a look at some of the players we’ll be seeing. The team will have large shoes to fill, after last year’s squad enjoyed the most successful regular season in the franchise’s history, going 82-55. The entire coaching staff is back to lead its charges, including Midwest League Manager of the Year John Tamargo, Jr., pitching coach Vince Horsman, and hitting coach Kenny Graham.
This seasons’ version of the Lugnuts looks like it will be led by its pitching prospects. The 18-year-old Roberto Osuna is rated as the Toronto Blue Jays second highest prospect by Baseball America. The product of Los Mochis, Mexico, was signed by the Jays as a free agent. Also ranked as the sixth prospect in Toronto’s system is Daniel Norris. Norris is a 19-year-old who was the Jays second round pick in the 2011 draft. Joining them in the rotation will be lefty Alonzo Gonzalez, and right-handers Javier Avendano and Taylor Cole. The Lugnuts’ bullpen should consist of Wil Browning, Tucker Donahue, Chuck Ghysels, Arik Sikula, Ben White, and the only left-hander Griffin Murphey. Also in the bull will be former infielder Matt Johnson, who the organization turned into a pitching prospect.
The infield for Lansing will include returning players Balbino Fuenmayor, Shane Opitz, Gustavo Pierre, and Kellen Sweeney. They will be joined by Jorge Flores, Emilio Gurerro, and Christian Lopez, who is ranked at the 21st Jays prospect. The outfield features two returning players in Chris Hawkins (28) Dalton Pompey. The newcomers joining them are Ronnie Melendez and Carlos Ramirez. With nine returning players in all, the Lugnuts have a very good chance of challenging for the Midwest League Championship. I look forward to seeing these guys play next week at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing, and maybe with the Blue Jays in a few years.
Photo courtesy of Fox 47 News