June 2013

Whitecaps busy at home

The Calder Cup and Grand Rapids Griffins visit Fifth Third Ballpark

The Calder Cup and Grand Rapids Griffins visit Fifth Third Ballpark

This is just a quick post, as we’re getting ready to head south to the Grand Rapids area for Star Wars Night at the Whitecaps game tomorrow night. The fans in West Michigan have been pretty busy, as the ‘Caps have had plenty of promotions on the current home stand. On Wednesday, the 1998 Midwest Championship team was honored and the ‘Caps wore throwback jerseys of the ’90′s. Last night was special, not only because it was ’70′s night, but of the visitors to Fifth Third Ballpark. First, Benjamin Hill of MiLB.com was on hand doing his baseball thing. He gets involved in all aspects of the team, including the concessions, promotions, and between inning games. Ben is simply my hero, and you can check out all of his hi-jinks at Ben’s Biz Blog. Also attending last night game, were member of the AHL Champion Grand Rapids Griffins and the Calder Cup trophy. Area fans had the opportunity to get photos with coach Jeff Blashill, players, and the Cup. I really would’ve loved to have been at last night game to meet Ben and the Griffins. Tonight is also a special night, as Detroit Tiger legend Lou Whitaker will be there to sign autographs for fans. Being a second baseman, I idolized ‘Sweet’ Lou growing up here in Michigan. My Little League obligations have kept me in town, though, but we’ll be at Star Wars night tomorrow! 

Photo courtesy of West Michigan Whitecaps

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Lennerton to play in All-Star Futures Game

From deep in the M.I.B. archives. Jordan Lennerton with the Whitecaps back in 2009.

From deep in the M.I.B. archives. Jordan Lennerton with the Whitecaps back in 2009.

Detroit Tiger prospect, and former West Michigan Whitecap, Jordan Lennerton was named to the All-Star Futures World team. The first baseman leads the Triple-A Toledo MudHens in batting average at .311,  and on-base percentage at .416. In the last 54 games, he’s batting .332 with seven doubles, nine homers, and 21 RBI’s. Last season, Lennerton led the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, and 82 RBI’s. In 2009 with the Whitecaps, he hit .282 with 12 home runs and 71 RBI’s. He split the 2010 season between West Michigan and Lakeland, but hit .290 with three home runs and 23 RBI’s in 59 games with the ‘Caps. He was named the Midwest League Player of the Week on 06/01/10. Lennerton was drafted by Detroit in the 33rd round of the 2008 draft, after completing his collegiate career at Oregon State. Lennerton was named to the World roster due to the fact he’s from British Columbia, Canada, eh. At this point he’s the only Tigers representative to the Futures Game, but may be joined by Toledo teammate Nick Castellanos. Fans can vote for the final roster spots, and Castellanos is one of the finalists. You can vote for him HERE. He was the MVP of last years Futures Game after getting three hits, scoring three runs, and three RBI’s. Fellow Detroit prospects Bruce Rondon and Rob Brantley joined him in last season’s game, also.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Loons take 2 of 3 from Whitecaps

Corey Seager had two home runs in game 2 against the Whitecaps

Corey Seager had two home runs in game 2 against the Whitecaps

There’s nothing like kicking off the second half of the Minor League Baseball season with an in-state rivalry. The Great Lakes Loons hosted the West Michigan Whitecaps at Dow Diamond in Midland, MI for the second season opener, taking two out of the three games. The Whitecaps took the first game by the score of 6-3. The ‘Caps were led offensively by Jeff Holm, who went 3-5 with a pair of doubles. Lance Durham and Connor Herrell also had two hits each for West Michigan. Herrell was making his professional debut after being drafted by the Tigers earlier this month, was 2-4 with a double, a run scored, an RBI, a base on balls, and a stolen base. The Loons actually opened the scoring in the first inning on a solo home run by Tyler Ogle. On the mound, relief pitcher Chad Smith earned the win, while Angel Sanchez took the loss, being charged with five earned runs, and nine hits over 5.1 innings. As a team, the ‘Caps had 11 hits in the game, and scored six unanswered runs.

Game two of the series was another exciting game, with Great Lakes taking the 9-7 win. Loons short stop Corey Seager went 3-4 with a pair of home runs to lead the offense. The Whitecaps battled back from being down 5-0, with a run-scoring triple by Holm and a three-run shot by Jake Stewart in the fourth. In the fifth, Jared Reaves and Devon Travis each hit doubles, and Herrell had a run-scoring base hit. Loons reliever Arismendy Ozoria earned the win, while Logan Ehlers took the loss for the ‘Caps. The Whitecaps had the bases loaded in the ninth, but the comeback fell short, as Jason King grounded out.

The Loons won the rubber-match also, 2-1, with a walk-off in the ninth-inning. Tyler Ogle blasted a double off ‘Caps relief pitcher Josh Turley that scored the winning run. Geoff Brown earned the win for Great Lakes, with Turley getting the loss. The star of the game, however, was West Michigan’s starting pitcher Jake Thompson, who struck out ten batters, a career high. The Tigers’ 19-year-old prospect gave up only three singles, and only one runner was in scoring position through the first eight innings. Tough loss for the ‘Caps and Thompson, but the win put the Loons’ fans into a frenzy!

Photo courtesy of Danielle McGrew/The Saginaw News

Travis earns All-Star MVP

TravisMVPThe West Michigan Whitecaps‘ second baseman Devon Travis (pictured above) earned a spot on the Midwest League All-Star team with his play this season, especially with his bat. He currently leads the league in hits and average at .350. Believe it or not, Travis wasn’t even a starter for the MWL East at the game in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday night. That actually worked out well, however, as he was put into the game as a defensive replacement in the second inning. During his at bat in the fifth inning with the bases loaded, Travis lined a shot down the right field line for a triple that scored three runs. He was 2-2 in the game, getting a base hit in his first at-bat.

“I don’t know if I can put into words (how I feel).” Travis stated to MLive.com. “There are so many great players on this field tonight. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to play against the best in the league. I’m just so thankful.”

The MVP almost got away from him, though, as the East took a 5-2 lead into the ninth, but the relievers couldn’t hold on to it. The West came back to tie the game at five all, but Travis was saved by Dalton Pompey of the Lansing LugNuts, who hit a walk-off single to score the winning run. Whitecaps’ reliever Jose Valdez pitched 0.2 innings with a strike-out. Starting first baseman Jeff Holm went 0-1 with a base on balls in the game, but still had fun giving his teammate a face full of shaving cream.

“The highlight of my trip was giving Devon a shaving-creaming right on camera”, Holm stated jovially. “I’ve always wanted to do that.” About his All-Star experience: “It’s fantastic. You play against these guys all year and then you get a chance to play with them. It’s pretty cool. I just tried to do what got me here.”

Holm is batting .281 on the season with six home runs, and is leading West Michigan with 42 RBI’s. Valdez is second in the MWL with 15 saves, and has a 2.84 ERA. Our next game planned is just over a week away, and is Star Wars night in West Michigan. It will be fun to see these All-Stars in action once again.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Griffins win Calder Cup

calder1I’m taking a small break from minor league baseball to focus on some minor league hockey. Why would I do this, you ask? Easy, when my own Grand Rapids Griffins captured the Calder Cup last night with a 5-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch. The Calder Cup is awarded to the playoff champion of the American Hockey League, which is comparable to Triple-A in baseball. The Griffins won the series four game to two over the favored Syracuse team. Grand Rapids won the first three games of the series, but the Crunch battled back to win two and bring the series back home. It would have been nice to have won it on home ice at Van Andel Arena, but a championship is special no matter where it’s won. Griffin captain Jeff Hoggan accepted the Cup at center ice, and Tomas Tatar was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the series most valuable player, scoring 16 goals and 21 points in 24 games. In net, Petr Mrazek made 24 saves for the win. First year head coach Jeff Blashill made a fine showing also, and is a native of our little town of Sault Ste. Marie here in the U.P. This is the first championship in the 17 year history of the Griffins, and 27 years of pro hockey in Grand Rapids.   

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Tomas Tatar was named MVP of the Calder Cup Finals

Tomas Tatar was named MVP of the Calder Cup Finals

Calder2To celebrate, more than 4,000 fans were in attendance at Van Andel Arena this evening to see the Griffins and the Calder Cup. The team was also able to thank their fans. We knew this would be a special season when we saw them play in February, and they looked very solid. I would love to see the Whitecaps pick up on this, and have the Griffins honored at one of their games. They could even have a championship puck give away or something, or have the Calder Cup on display. Anyway, this is very good for my hometown of Grand Rapids. Congrats to the Griffins, and also to Syracuse on a great season.

Calder5Photos courtesy of the AHL/Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard/MLive.com/Grand Rapids Press

The Boys of Summer

bri1Little League Baseball is in full swing up here in Michigan. The boys are having a great time on the field, and are getting better every time out. Lily decided to take a year off, but is still keeping busy and helps out with Brian’s tee ball team when she can. The weather has been pretty good to us so far this month, too. Brian has been hitting the snot out of the ball off of the tee, and has one of the best arms in the league. Trevor is really working hard, playing smart, and his monster 2-RBI double is probably his highlight so far. Sooo…here are a few gratuitous pics of the boys doing their thing.

Brian #1

Brian certainly is a charatcer while on the field!

Brian certainly is a charatcer while on the field!

Nothing beats a snack after a ballgame!

Nothing beats a snack after a ballgame!

bri3Trevor #8

trev4trev3trev2Photos property of  Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps announce All-Time Team

caps20teamThe West Michigan Whitecaps are celebrating their 20th season, and along with that allowed the fans to vote for their all-time favorite players. There have been more than 600 optomistic young men that have taken the field for the Whitecaps, with 102 of them breaking into the big leagues. The players were voted for by position in an on-line ballot, and here are the 14 that made the cut.

Manager-Tom Brookens (2007)

Catcher-Brandon Inge (1999)

First Base-Robert Fick (1997)

Second Base-Scott Sizemore (2007)

Shortstop-Brent Dlugach (2005)

Third Base-Nick Castellanos (2011)

Outfield-Matt Joyce (2006), Cameron Maybin (2006), Avisail Garcia (2009-10)

Designated Hitter-Eric Munson (1999)

Starting Pitcher-Duane Below (2007), Jair Jurrjens (2005), Joel Zumaya (2003)

Relief Pitcher-Francisco Cordero (1997), Ed Clelland (2005, 2007)

You can read the full story HERE on the Whitecaps website. Of all the winners, only Castellanos and Clelland have not played in the Major Leagues. The results are not that surprising, though, knowing the popularity of some of these guys in West Michigan. One of the few positions I voted different was Eugenio Suarez (2012) at shortstop.

Promo photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

2013 Baseball Trip-Game 11: The home field advantage

West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)

caps1Fifth-Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: As much as I loved my time in North Carolina, it was good to be back in Michigan, and have the home field advantage. It felt comfortable to be back in my own ballpark, and to see the Whitecaps play for the first time this season. After riding in airplanes most of the day, it was nice to be in the fresh air and wandering around Fifth-Third Ballpark. We were also one of the lucky ones to get an Avisail Garcia bobble head at the gate. It was good to see the best mascot in the minors, Crash the River Rascal, hamming it up on the concourse with the kids. I wandered down and watched the Whitecaps warm up, and got some good pics of the team. I was excited to see guys like Devin Travis and Danry Vasquez in action. It was also cool to see new pitching coach Mike Henneman, who was one of my favorite Tigers when I was younger. Henneman seemed to be joking around with his staff a little, and keeping his pitchers loose. It was good to see some familiar faces and be back home, and this will go down as one of the best baseball trips ever.

We were early enough to see the Hot Rods take some batting practice

We were early enough to see the Hot Rods take some batting practice

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Jeff Holm signs some autographs for Whitecaps fans

Jeff Holm signs some autographs for Whitecaps fans

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Tigers' prospect Austin Schotts

Tigers’ prospect Austin Schotts

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Former Tiger pitcher Mike Henneman

Former Tiger pitcher Mike Henneman

The game did not go our way, and the Whitecaps home field advantage did them little good as the Hot Rods shut them right down. Starting pitcher Charlie Gillies took the loss, but had no run support. He gave up three runs and struck out three, in just over five innings of work. Both second baseman Jared Reaves and third baseman Mario Martinez went 2-4, but could not help get a run across the plate. Win or lose, however, there’s still no place that I’d rather be. Final score: Whitecaps 0, Hot Rods 4.

Devon Travis leads the Midwest League in hits

Devon Travis leads the Midwest League in hits

Outfielder Danry Vasquez

Outfielder Danry Vasquez

caps12caps14caps13Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

2013 Baseball Trip-Game 10: It’s always Sunny in Kannapolis

Kannapolis Intimidators vs. Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic League)

kan1CMC-Northeast Stadium-Kannapolis, NC: Wow…what to do on a day when we only have one game scheduled to attend? Well, if you’re into the nascar thing, then you would have enjoyed our experiences. Our first stop was in Concord, NC, home of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Despite the advertising of daily tours around the track, we found they were cancelled because some trucks were practicing all weekend. Great luck, so we poked around a bit and headed out. Just down the street there was a nice little car museum, so we decided to check that out. The highlight for me was seeing a couple of cars used in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (if you’re not first, you’re last…). We still had plenty of time before our game in Kannapolis, so, sticking with the nascar theme, we decided to head back into downtown Charlotte to the nascar Hall of Fame. Our experience there was ok, but decided just to head back north to Kannapolis. We arrived a little early, but noticed that the gates were open. The ballpark wasn’t really open to the public then, but I started chatting with head of ticket sales,  and he was nice enough to open the gift shop for me so we could get our souvenirs and put them back in the car before the game. The whole Intimidators staff was very friendly, and treated us well. We actually had time to take and little snooze in the car before the gates officially opened. Before heading inside, though, I took a few pics of the race car parked in front of the stadium…sticking with the nascar theme, of course. Kannapolis is the birthplace of deceased nascar driver Dale Earnhardt, and the Intimidators are named after him. Inside, we had plenty of time to explore the small ballpark before the game began. This included hanging out with mascot Tim E. Gator. The concourse was nice, and wide open. There were some good eats, too, but we just stuck with beer and hot dogs. I bought seats in the V.I.P. section, right next to the Intimidators dugout. On a two dimensional seating chart, the seats looked great, but in reality, I had a huge pole directly in front of me, and couldn’t see anything. With a small crowd, we quickly found new seats. CMC-Northeast Stadium is a nice, unique, ballpark, and was a good low-key end to our adventures in North Carolina, as I really love the South Atlantic League.

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It doesn't get more intimidating than this...

It doesn’t get more intimidating than this…

kan5kan6The in-game action started out well for the home town nine. They scored three runs in the first inning, and one run in the fourth to take a 4-1 run lead. Things would fall apart in the late innings, though, as they gave up four and five runs in consecutive innings to go down 10-4. They battled back in the eighth, scoring three runs to cut the Suns’ lead to three, but couldn’t come up with the equalizer. The Intimidators got great production our of right fielder Jason Coats, who went 3-5 with four RBI’s and two runs scored. Brandon Brennan took the loss on the hill for Kannapolis, going 6.1 innings and giving up four earned runs. Relief pitcher Todd Kibby really got roughed up, though, not even lasting one innings and giving up four runs on three walks and one hit. Final score: Intimidators 7, Suns 10.

kan7kan08kan9kan10kan11kan12kan13Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

2013 Baseball Trip-Game 9: Dashing back to Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem Dash vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina League)

dash1BB&T Ballpark-Winston-Salem, NC: Ok, so we were in Winston-Salem a few days ago, and now we came back to see the Dash play in more Carolina League action. I really wish we could have stayed and explored Asheville a little more, but this is the life we’re leading on these trips. Our evening starting with an amazing dinner at Tripps Restaurant, where my dad was reunited with an old army buddy that he hasn’t seen in many years. It was an amazing experience to listen to their stories and see them catch up. It was hard to break away, but we finally did and headed to the ballpark. The home of the Dash, BB&T Ballpark, is very impressive for single-A baseball. It had a nice large parking lot, which made things easy for us to get in and out. We entered through the outfield, which is something we’ve been seeing more and more of in recent years. The modern park is very beautiful, and looked like it didn’t have a bad seat in the house. I liked the fact that the concourse goes entirely around the field, too. Thier mascot Bolt was entertaining, and played some tricks on the umpire before the game. I never saw him in the stands interacting with the fans, though, which is too bad. The ballpark is really nice, but to me it seemed a little sterile. Maybe just because it’s so new, and that we were at a game during the week without a huge crowd. Still lots of fun, and a ballpark worth visiting.

dash2dash3dash4The game saw the home team get roughed up a bit, especially early. Dash pitcher Chris Bassitt only lasted 2.1 innings, and gave up nine runs. The bullpen seemed to keep the visiting Pelicans in check the rest of the way, though. Shortstop Chris Curley led the offensively, going 2-4 on the night. Left fielder Grant Buckner, however, had the two RBI’s going 1-4. Final score: Dash 2, Pelicans 9.

dash5dash6dash7dash8dash9dash10dash11dash12Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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