Last night Brian’s age group of Sault Area Little Leaguers participated in Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit, & Run competition. Of course it was a typical Michigan day here in late May, with the temps barely above 40, and that ‘brisk’ wind pouring off Lake Superior, blowing the kids’ hats every which way. The kids up here are tough, though, and they all did a great job. Brian didn’t win any of the categories, but he made a strong showing at each one. He’s playing for the Cubs this season, and really looks good sporting the blue and red! Our first game is next week, but the competition sponsored by MLB was a good experience for the team.
And who didn’t pull up a little grass while ‘patiently’ waiting our turn?
The Little League baseball season is upon us once again up north. The kids have been working the indoor clinics (which most of the kids hate), but on Friday they finally were able to make it outside. In most parts of the country baseball has probably been played for a month or two, but up here we usually get onto the field in mid-May. It was another long and brutal winter (we had more snow than any other city on the country this year…), so Brian was thrilled to be outside and playing baseball. He’s moved up from Tee Ball to Rookies (coach pitch) this season, but he’s been hitting live pitching for a few years now, so this shouldn’t be anything new to him. They had a pitching machine at the practice, but I’m not sure if it will be used though out the season at the games, or just at these practices. I’m a coach in this league, on the board of directors, and they still don’t tell me anything. Brian has been wearing his Angels jersey from last season, but we’re not sure what team we’ll be this season. I requested the Angels again, but who knows what we’ll end up with. At any rate, I can’t wait to get my team set and do my own thing with the practices. I have so many fun things planned for the kids this season, so let’s get this going…
Great Lakes Loons vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)
Dow Diamond-Midland, MI: Flying home from Florida, I decided to take an extra day and spend it with my dad. We usually go to a game for his birthday the first of April, but my training pushed that back a couple of weeks. I flew in just south of Midland, so we had a nice lunch and took in a Loons game, which is always a good time. As you can see by some of the pics, also, I finally discovered the MiLB In The Park app, and took advantage of it with the photos I took with my phone. I wish I would have used it in Jacksonville, but will definitely use it for any of our upcoming games.
I did get spoiled a little bit with the warmer weather down south, and it seemed that some of the rain followed by back up north here. It was a little cooler here in Michigan that it was in Florida and Georgia, but in reality not all that bad for the time of year. The rain didn’t last long and didn’t delay the game, either, so it’s all good on that front.
As far as the game goes, the Lugnuts jumped to a 2-0 lead after scoring a run in each of the first two innings. The Loons came back to score single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to tie things up, but then both offenses would come to a complete stand-still.
The game went to a whopping 16 innings, with the visitors finally plating a pair. For the Lugnuts, they were led by Rowdy Tellez, who went two for seven with three RBI’s in the game, and Dickie Joe Thon who went three for six at the plate. Andrew Case pitched the last four inning for Lansing, picking up the win while striking out two. For the home-town Loons, Josmar Cordero went three for seven, while Alex Verdugo and Mike Ahmed had two hits each. Kevin Guzman got the start on the hill for Great Lakes, going five strong innings while only giving up one earned run. Cordero, despite his three hits, would come in a take the loss, giving up both runs in the 16th. Also making an appearance for the Loons, was pitcher David Reid-Foley. Reid-Foley was born in Sault Ste. Marie (where I currently live), then moved down to Brunswick, Georgia (where I was training just the day before), and went to school and was drafted while in Jacksonville, Florida (where I caught a couple of Suns games). Baseball does unite the world, does it not? Final: Loons 2, Lugnuts 4.
I wish I could say that we stayed for the whole 16 inning marathon, but honestly can’t. After being up since four in the morning, travelling back to Michigan, and still being and hour and a half until I could lay my head down, we couldn’t do more than 12 innings. A long day, but a fun time as always at Dow Diamond. We don’t have any plans to come back as of yet this season, but once Little League starts and gets a schedule, I can start looking at the rest of the summer. We do have plans to hit a pair of Whitecaps games next month, though.
Jacksonville Suns vs. Jackson Generals (Southern League)
Bragan Field/Baseball Grounds-Jacksonville, FL: We had such a great time at Friday’s game, we just had hit at least one more! Sunday games are great, as they’re usually earlier in the day, so we didn’t have to be worried about being too tired for training the next morning. Again we got tickets that day, right behind the Suns dugout this time. I have no idea why tickets are so easy to get (not that I’m complaining), or why there wasn’t more fans in the stands for a Sunday game. We got to the this game on time, and by that I mean about an hour early. Lucky I was able to meet a couple of the Sunbeams coming through the gate, as they were pretty rare throughout the game.
Another plus about being at the ballpark early, as that we had a chance to explore some and get some good photos. I was able to get a couple panoramic from the concourse above our seats, and from the outfield.
Between innings, the SweetRight Brothers were on hand to entertain the kids. Since Brian wasn’t there, I really could have cared less, and would have preferred a performance from the Sunbeams. The kids in the crowd liked them, however, so I guess there are no complaints.
We started to get a little rain about the fourth inning, but not enough to stop the game, or stop us from enjoying ourselves. I really give the Jacksonville organization credit for just playing through a little rain. The grounds crew did come onto the field and put dry dirt on the mound and batters box, but that’s about it.
The game was another solid one for the home team. At the plate, the Suns had production from Austin Nola, who went two for three and drove in three of Jacksonville’s four RBI’s. Also going two for three on the day was Kenny Wilson and catcher Sharif Othman, who pushed across the Suns’ other run. On the hill, Kendry Flores earned the win, going five innings and allowing only one run. The Generals made a game of it late, but Sean Donatello earned the save. Final: Suns 4, Generals 2.
Another great day of baseball, and I really missed the games here in Jacksonville. This team was really a big part of me being down here ten years ago, and it was good to get back to the Baseball Grounds. I waned to get one more game fit in before flying home, but the rain spoiled that.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Jacksonville Suns vs. Jackson Generals (Southern League)
Bragan Field/Baseball Grounds-Jacksonville, FL: While in southern Georgia for some training for work, I took the opportunity to take in a ballgame or two in Jacksonville. This was my first Suns game since I was in the area for training in 2005. The ballpark hasn’t changed in a decade, as the Baseball Grounds are still a fantastic venue to watch a game.
We missed the first half-inning, due to our facility being about an hour north and having to get a car rented. I was surprised that there weren’t more fans at the game, and that we were able to get such good seats right behind the Jackson dugout. We didn’t miss too much of the action, however, as the Suns plated a run in the second inning, and never looked back.
I used the rain delay to get a selfie with the Suns mascot, Southpaw, too! This definitely made Brian jealous back in Michigan, but I bought him a Southpaw souvenir, and we’re good. I really give the Jacksonville organization and the grounds crew credit, as the field was ready to go in under an hour.
After the delay, the Suns kept playing well in victory. On the bump, Jake Esch earned the win with 5 1/3 innings of work. He only allowed three hits and struck out six, in a start they was cut off by the rain. The Suns bullpen pitched in after the rain, also with Blake Logan, Matt Tomshaw, and Sean Donatello helping secure the shutout. Offensively, Jax was led by Matt Juengel who went three for four with two RBI’s, and Austin Nola who went one for three with a home run and two RBI’s. Also pitching in: Kenny Wilson and Carlos Lopez, who each went two for four with an RBI respectively. Final: Suns 7, Generals 0.
And some video of the Sunbeams and the game:
All Photos and Video property of Minoring In Baseball
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Ohio Bobcats
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Madness. Sheer Madness. Attending a baseball game in Michigan in March, one would have to be classified as mad, or crazy, or whatever. The weather actually wasn’t that bad, however, and dealing with a personal loss, my dad and I decided to use baseball as therapy. This was the Chips home opener, so there was a decent crowd on hand (until the sun disappeared, anyway).
The game itself was a rough one for the Chips. Sophomore Nick Deeg took the loss one the mound, but two unearned runs didn’t help his cause. CMU had a couple other defensive lapses that could have been errors, also, so a tough day for the left-hander. Five times during the game the Chippewas had at least two runners in scoring position, and stranded 13 total for the game. Nick Regnier and Alex Borglin had two hits and an RBI each to lead CMU offensively. Logan Regnier and Joe Houlihan each legged out doubles, and freshman Zach McKinstry added a hit and an RBI.
The Chippewas bounced back to beat Ohio the nest two games, but we were left with the lone loss in the series. Still a fun day, and getting to a ballgame really helped take our minds off things for a little while. We’ll try to see the Chips play again this season for sure. Final Score: Chippewas 4, Bobcats 6.
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: This weekend the West Michigan Whitecaps officially kicked off the 2015 season, hosting a ‘SnOwPEN house’ at Fifth Third Ballpark. There were s’more stations and a pitching area out front for the kids and adults alike. The mascots Crash, Roxy, and Frankie were interacting with the fans, also.
Brian’s favorite activity of the day was getting a ride by the sled dogs. This was a very popular activity for others, too, as we waited in line for an hour in the balmy 20 degree weather (at least it wasn’t -35, as it is today). The wait was worth it, as Brian had a blast getting pulled around in the snow. We were lucky to get him on, too, as he was in the second to last group, and so many people had given up that were ahead of us.
Up in the ballpark, the ‘Caps were serving up free hotdogs for fans. They even were playing the movie ‘Frozen’ on the giant video board for the kids to enjoy while they ate. The ticket office opened up, too, as single game tickets went on sale. A fun day, that got us excited for baseball season. It doesn’t look like the cold and snow is going anywhere soon, but we can certainly dream. We ended out day at the Van Andel Museum in downtown Grand Rapids. Brian enjoyed all of the artifacts, and especially the Real Pirate exhibit.
YouTube video of the dog sled:
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and who wants to spend that day alone? So Brian and I, being the wild and crazy guys that we are, bundled up to combat the sub-zero temps and spent the evening with the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team. The team was having their annual pasta dinner to raise funds for their road trips this season. We ate well, and Brian kept busy playing with some of the other kids in attendance. He even gave some of the players a Valentine, and got his picture taken with his favorite player (with spaghetti sauce on his shirt, no less).
The Lakers start their season in two weeks, travelling to Marquette, Michigan to face Marian (Wisc.), Finlandia, Edgewood, and Concordia (Wisc.) in the Superior Dome. They then will travel to the St. Louis area in March, to face some more non-conference teams, gearing up for their GLIAC schedule. The Lakers complete schedule can be found HERE. We wish the girls the best of luck this season in their GLIAC playoff bid, and are confident they’ll reach their goal. Trevor joined us for the hockey game after the dinner, but we missed him and Lily this year. I hope they’ll join us next year if we’re still living in the area.
This summer, the Great Lake State will be opening it’s very own Baseball Hall of Fame. The location will be at the Lansing Lugnuts’ Cooley Law School stadium, in left center field on the outfield wall. The idea came last year, when the Lugnuts started a $26.5 million renovation to their ballpark. Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson helped to conceive the idea, realizing there is no such place yet.
“We said, why don’t we do it,” Dickson told MLive.com. “Sometimes it’s amazing what you stumble upon with a little but of luck.”
The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame will start with 10 members in its inaugural class. It will include plaques with images of the inductees, as well as the when and why they were inducted. The Hall will include players and coaches native to Michigan, as well as those who came to our state and ‘contributed significantly and positively within the national pastime.’ The Hall won’t be limited to just major league players, either, and could include a little league team, high school or college players, and coaches.
“We’re looking for people who have made an outstanding contribution to baseball in the state of Michigan across all levels”, stated Dickson.
There is a very impressive selection committee in place, looking to seek out the worthy candidates from our state. Along with some of the great players from the Detroit Tigers, I would love to see pitcher Jim Abbott selected, as he was one of my favorite players growing up. Michigan also has a great history of amateur baseball, as the very first College World Series was played in Kalamazoo, and the Stan Musial World Series being played in Battle Creek. C.O. Brown and Arch Flannery would be good bets, also, as they were responsible for bringing the series to BC back in 1937. I definitely can’t wait until June 27th, when the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame opens its doors.
Logo courtesy of Michigan Hall of Fame/MLive.com
Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium/OSU-Columbus, OH: Well, tonight’s the night, when the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Oregon Ducks for the NCAA national football championship. Not having a horse in the race, I did think it was a good chance to show off a few photographs from my visit to Buckeye country this past summer. We had plenty of time to kill before our Columbus Clippers game, so we decided to check out the campus, and that included their baseball stadium. Bill Davis Stadium is really one of the nicest collegiate baseball stadiums that I’ve had a chance to see, though I haven’t been to too many. They have the artificial turf that many of the NCAA teams are going to now, also. I was lucky that they were doing some maintenance work and that the stadium was open for me to poke around and take some pictures. I almost got locked in, though, and I really wasn’t in the mood for climbing fences. It’s too bad I didn’t get to see a game here, as, again, it’s a really beautiful college ballpark, and I’m sure the atmosphere would have been great, especially if they were playing a rival. Our trip was in mid-June, however, and the only college ball being played at the time was in Omaha. I hope to make it back to Columbus for more baseball to catch a Buckeye game, and another Clippers game, as ours was shortened by some rain. Have fun watching the football game tonight.