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.
Baseball just might return to Kalamazoo, Michigan yet. The city sent out a request for proposals, and the league that responded was the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is a collegiate wooden bat league, the same one that the Battle Creek Bombers are in. The team would play at Homer Stryker Field, recently re-named Mayor’s Riverfront Park. The NL now has 16 teams, and is based in Rochester, Minnesota. All the players are NCAA eligible, are not paid, and use wooden bats just like the pros. If the deal goes through, a new team could move into Riverfront ballpark by this fall, with plans to start play in 2014. From the pictures, it looks like the ballpark has been kept up, but it still may need some work. Sean Fletcher, director of the Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Department, is optimistic.
“The big thing is just getting it game-ready, inspecting it, routine maintenance and getting ready for a team to play ball,” Fletcher told the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The city wants at least a three-year contract, with the team managing all aspects of Mayor’s Riverfront Park, including field maintenance, concessions, merchandising, and advertising. It’s a pretty tall order, and the city should find out within the next few weeks if the Northwoods League will grant them a team. I think it’s fitting that a summer college team would call Kalamazoo home, since it’s the sight of the very first two College World Series. Having a natural rival in Battle Creek won’t hurt either. In fact, in my opinion, if these two communities would have worked together and built a ballpark between the cities off the highway, their Midwest League team would not have moved to Midland. Battle Creek hosted the Michigan Battle Cats, Battle Creek Yankees, and Southwest Michigan Devil Rays before the team left in 2006 to become the Great Lakes Loons.
Kalamazoo did have two recent teams in the indy pro Frontier League. The Kalamazoo Kodiaks played from 1996-1998, before moving to London, Ontario, to become the London Werewolves. The Kalamazoo Kings played at Homer Stryker Field from 2001-2010. The team stated they would cease operations for the 2011 season, but never started up again. It’s too bad I never had the chance to get back to Kalamazoo and see the Kings play. I did see them up in Traverse City playing the Beach Bums, though. Having a new team would give me a second chance to get down that way and see some more baseball! Some fans from the area state that the ballpark isn’t in a great part of town, but I doubt the city will consider building a new stadium for this league, but I wish them all the best in getting a team.
Lily has been pretty busy with softball lately. Yes, I know it’s December, but there’s really no off-season for us. Last weekend she participated in a free clinic put on by the Lake Superior State Lakers, where she practiced all aspects of the game. Also, during the week, Lily has some hitting clinics going on. They were very productive, as she was working one-on-one with Lakers head coach Lori Shimasaki. I could really see an improvement in her hitting over the past couple of weeks. Lily had a lot of fun, which is the important thing, and the clinics may start-up again after the first of the year.
Theunissen Stadium-Central Michigan Baseball
Even in the off-season, the kids and I will always try to find an excuse to go a ballpark, even if it’s closed! We took advantage of this awesome Michigan fall day to catch one last college football game of the year, as Central Michigan hosted Miami. After the game, though, we went over to Theunissen Stadium just to check things out and see if there were any stray baseballs hanging around left over from the Maroon/Gold World Series. We were shut-out in that respect, but we had a great time and CMU got the victory 30-16. Brian was actually a little upset that we were going to a football game instead of a baseball game, but enjoyed running around the ballpark, and really like the football game’s half-time show. Lily really liked the band, too, and Trevor being a football player enjoyed the game itself. Lucky their Papa has season tickets, so no problem when we want to see a game. A fun day over-all, and got some good pics to show off, and some of the baseball stadium I haven’t taken before.
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Miami Redhawks
This week members of the Lake Superior State softball team hosted a pancake social to earn money for the family of a fellow student who recently lost his life. The girls earned approximately $700 for the family of Jonathan Harris, a LSSU student who was killed in an automobile accident this month. The team members served the pancakes to over 130 students, faculty, and friends on campus, and a banner was signed by all who attended stating how they missed him. Jon was described as an outgoing and fun-loving individual who was cherished by all of his friends on campus. Stories like this really put life into perspective. Yeah, the Tigers suck now, but I still have the three things in my life that truly mean the most. All the best to the Harris family, and we are all extremely sorry for your loss….
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Ahh…back in our home state!!! It was a long drive back, and we were dog tired, but not tired enough to miss a baseball game. On our way back home, we stopped in at my dads’ alma mater, Central Michigan, to see them take on their arch-rivals, the Western Michigan Broncos. We’ve only been to a hand-full of college ballparks, but Central’s Theunissen Stadium is the best one we’ve been at, and probably one of the nicer college stadiums in Michigan. This was CMU‘s final regular season game, so plenty of students and family in attendance to cheer on the home team. Before the game, some of the former baseball alumni and coaches were honored, including Coach Theunissen, who the stadium was named after. He threw out the first pitch to his grandson Nate Theunissen, who is now the Chippewas all-time hits leader. The game itself was a good one, with the Chips edging the Broncos 3-2. It was a hot day that drained us a bit, but the game went by pretty quick. I was excited, though, because I was about to be reunited with three most important people in my life… Final: CMU 3, WMU 2.
University at Buffalo Bulls vs. Bowling Green State Falcons
Amherst Audubon Field-Amherst, NY: Trying to squeeze as much baseball into our trip as possible, we decided to take in some college baseball at the University at Buffalo. We had some extra time before the Buffalo Bisons game, and I personally enjoy the college game. UB has a nice campus, and we explored a bit and checked things out at their book store/gift shop. I was actually disappointed with Amherst Audubon Field, which looks a lot more like a high school field than one used for Division I baseball. I know baseball isn’t a big draw up north, and other sports like football and basketball bring in the revenue, but you would think they’d put something into a decent baseball stadium. We still had a fun time, and there were some scouts there looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’ type player, and they’re always fun to talk to. The weather was beautiful also, and to some good baseball free of charge is simply a plus. Other than us and the scouts, the rest of the crowd was primarily just friends and family of the players. It’s still a high level of baseball and well worth our time. Final: Buffalo 3, Bowling Green 6.
Pierce Arrow Museum
Buffalo, NY: Other than baseball, my other love is cars. I’m a guy, and guys just like classic cars. This is actually the third car museum we visited on this trip, and it’s located just a few blocks away from Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. After the game at UB, we decided to check out some automotive mastery. The Pierce Arrow cars are really beautiful, and the museum had some other memorabilia like old gas pumps and signs. They’re in the process of moving into a bigger facility, but it was a great way to waste some time until the next ballgame. The best car museum we went to on this trip was in Norwich, NY, which is just north of Binghamton. When I get a chance, I might post some pics from that one with one of my B-Mets reviews.
The Lake Superior State Lakers came away from their West Coast swing with a 5-4 record. Not bad at all, for a team travelling so far from home for some softball. The trip started and ended on a positive note, both sweeps. Their journey started in Lancaster, with a sweep of Antelope Valley in a double-header. The won the first game 11-2 and the second game 5-4. The next leg of the Lakers trip was to Fullerton to take on Hope International. LSSU earned a split in this series, getting shut out in the opener 7-0, but bouncing back to take game two 10-1. The Lakers then travelled to Azusa, California, to take on LSSU Head Coach Lori Shimasaki’s alma mater. Azusa Pacific spoiled Shimasaki’s return, though, sweeping the Lakers 4-0 and 6-1 respectively.
As a player at Azusa, Shimasaki set APU’s record for stolen bases and was a honorable mention NAIA All-American in 2006. She amassed a career batting average of .371 before graduating in 2007. She was also an assistant coach at APU for three seasons, and at Chadron State before coming to LSSU.
Back in the road, Lake State stopped in at LaVerne, California to and dropped a decision to LaVerne University 5-4. The trip ended on a good note, though, as they swept University of La Sierra in Riverside, CA. They won the double-header 5-3 and 6-4.
Leading the team offensively is red shirt freshman Amanda Maxon. She batted .364 with two home runs and six RBI’s. Also pitching in was sophomore Felicia Gingrich. She has a .350 average, and has hit two double. Gingrich also help out on the mound, going 1-2 on the trip, with a 5.73 ERA. Lake State was led on the hill by senior Jillian Willette. She made four starts, going 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA. The Lakers start league play on March 23, taking on Ohio Dominican.
The Lake Superior State Lakers softball team is ready to this the road this spring, as the first leg of their season takes them to California. Trips like this are expensive for small programs, especially since LSSU is the smallest state funded college in Michigan. One of the ways the girls earn money for the trip is the annual Take Me Out To The Ballgame dinner. This has also been a tradition for the kids and I, who’ve been going since Lily and Trevor were probably Brian’s age. We had fun again this year, and the kids Papa was able to join us, too. One of Lily’s favorite things to do is to put a pie in the face of her favorite player. They started doing this last season, and it’s been a big hit. A lot of the players already know Lily from the local softball camps and clinics, so it’s fun for them, too. The girls were also raffling off a flat screen TV and went out on the ice during the hockey game that night to announce the winner and promote the team. Pictured above is the team sporting their very cool new uniforms. The photos below are from the banquet, and feature Lily sporting her new softball hoodie and us enjoying our spaghetti dinner. Good luck to the Lady Lakers this season, and we hope the weather is decent this April for their home games here in the Sault. Here’s the link to the girls 2012 schedule:
Bottom photos property of M.I.B.
Great little story from my own Lake Superior State University about the girls softball team. With the team getting a little sick and tired of practicing in doors, our second year head coach Lori Shimasaki decided to shake things up, and take it outside. Despite the cold sup-zero weather and waist-high snow, the girls took in some diving drills, and used the snow to their advantage. Things like this are great for team bonding and morale. I don’ t think the team will be out much today, though, as I write this we’re suffering from freezing rain/sleet/snow. Brutal.
Photo courtesy of LSSU Athletics