We all know how the song starts….’On a cold winter’s morning..’. And that’s exactly how it felt this morning when my alarm blared in my ear, telling me it was time to get up and get the kids ready for school. Despite being the first day of spring, ‘old man winter’ pounded us with another few inches of snow. Throw the high winds and cold with it, and it’s just another winter storm, complete with low visibility and icy roads. Spring has not sprung, and winter looks as if it wants to stay with us for a little longer. Today was also the day that single game tickets went on sale for the Lansing LugNuts. Here’s where the gambling part comes in.. Despite there being several feet of snow on the ground, and temperatures in the 20’s, I took a gamble and ordered tickets for the Crosstown Showdown on April 11th. I’m sure the grounds crew at Cooley Law School Stadium is working diligently to get the field ready for game action, but there’s still no guarantee what the weather will be like and how cold it will be in just a few short weeks. If it was just me, I wouldn’t care too much, but I’m hoping it’s warm enough for the kids to sit through. I rolled the dice, however, so we’ll see what happens. The Crosstown Showdown is the LugNuts opening day exhibition game against the Michigan State University Spartans, based in East Lansing. According to the LugNuts, this is one of the most attended games every season, so I guess we were lucky to get tickets. Trevor is the one who really wanted to see this game, as he’s a Sparty backer, for some reason. It should be a fun day all around, too, as we plan on visiting the State Capitol building while down there, as well as a couple of museums. If I’m going to pull the kids out of school, I have to justify it somehow, right? It should be a good game to watch, also, as MSU is the defending Big Ten champions, and Lansing had a great season last year. So, in a few weeks we’ll pack up and head downstate…and hope that Mother Nature deals us a favorable hand.
Promotion courtesy of the Lansing LugNuts
Ok, hell or high water, I need to make a Battle Creek Bombers game this season. Not just to witness some great summer college league baseball action, but also temp my palate with…the Twinkie Dog. Yes, it’s a hot dog with a Twinkie for the bun. No sure how the Bomber staff acquired all the Twinkies, or maybe they use a knock-off brand, but either way, this is something I need to try. I think the kids are on board with me on this, too, so we can make it a family dinner type thing! Battle Creek is pretty confident in its new concession, too, as they’ve released a Twinkie Dog t-shirt. Anyone in the Battle Creek area can also stop by the ballpark offices for a free sample up until the end of March. That’s a little too far for me to drive for a snack, so I’ll wait until the Bombers season starts! Not that I need much of an excuse to go to C.O. Brown stadium, since that’s where my love for Minor League Baseball started, and where the baseball trip originated! I hope we don’t get rained out, however, like we did last time.
Just north of BC, another one of my haunts, is the Grand Rapids area, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. The ‘Caps gained some national attention a few years again when they released the Fifth Third Burger. The burger made headlines on CNN, and has been featured on the Food Network, and the Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. This year, the winner of the fourth annual Whitecaps food contest is the Baco…a taco with a bacon shell. The Baco received 30% of the online votes from a list of ten food items that had been dwindled down from a list of 150. My personal vote was for the Bad Joke, a corn dog covered with cheese with two strips of duck bacon in a bun. That fell just short at 27%. Either way, the fans at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park will have many culinary delights to snack on while watching the Whitecaps play this season. Just another reason why I just can’t wait for this winter to be over, and baseball to begin!
Twinkie Dog promo courtesy of the Battle Creek Bombers
Baco photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
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
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 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.
Before hitting the books this fall, a group of young baseball players from all around the county banded together to give the Battle Creek Bombers their best season in history, winning the Collegiate World Series and Northwoods League Championship. After a rough 2010 campaign, the Bombers added a new GM, new manager, new pitching coach, new front office staff, and even adopted a new logo for 2011. The formula seemed to pay off….especially new manager Donnie Scott, who known as a ‘players coach’. He brought Major League playing experience and Minor League coaching experience to his post in Battle Creek. The Bombers finished 43-26 for the best season in franchise history, and after going 20-50 in 2010, their success this season is the biggest turn around in Northwoods League history. Their 27 win improvement shatters the record of 19 set by the Kenosha Kroakers back in 1995. The Bombers defeated the Green Bay Bullfrogs to win the Southern Division Pennant, and then beat the Northern Division’s Mankato Moondogs for the title. Scott credits his players, though, who had some great individual efforts this season as well. Bryce Redeker broke the home run record with 11, Jordan Dean set the record for hits, doubles, and at-bats, Danny Rockett knocked in a franchise record 53 RBI’s, to name a few. The Battle Creek roster included players from Central Michigan, Taylor University, Evansville University, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Texas San-Antonio, and Miami of Ohio. Winning also helps at the gate, and Battle Creek fans helped attendance reach a record high at 1,176 per game in 2001, which is a 49% from 2010. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be part of there numbers, as we didn’t get a chance to get down to BC this summer. We were rained out in our attept at a Bombers game last season, and will try to make it down in 2012. Battle Creek is a great baseball town, and I’m really glad to see the team earning some success and attendance numbers up.
Also helping the Bombers this season was right-handed pitcher Nolan Sandburn from the University of Arnaksas. Sandburg is ranked as the #1 prospect in the Northwoods League by both Baseball America and Perfect Game. A sophomore, he appeared in six games for Battle Creek, striking out 24 and walking nine. He was 0-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Sandburn’s fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. Also appearing on Baseball America’s prospect list at #18 is Bombers pitcher Ben Ballentine, who is a junior at the University of Michigan.
Photos courtesy of the Battle Creek Bombers