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
Small College World Series Championship-Southern Virginia University vs. Briarcliffe College (NY): The Ball Park-Old Orchard Beach, ME
It may be hard to believe by today’s standards, but Maine had itself a Triple A Minor League franchise right here in Old Orchard Beach. From 1984-1988 the Maine Guides occupied The Ball Park here. As a farm club for the Cleveland Indians, the Guides were a success at first, finishing second in the International League standings and fourth in attendance. The next season, however, the Guides were last in attendance, possibly due to the fact that Old Orchard Beach is more of a vacation spot with a small year-round population. By 1986, the team was not only last in attendance, but also last in the IL standings. 1987 the team became affiliated with the Philadelpia Phillies, and remained in Maine for one last season under the name the Maine Phillies. The team was then relocated to become the Scranton/Wilkes Berry Red Barons in 1988. It’s thought that three things brought about the failure of the franchise: 1)the amount of Miane Black Flies in the area 2)only one road ran in and out of the ball park causing traffic back-ups, and 3)the newer, larger ball parks were being built at this time for minor league ball. Although the stadium hosted some concerts in the 80′ and 90′s, by the 2000′s it was falling apart by the years of neglect. The stadium was shuttered, the grass overgrown with weeds and brush, and it was victimized by vandals and arson. It looked as if baseball would never be played here again until the community rallied around the Ball Park supporters to renovate the park and bring baseball back. By 2008, the stadium was ready to go, and hosted exhibition games and college games. The Ball Park will now host the Old Orchard Beach Rolling Tide, a summer college team in the New England College Baseball League, and hosed the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Baseball tournament in 2010 and this season, which brings us up to today’s championship game…
This is a baseball trip, after all, so we wanted to get an as many games as possible, no matter what the level. We were lucky enough to catch the small college World Series while passing through on our way to Portland. Number one seed Southern Virginia was playing defending champion Briarcliffe College, so we anticipated some good baseball, and the college kids didn’t disappoint. There wasn’t a real big crowd due to the continuous bad weather, but still a good atmosphere and crowd of students and players parents. Briarcliffe came out of the losers bracket to defeat the Knights from Southern Virginia in two straight games to win back to back national championships. The Ball Park itself was a nice place to watch baseball, and we didn’t have any trouble with flies in this weather, but doesn’t compare to most Minor League stadiums. I hope they have success with the Rolling Tide this summer.
The Lady Lakers were able to play through the crazy U.P. weather to close out the season at home. They hosted Northwood Thursday and Friday, and played a make-up game against Saginaw Valley State on Sunday. The Lakers lost 11-9 on Thursday in game one, but the second game was postponed due to sleet. Friday the girls played a triple-header against Northwood, dropping all three games 9-2, 4-0, 9-3. This was the best day weather wise, though, so nice to be able to see a few games in one day. The Lakers last game of the season was Sunday, losing to SVSU by the score of 14-4 in a make-up for a rain out on April 20. Seniors Ronlea Peterson (SS) and Nicole Cartensen (OF) played their last college game for the Lakers, and were honored after Fridays games. These girls work very hard every game, and under first year head coach Lori Shimasaki only good things will come to this program in the coming seasons. The team will be hosting some softball camps next month, and Lily will definatley be attending a few of those. Brian spent most of the game playing in the mud puddles. Such is life with a three year old.
Photos property of M.I.B.
The Lake Superior State Laker girls softball team was able to beat the nasty weather on Friday and sweep Ohio Dominican. They won the first game 9-8 in extra innings and pounded their oponents 18-8 in game two. The Laker double-headers on Saturday and Sunday were rained and snowed out, so I guess we were lucky to see at least a couple of games. Lily knows many of the girls from their softball camps, so she was able to get plenty of autographs and they took the kids into the dugout. It’s also fun to talk with the parents and get their take on things. A lot of positive comments on new head coach Lori Shimasaki and how she’s building a solid softball culture at Lake Superior. The team is scheduled to play some more games, so hoping the weather hold up for them.
Photos property of M.I.B.
Today is the official Opening Day for Minor League Baseball, but some MiLB teams such as the West Michigan Whitecaps jump-start the season with an exhibition game. Last night the Whitecaps took the field for the first time as a team to take on the local Grand Valley State Lakers. GVSU is ranked #4 nationally in NCAA Division II play, and have already played 22 games this season. Nick Castellanos scored the only run for West Michigan on a sacrifice by P.J. Polk. The game ended as a 1-1 tie as new manager Ernie Young and Whitecaps fans got a first look at this young team.
Young told the Grand Rapids Press: ” It was good for the guys to get their feet wet, and almost everybody got to into the game, so that was good. It doesn’t matter who the team is, you still have to play. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major league team playing against a single A or double A team. You still have to hit the ball, catch the ball and make plays.” He also stated, “I was excited to get north, and I’m really excited for the season to get under way. I’m sure the kids are going to be excited to get on that bus and head for Lansing to play.”
The Whitecaps play three in Lansing before hosting the Lugnuts in their home opener on Sunday. I’m really hoping the rain holds off and we can get this game in. The kids are pumped and we’re ready to watch live baseball.
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
This past weekend was the Lake Superior State Laker softball team’s annual ‘Take me out to the Ballgame’ dinner to raise money for their trip to Florida to kick off the 2011 season. This has become a tradition for us over the last few years, and the kids have a fun time. This years dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers was actually on campus this year, which is a change brought on by new head coach Lori Shimasaki. Door prizes, raffles, and silent auctions also took place to help the team raise money needed for the long trip. Lily’s favoite new thing this year was her opportunity to throw a pie in the face of her favorite player. Her aim was true, and the girls got nice and messy. The boys were too busy eating to really notice any of this.
Good luck to the Lakers this season, and we’ll try to make it what few home games they have if the weather holds up.
Photos property of M.I.B.
The Central Michigan Chippewas and the Michigan State Spartans are set to play the first college baseball game at the Detroit Tigers’s Comerica Park. The game marks their 100th yr of the in-state rivalry, as the two schools started playing each other on 1911. The Chippewas will be considered the home team, and lead the all-time series with the Spartans 62-46. CMU is the defending Mid-American Conference champions going 36-22 in 2010. State’s record was 34-19 last season. The game is set to take place on April 20, there is expected to be a press conference at Comerica this week releasing more details on the event.
This would be a fun game to go to, but I really have no desire to go to Detroit if I don’t have to. It would be nice if they played a double-header, so fans, students, and alumni making the trip would really get their money’s worth. However, the game being on a weeknight doesn’t give much of a chance for the fans to travel. I hope despite that fact this event goes over well, and it should be a great experience for both teams.
Photo courtesy of Central Michigan University
The Lake Superior State women’s softball team has been busy in the community teaching young players about the game. They hosted weekly hitting and pitching clinics in the weeks before Thanksgiving, and just completed a weekend camp which incorporated all aspects of the game. I was lucky enough to get my daughter to most of the clinics and the camp, in fact, I recieved a call from first year head coach Lori Shimasaki inviting her to join the clinics. She’s become a favorite among the college girls, even hanging out with them for awhile at the local hockey games. She’s having a lot of fun and this will hopefully inspire her to keep playing. She’s been playing baseball since she was 5, but next summer will be her first shot at softball if she decides to play. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because she’s a good player and this could open up some doors for her in the future. Sorry about the low quality of the pics, but they were taken with my phone. The (ex)wife got the camera in the settlement.
Property of M.I.B.
It seems as fall is in the air, and summer is just about done. It’s an exciting time at the Major League level, but in the Minors, the seasons are winding down. For the kids, school starts on Tuesday, so we decided to head downstate and get in a couple of days of fun before it all comes to an end….
Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Windy City Thunderbolts: For the second year in a row, we end our baseball season with the Bums. My parents have season tix, so we just met them at the game, and there’s no place the they’d rather be with the grandkids than a baseball game. With their birthdays about ten days apart, we had them annouced over the PA system, which made the kids feel like celebrities. The Beach Bums are making a surge for their fist ever playoff appearance, so lots of good atmosphere for the game. The kids got to meet some of the players after the game, too, which is always a thrill. Final: TC 8, WC 4.
Adventure Island: Summer wouldn’t be summer without hitting the water park. The kids enjoyed the bumper boats, but they told us it was too cold to open the water slide. Hey, were from the U.P….nothing is too cold for us. You’ll also enjoy a pic of ol’ #94 here putting on a hitting display in the batting cages. I’m contimplating making a training video…we’ll see. The park here also has go-carts and adventure golf, both a summer must.
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Hampton Pirates: I know this is a baseball blog, but I’ll throw just a little college football in here, too. Going down to watch football still didn’t stop us from visiting the baseball field there just to say hi. Hard to believe it will be seven months before baseball is played there again. The football game was fun (not as much as baseball, but at least they have cheerleaders), and we were able to dodge the rain thankfully. All in all, a good end to our summer fun. Now it’s time to track the MiLB playoffs and plan next season’s baseball trip. Final: CMU 33, Hampton 0.
Photos property of M.I.B.
Battle Creek Bombers vs. Waterloo Bucks: Rained out. I guess I can’t complain too much, as I’ve been pretty lucky over the years, but when you only see a handfull of games a season, one rain out is disasterous. I can’t say enough about the Bombers oganization, though, as they gave us a full refund on our birthday package, yet still gave me my birthday cake and signed baseball by the team. I thought they might play it when we saw some of the players warming up, but the field ended up being too flooded. We wanted to re-schedule, but we just don’t know when we’ll be down there again. The kids were bummed, but we got to spend time together and visit some family. The Baseball Gods would make it up to us the next night, though…
Photos property of M.I.B.