Over the weekend the kids participated in the Little Lakers skills camp and Parents Night Out on the campus of Lake Superior State University. It was a chance for the kids to learn more baseball and softball, and for us parents to get a break for a few hours, too. The Laker softball team ran the kids threw some drills, played games, and fed them some pizza. Even though I was supposed to go out and get some ‘me’ time, I only stayed away for an hour or two before checking up on the kiddoes. They broke up the girls into about three groups, but there was only five boys, so Trevor was in a group with Brian and a few other little ones. I was able to get a few pics of them doing some drills and games, but the Student Activities Center still is so dark. They all had a good time, though, and got a good workout in. The players and coaches always work really well with the kids during the camps. I hope the team holds more during the winter.
Lake Superior State University-Sault Ste. Marie, MI: Over the weekend Brian participated in the fun free baseball/softball clinic held at LSSU. The clinic was hosted and ran by the girls’ softball team, and they did a great job with the kids. Brian was a little shy with the girls at first, but warmed up when they offered to play catch with him. He did great from there with the drills and games that were played. He hit the ball well off the tee, and in soft-toss. I really saw an improvement with him catching the ball and he’s always had a cannon for an arm. The lady Lakers will be holding another clinic next weekend, this time with more games and pizza for the kids. With the weather cold, rainy, and snowy, I’m grateful the kids have this to look forward too, and a chance to stay active. It’s tough living up here at times with our nasty winters, as they’re obviously not very baseball friendly. The camps are held in the Student Activities Center at the college, which continues to be my Achilles’ heel when it comes to taken decent photos.
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Back, again, just north of Grand Rapids for our last Whitecaps game of the season. A very bitter-sweet moment, but so much going on at this game, I’m not sure where to start. First, Brian was happy they had a ‘bounce castle’ set up in the parking lot. We didn’t have much time for him to play, but he still was able to bounce around for a little while before we made our way into the stadium. Upon entry, each of us received a free mini-bat, to commemorate the ‘Caps 20th season of play. Brian has been collecting the bats lately, so more for him. It was super hero night at the ballpark, just like in Battle Creek last month, but the only ones dressed up were the Whitecaps’ on-field staff. Still, some of them has some cool outfits. We were at the ballpark early, so we saw the Captains take some batting practice, and waited for the home team to hit the field for their warm-ups. We went down to field level, where we met former Tigers’ relief pitcher, and current ‘Caps pitching coach, Mike Henneman. He was nice enough to sign a baseball card for Brian (a future hurler, himself!). Before the game got underway, we were also entertained by team Ghostrider: basically monkeys riding around on dogs. They would appear a few time throughout the game, herding goats and riding away. When monkeys act like cowboys, everybody wins! It didn’t take the kids long to get hungry, and Lily, Brian, and their Papa stuck with traditional hot dogs. Trevor and I, however, wanted to try the Baco! We made our way through the concourse, and with a sold-out crowd we were moving slowly. We took a break, though, to check out the Whitecaps 2007 Midwest League Championship trophy that was on display. The team was also celebrating the championship during this game, too. We finally made it to the other side of the ballpark to get our Bacos. Trevor didn’t care for it too much, but I thought it was pretty good. Not worth $6 each, but had to do it. Unfortunately the Whitecaps has some of the slowest concessions ever, so we missed a good chunk of the game waiting in line. We decided to head back to our seats through the lower bowl, which was a good idea because Trevor got a foul ball that bounced our way. We were finally able to sit down and enjoy the rest of the game, which was a good one. The ‘Caps also provided post-game fireworks that the kids really love, too. It was a hectic night all around, and sold-out crowds will do that, but still hard to wrap my head around the fact it will be a minimum of nine months before I’m enjoying baseball at Fifth-Third Ballpark again!
Like I stated, the game between the ‘Caps and the Captains was a good one. West Michigan was down 2-0 in the third, but busted out for three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Connor Harrell and David Gonzales started it off with a pair of singles, then Lake County started walking some batters. The Whitecaps scored two runs on walks, then Jason King hit a sac fly for the third run. In the fourth inning, Jeff Holm hit a solo shot to put the ‘Caps up 4-2. West Michigan concluded the scoring in the eighth inning, when Lance Durham hit his team leading 14th home run, after King singled. On the hill for West Michigan, Edgar De La Rosa pitched a solid game, only giving up the two runs in six innings of work. He struck out four and didn’t walk any of the Lake County hitters. The bullpen finished the job, throwing four shutout innings, with Corey Knebel closing the door in the ninth. Holm lead the offense going 2-4, and Gonzalez went 2-3. Final Score: Whitecaps 6, Captains 2.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Beach Bums Baseball Academy
Wuerfel Park-Traverse City, MI: As Trevor’s Little League season came to an early end this summer due to shoulder problems, we weren’t sure if he was going to participate in this baseball academy hosted by the Traverse City Beach Bums. As his x-rays were examined, he was cleared to play, but we also found out that he wasn’t dealing with a sprained shoulder, but a broken clavicle. The bad news is that even though it’s looked to have healed, it also still causes him extreme pain. Trevor is a trooper, though, and gave the camp a go. The gates opened early, and the players came and got the kids promptly at ten a.m. After some stretching and warming up, the kids were separated into five stations. Trevor’s first station was hitting. They did soft-toss with tennis balls in the outfield. He never got under one to get it over the fence, but had a few nice line-drives. His next station was in the outfield, working on pop-ups and fly balls. The Beach Bums really had some fun and unique drills to help the kids adjust to catching a ball on the fly. This is one of the biggest weaknesses of kids this age, so I’m glad they taught them some of these manuevers. The kids’ next stop was the bullpen, for some pitching drills. By this point, Trevor’s shoulder was causing some major discomfort, so he sat this one out. I don’t think he feels like he’s pitching material anyway, as he prefers to be behind the plate. After the pitching portion of the academy was complete, his group headed in for some base-running. They did some good drills that taught them how to run through the bag at first, and round it if the ball got through the infield. The kids really liked sliding on the artificial turf, too. He ended his day doing some infield drills. The Beach Bums did a great job of encouraging the kids, even when they made an error. They reminded them that the pros make mistakes, too, and not to get discouraged.
Overall, this was a very good experience for Trevor. I think he learned a lot and had some fun. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t make it for the second day due to the pain in his shoulder. I really recommend the Beach Bums Baseball Academy, however, for anyone living in the area. There seemed to be kids from all over the northern part of the state attending. I thank the Bums for their work with the kids, I want to personally thank Jason Wuerfel for giving Trevor this opportunity! We will be back next year, and with Brian old enough to join in the fun.
Over on MiLB.com, the Mascot Mania is in full force, with ever fuzzy animal, alien, or funny looking man-thing represeting a Minor League franchise fighting for mascot supremecy. The kids and I have encountered and have been entertained by some great ones on our travels, and here are some of our favorites. Keep in mind, the list will only consist of the mascots we’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting or seeing. This list was also a lot harder to put together than you’d think, trying to narrow so many fun entertainers down to just nine. Ok, then, let’s see where they stand:
9) Rowdie-Indianapolis Indians: We’re not sure yet what exactly Rowdie is, but he sure is fun. He does a good job of getting around the stadium and getting pics with the kids.
8) Mr. Shucks-Cedar Rapids Kernels: Well, this guy just looks really cool. He does a nice job of getting the crowd riled up in Cedar Rapids.
7) Reedy Rip’ It-Greenville Drive: Reedy is a bit of a Wally ‘rip’ off, but that’s ok with me. The Drive is a BoSox affiliate, and they get lots of ideas from them. Reedy did a great job of interacting with the fans.
6) Paws-Pawtucket Red Sox: Ok, another BoSox affiliate. Paws is all over the place, and is marketed very well.
4) Gnate the Gnat-Savannah Sand Gnats: Gnate is really cool, and is always interacting with the fans and kids. Made my trip a little more fun.
3) Loe E. Loon-Great Lakes Loons: Ok, the Loons are one of our regular teams now, so we really know first hand how hard Lou E. works. Along with Rall E. Camel, he does a super job at Dow diamond.
2) Slugger-Portland Sea Dogs: I really loved being at the Sea Dogs game, and Slugger made it even more fun. He’s just a cool mascot, in my opinion. And I guess that’s what counts on this blog…
1) Crash the River Rascal-West Michigan Whitecaps: Ok, was there ever much doubt? Yes, it’s a homer call, but Crash is really awesome. He makes the kids laugh and gets around the stadium well to interact with the fans. He and his buddy Franky the Swimming Pig are the best.
Ok, so there’s my take on the Mascot Mania. Be sure to go and vote for your favorites HERE. Good luck to all the masconts in my Prime 9. What’s yours?
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
It may be hard to believe, but it’s barely half-way through July and our Little League baseball season has already come to an end. Just when it seems the kids are starting to ‘get it’, and learn the game, the rug gets pulled out from under us. I guess when you live in a northern part of a northern state, the summer sports take a back seat to just about everything else. This is the hand we’ve been dealt, however, and it’s up to us to make the best of it. And make the best of it, we did. I am very lucky to have coached such great kids this season. We had a lot of fun, and I’m hoping that they all continue to play in the future. I really enjoy coaching at this level (tee ball), and like to believe I’m making a positive influence to their first experiences with baseball. Before Trevor sprained his shoulder, I was having fun helping coach his team, too. Sometimes it’s easier just to be an assistant and only worry about teaching the kids baseball. If the x-rays this week prove positive, he should still be able to participate in the Beach Bums Baseball Academy next week. As for Brian, it amazes me just how good this kid can play at times. He had a great season, also, and really enjoys baseball. Sometimes he gets frustrated when the ball isn’t hit to him, but is learning how to share and be a good team-mate. He has good speed, and a good throwing arm, and is starting to get his glove on the ball. When we play by ourselves, we lose the tee and hits live pitching like a boss. So much so, that I signed him up with the Battle Creek Bombers kids club to take batting practice with the team next weekend. In closing, I’ll miss my team and playing with them every week. Even just adding more games or practices on the weekends would help all the kids out, and give me a chance to do what I love to do.