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.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Fifth-Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: It’s that time of year again, when myself and the little nerf-hearders head down to Star Wars Night. This year, we were back at the Fifth-Third Ballpark, with the Whitecaps as our host. Despite the weather report calling for rain, it all held off and it was a beautiful night. The kids were able to meet all of their favorite Star Wars characters, and some of the guys in the suits were pretty darn funny. They kept the sold out crowd entertained until the game started, and were more than happy to pose for pictures for the kids. This was one of the best Star Wars nights we’ve been too so far. We tried for some Whitecaps autographs, but got very few as the players didn’t walk by the fans due to the Star Wars guys.
As for the game itself, it was another dismal one for the Whitecaps. They’ve had a tough time offensively ever since Devon Travis was promoted. DH Lance Durham did go 2-4 on the day, however, but short stop David Gonzalez was the only one able to strum up an RBI. Chad Smith took the loss on the hill for West Michigan, giving up only two earned runs, though, and striking out three. Corey Knebel came in for the ninth inning, and stayed perfect so far since joining the ‘Caps. Final score: Whitecaps 1, Hot Rods 3.
We also got this picture taken by MI Unlimited Photography:
Little League Baseball is in full swing up here in Michigan. The boys are having a great time on the field, and are getting better every time out. Lily decided to take a year off, but is still keeping busy and helps out with Brian’s tee ball team when she can. The weather has been pretty good to us so far this month, too. Brian has been hitting the snot out of the ball off of the tee, and has one of the best arms in the league. Trevor is really working hard, playing smart, and his monster 2-RBI double is probably his highlight so far. Sooo…here are a few gratuitous pics of the boys doing their thing.
Fifth-Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: As much as I loved my time in North Carolina, it was good to be back in Michigan, and have the home field advantage. It felt comfortable to be back in my own ballpark, and to see the Whitecaps play for the first time this season. After riding in airplanes most of the day, it was nice to be in the fresh air and wandering around Fifth-Third Ballpark. We were also one of the lucky ones to get an Avisail Garcia bobble head at the gate. It was good to see the best mascot in the minors, Crash the River Rascal, hamming it up on the concourse with the kids. I wandered down and watched the Whitecaps warm up, and got some good pics of the team. I was excited to see guys like Devin Travis and Danry Vasquez in action. It was also cool to see new pitching coach Mike Henneman, who was one of my favorite Tigers when I was younger. Henneman seemed to be joking around with his staff a little, and keeping his pitchers loose. It was good to see some familiar faces and be back home, and this will go down as one of the best baseball trips ever.
The game did not go our way, and the Whitecaps home field advantage did them little good as the Hot Rods shut them right down. Starting pitcher Charlie Gillies took the loss, but had no run support. He gave up three runs and struck out three, in just over five innings of work. Both second baseman Jared Reaves and third baseman Mario Martinez went 2-4, but could not help get a run across the plate. Win or lose, however, there’s still no place that I’d rather be. Final score: Whitecaps 0, Hot Rods 4.
CMC-Northeast Stadium-Kannapolis, NC: Wow…what to do on a day when we only have one game scheduled to attend? Well, if you’re into the nascar thing, then you would have enjoyed our experiences. Our first stop was in Concord, NC, home of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Despite the advertising of daily tours around the track, we found they were cancelled because some trucks were practicing all weekend. Great luck, so we poked around a bit and headed out. Just down the street there was a nice little car museum, so we decided to check that out. The highlight for me was seeing a couple of cars used in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (if you’re not first, you’re last…). We still had plenty of time before our game in Kannapolis, so, sticking with the nascar theme, we decided to head back into downtown Charlotte to the nascar Hall of Fame. Our experience there was ok, but decided just to head back north to Kannapolis. We arrived a little early, but noticed that the gates were open. The ballpark wasn’t really open to the public then, but I started chatting with head of ticket sales, and he was nice enough to open the gift shop for me so we could get our souvenirs and put them back in the car before the game. The whole Intimidators staff was very friendly, and treated us well. We actually had time to take and little snooze in the car before the gates officially opened. Before heading inside, though, I took a few pics of the race car parked in front of the stadium…sticking with the nascar theme, of course. Kannapolis is the birthplace of deceased nascar driver Dale Earnhardt, and the Intimidators are named after him. Inside, we had plenty of time to explore the small ballpark before the game began. This included hanging out with mascot Tim E. Gator. The concourse was nice, and wide open. There were some good eats, too, but we just stuck with beer and hot dogs. I bought seats in the V.I.P. section, right next to the Intimidators dugout. On a two dimensional seating chart, the seats looked great, but in reality, I had a huge pole directly in front of me, and couldn’t see anything. With a small crowd, we quickly found new seats. CMC-Northeast Stadium is a nice, unique, ballpark, and was a good low-key end to our adventures in North Carolina, as I really love the South Atlantic League.
The in-game action started out well for the home town nine. They scored three runs in the first inning, and one run in the fourth to take a 4-1 run lead. Things would fall apart in the late innings, though, as they gave up four and five runs in consecutive innings to go down 10-4. They battled back in the eighth, scoring three runs to cut the Suns’ lead to three, but couldn’t come up with the equalizer. The Intimidators got great production our of right fielder Jason Coats, who went 3-5 with four RBI’s and two runs scored. Brandon Brennan took the loss on the hill for Kannapolis, going 6.1 innings and giving up four earned runs. Relief pitcher Todd Kibby really got roughed up, though, not even lasting one innings and giving up four runs on three walks and one hit. Final score: Intimidators 7, Suns 10.
BB&T Ballpark-Winston-Salem, NC: Ok, so we were in Winston-Salem a few days ago, and now we came back to see the Dash play in more Carolina League action. I really wish we could have stayed and explored Asheville a little more, but this is the life we’re leading on these trips. Our evening starting with an amazing dinner at Tripps Restaurant, where my dad was reunited with an old army buddy that he hasn’t seen in many years. It was an amazing experience to listen to their stories and see them catch up. It was hard to break away, but we finally did and headed to the ballpark. The home of the Dash, BB&T Ballpark, is very impressive for single-A baseball. It had a nice large parking lot, which made things easy for us to get in and out. We entered through the outfield, which is something we’ve been seeing more and more of in recent years. The modern park is very beautiful, and looked like it didn’t have a bad seat in the house. I liked the fact that the concourse goes entirely around the field, too. Thier mascot Bolt was entertaining, and played some tricks on the umpire before the game. I never saw him in the stands interacting with the fans, though, which is too bad. The ballpark is really nice, but to me it seemed a little sterile. Maybe just because it’s so new, and that we were at a game during the week without a huge crowd. Still lots of fun, and a ballpark worth visiting.
The game saw the home team get roughed up a bit, especially early. Dash pitcher Chris Bassitt only lasted 2.1 innings, and gave up nine runs. The bullpen seemed to keep the visiting Pelicans in check the rest of the way, though. Shortstop Chris Curley led the offensively, going 2-4 on the night. Left fielder Grant Buckner, however, had the two RBI’s going 1-4. Final score: Dash 2, Pelicans 9.
McCormick Field-Asheville, NC: I just want to start off by stating that I loved this game. I love McCormick Field, and this should be on every baseball fans bucket list. Another downtown stadium, so parking is a little rough. That, however is the about the only thing you’d have to worry about. The stadium is located on a large hill, or mountain, I guess, which make for some nice scenery. The whole setup of the stadium is nice, with the concourse and gift shop in a nice setting. Part of the concourse is limited by part of the mountain, also. Our seats were great, as we got the dugout suites right next to the home team dugout. This luxury comes with snacks, drinks, and a chicken dinner from Bojangles’. We really felt we were treated like royalty! It was a day game which saw some buses of school kids enjoying the game also. This helped make for a great atmosphere, as well as the loyal regulars of McCormick Field. Another unique aspect, is that one lucky fan gets to deliver the game ball via a zip line. It was fun to watch, and must have been a great experience for that fan! The fact that it was a day game make it a little warm for us, but I can only imagine how awesome a night game would be here. The home team put on a great show, and I also got my first South Atlantic League game ball. This honestly rivals Durham for the best game on the trip. You can also see McCormick Field at the end of the movie Bull Durham, where Crash hits his record breaking home run.
The game itself was a good one for the Tourists. When we saw the Drive a few days before they looked like a pretty solid hitting team, but Asheville hurler T.J. Oaks seemed to keep them of the kilter all day, as he went seven innings and only gave up the one run. The Tourists took the game over with a huge seven run fourth inning. It seemed like they were pounding doubles off the wall left and right. Second baseman Juan Ciriaco seemed to be the player of the game. Not only did he toss me the game ball, but he went 3-5 with an RBI. Rosell Herrera also pitched in, going 2-5 with a pair of RBI’s. Final score: Tourists 8, Drive 1.