West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Beloit Snappers (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Well, this was our first ballgame of the season, and the Michigan weather treated us about as well as can be expected. I want to make a statement, too, that I loathe the Weather Channel. They are complete liars, and I will never trust them again. Never. Despite what mother nature through at us, though, we had a fun time together at the Whitecaps game, and I still was happy just to be watching live baseball. The kids had a fun time, and the game was part of their Papa’s birthday present. I was still impressed at how good Fifth Third Ballpark looked after the fire in January, too. They did a good job of rebuilding it and getting it ready for the season. We settled in and grabbed some hot dogs and pop for the kids, and a beer for my dad and I. The boys and I went down to the field level to watch pitching coach Mike Henneman work with some of the staff, and see some of the warm-ups. The game was off to a good pace with lots of action early on. I really like how Andrew Graham is working this team; lots of movement on the base paths, bunting, and smart baseball. Lily took Brian to the park for a short time, and he was able to meet the new mascot, Roxy, a female River Rascal. The rain hit us about the third inning, but we toughed it out until the tarp came out after the top of the fifth.
The game was a good one for the Whitecaps, as they produced four runs before the delay, and four after for the win. The ‘Caps racked up a season high 15 hits to go along with the season high of eight runs. Raph Rhymes led the way offensively, going 3-5 with two RBI. He was helped out by both Brett Harrison and Wynton Bernard who were each 3-4. Javier Betencourt was 2-4 with and RBI, and Ben Verlander was 2-5 to pitch in, also. On the mound, Buck Farmer earned the win, only giving up one run, striking out six, and issuing one walk. He pitched himself out of trouble at times, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, and eight Snappers runners on base. Montreal Robertson and Will LaMarche kept Beloit in check the rest of the game. A good outing, and good work by this team all around. It will be interesting to see which players make the All-Star squad here in June, as there are a handful of candidates so far in the early going. We had planned on maybe hitting a Great Lakes Loons game, also, while down state, but the Weather Channel stated it would be raining all day (they ended up playing a double-header on a beautiful day…). We’ll see the Whitecaps again early next month down in Lansing as they take on the Lugnuts. Final Score: Whitecaps 8, Snappers 1.
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Grand Rapids Griffins vs. San Antonio Rampage
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: After a fun afternoon at the West Michigan Whitecaps’ Open House, and a great meal at Enza’s Pizza, we made out way to the Van Andel Arena for an evening of AHL hockey featuring the home town Griffins taking on San Antonio. The Griffins won the Calder Cup last season, and were out to their best start ever in 2013, but injuries to parent club the Detroit Red Wings have depleted the roster here in GR. The Griffins still have a lot of fight in them, though, and it was fun to finally make it down to a game this season. The kids really like Van Andel Arena, also, as it’s the biggest one they’ve had a chance to visit so far. They also had a free hockey figure promotion, and we all know how much kids love getting free stuff. Brian finally got to meet one of the Griffins’ mascots, so he was all his glory at that point.
The game itself was a rough one for the hometown Griffins, as they got spanked 3-0 by San Antonio. They really just didn’t look like a typical Grand Rapids team, and made too many mistakes. The only stand out player was Petr Mrazek in net, who made 22 saves on the night, but was hung out to dry on the three Rampage goals. Head coach, and Sault Ste. Marie native, Jeff Blashill should have this team back to their winning ways by next weekend, though. The games are always a little more fun with a win like they did for us last season, but we still had a great time together. I’m not sure if we’ll make it down to another game this season, but if not we surely wish the Griffins luck on another championship run. Looking over the Whitecaps schedule, I was hoping to find a baseball/hockey double-header we could go to, but their games just don’t match up. All together, another day with the kids and my dad that I’m extremely thankful for.
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Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Yes, I know there is still about ten feet of snow on the ground, but that fact couldn’t keep us from visiting Fifth Third Ballpark over the weekend. The West Michigan Whitecaps held a special Open House for their fans. There were many fun things going on, and the kids and I really had a good time despite the cold. In Michigan, the weather can always be worse, so at least the sun was out for us. Outside, Brian really enjoyed the carnival rides, Trevor showed off his throwing arm, and Lily taught her little brother how to make s’mores! Inside the Pepsi Stadium Club, we enjoyed some free hot dogs, and I was able to purchase some tickets for opening day and another weekend in April. We also got to interact with the Whitecaps’ mascots, Crash and Franky. Crash is all excited, because they will be joined by a female River Rascal on opening day. I was able to get some pictures of the progress of the ballpark reconstruction, also. I really couldn’t believe how many fans showed up, and even the staff on had been a little blown away by the attendance. We all had a great time, and again, it was just nice to get out to the ballpark, no matter what time of year it is.
The Lake Superior State University Lakers kicked off the 2014 season with their annual ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ spaghetti dinner this weekend. The kids and I had a fun time, and proceeds go to the team to help fund their trip to California on February 27. While out west, the girls start their journey at Vanguard, while also visiting La Sierra, Concordia, Cal State San Marcos, Hope International, and Azusa Pacific. The Lakers are scheduled for their first home stand on March 22 against Ohio Dominican, but I think we’ll still have about ten feet of snow on the ground, so we’ll see how that goes! I hope they get some home games in this season, though. Due to the numerous softball/baseball clinics the kids have attended, along with other college functions, the kids have gotten to know a few of the players, and always feel good when they say hi. The dinner also gave us a chance to wish them luck on the coming season. You can view the Lakers full schedule HERE.
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I have to admit that 2013 was pretty good to us, and I’m probably going to miss it. We had a rocky start to the baseballs season, with some rainouts in Lansing (along with freezing rain, ice, snow, and so on), but after that it was sunny days ahead for us. It was really difficult to narrow a list down to just nine, as far as the fun things that we participated in this year. In reality, the whole trip through North Carolina could be listed (especially Greensboro and Asheville), it was so much fun. We have some fun things planned for 2014, but you’ll see how hard it will be to top our 2013 list. I am very thankful that we had such a fun year, and that my kids, and my dad, and I could spent this time together.
9) Meeting the Fox Sports Detroit Girls: It’s no secret, we love the FSD Girls here! They do a great job of representing our local teams here in Michigan. The kids and I were lucky enough to meet them at a Grand Rapids Griffins game earlier this year. They were very nice to the kids, especially Brian, who they signed a baseball and his hat for. With luck, we might run into them again at a ballgame next season, maybe at the all-star game or something.
8) Double-Header in Midland: Like I stated, our baseball season got off to a rough start. Here in Michigan, we had a horrible spring that was cold, rainy, and snowy. On this day, though, we took advantage of a rain-out to catch at double-header on a Sunday afternoon at Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons. The first game, or games, of the season are always special, and this one was no different. It was still a cold day in early April, with the temperature about 30-40 degrees, but we stayed in the sun and it was pretty nice. The Loons mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel entertained the kids between games. We brought the kids’ Papa along for his birthday, and it was a great way to kick-off our 2013 baseball year.
7) The ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum: I really loved visiting Greenville, South Carolina. The city made such an impression on me that I’m trying to get a transfer down there. Can you imagine a state where you can play catch outside almost ten months out of the year? It’s a very beautiful and historic town, with plenty to do for any sports fan. First, we dropped by Flour Field to watch the Greenville Drive, which was a great time. The next day was a thrill visiting the ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum. The family that runs it is very nice, and knowledgeable about Jackson for sure. It was a fun experience that I highly recommend for anyone in that area.
6) Back in Battle Creek: It’s hard to believe, but we this is the first game we’ve seen in Battle Creek since the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays packed their bags and moved up to Midland. We were down here in 2010, but got rained out, unfortunately. This is where it all began, though, here at C.O. Brown Stadium. The start of the baseball trip, and my love for minor league baseball. This was the kids first game here, too, as well as the opportunity to see the Battle Creek Bombers in the Northwoods League. The day itself was special, because we were able to spend some quality time with family down there. Plenty of family was in attendance to see me throw out the first pitch, too (a beautiful strike, by the way). Lily and Trevor really enjoyed trying out their Twinkie Dogs, as well. It was super hero night, and Brian was able to chase the costumed staff across the field between innings with the other kids. He also participated in an on-field game that he did great at. This was all-around one of the best baseball days anyone could ask for.
5) Star Wars Night: Well, this will probably make the list every year. This year we were back in West Michigan for the Whitecaps game. There were plenty of characters on hand from that galaxy far, far, away to entertain us this year, too. We were able to get pictures with Boba Fett and all the Imperial Stormtroopers, as well as Darth Vader himself. All the kids got lightsabers, and Brian didn’t have any trouble finding other kids to play with. After the game, the lights went out and we enjoyed the fireworks as this special night came to an end.
4) Running the Bases: Being on the field is always fun, and Brian was able to do a lot of that this summer. As mentioned in #6, he was able to run through the outfield and do a race in Battle Creek. Along with that, he ran the bases at the Loons game in Midland, and the Beach Bums game in Traverse City. The kid is a little speed demon, and he had to slow down so not to lap some of the other kids. As a parent, it’s so much fun to watch your kids having such a good time. At least having some baseball experience under his belt, he knows which way to go.
3) Training for Trevor: Despite a shoulder injury that kept him out half of his Little League season, Trevor was able to take part in a couple of baseball clinics. The first one was put on by Major League Baseball Alumni. Former players like Doug Mirabelli, Roger Mason, Dennis Rasmussen, and Rob Ellis were there and did a great job teaching the kids. They were all very patient and helped many of the kids one-on-one. The second clinic was the Beach Bums Baseball Academy in Traverse City. Trevor was able to learn first hand from the Bums’ players and coaches. He was a little limited to what he could do due to his shoulder, but still had a great time. I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid.
2) The Durham Bulls Experience: Seeing the Durham Bulls was on my baseball bucket list for a long time, and now I can finally cross that off. The Bulls really don’t disappoint, either. It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful game to watch. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is an amazing place to watch a baseball game, and seeing the Bulls during the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham was an awesome experience. The Bulls have to be one of the most recognized baseball logos in minor league history due to the movie, and a game here should be on every fan’s bucket list. We even visited the old ballpark where they filmed the movie, and they still use it for local games.
1) Coaching the Boys: Yeah, this one is personal. Being able to coach my kids in baseball is one of the highlights of my life, not just this year. Lily decided to take a year off, and I really missed watching her play. The boys had a fun season, though, even with Trevor’s injury. Brian made some big improvements, and is hitting the ball better than any five-year-old should. The kid has a rocket arm, too. Being at the local ball fields three or four nights a week is something I’m truly grateful for.
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