Right-handed pitcher Phil Brua knows the Michigan ballparks well, after playing last season with the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League. This season, however, he’ll move north, and call Wuerfel Park home, as he’s signed with the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League. A native of Avon, OH, Brua played collegiate ball for the Oberlin College Yeomen. In 2010 he went 6-3 with a 2.78 ERA, and a North Coast Athletic Conference leading six saves. Brua signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, and suited up for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League. He had a record of 7-1, with an impressive 2.70 ERA in Vancouver. He led the NWL in wins, was ninth in saves, and walked only 19 batters in 87.2 innings. In 2012 he split time between the Canadians and the Lugnuts. Between the two teams, he combined for a 5-1 record and 4.72 ERA. From Lugnuts to Beach Bums, we’ll enjoy watching him on the mound this summer. In Lansing last season, Brua played for manager T.J. Tamargo, who is the former hitting coach for the Beach Bums. Good luck this season to Brua and the rest of the Bums. As for the Lugnuts, we really look forward to being at Cooley Law School Stadium in less than two weeks rooting them on!
Photo courtesy of Whitecap Wendy
Unlike affiliated Minor League baseball teams, ones of the Independent Pro nature have a bit of an advantage when it comes to choosing their players, and setting the rosters for the coming season. Such as the Traverse City Beach Bums, as they’re already getting their roster set for the coming season, and bringing back some top guns from the last. The biggest returnee, is last seasons’ Frontier League MVP Jose Vargas (pictured). In 2012, Vargas became just the second player in the history of the league to knock in 100 RBI’s. He also hit .290, with 29 home runs, six triples, and 18 doubles. Vargas’ 29 dingers set a single season record for the Beach Bums. He went to bat 410 times, which was tops on the FL, and 78 runs scored tied him for third in the league. Playing at short-stop and third base, this will be his third season with the Beach Bums, and his durability has really been an asset to the team. Vargas has played in all 192 games in the last two seasons, which is the longest current streak in the Frontier League, and second longest in Independent Pro baseball.
Also returning to the Bums will be All-Star second baseman Ryan Still. In fact, Still was both a mid-season and post-season All-Star, hitting .301, with four homers, and 34 RBI’s. He also set a league record by earning 110 base on balls last season and led the league with 82 runs scored. Still also became just the third player in Frontier League history to reach an on-base percentage of .500 or more. The Beach Bums also return two key pitchers to the mound. In the starting rotation is Jacob Clem. Clem went 7-4 with TC last season, with a 3.02 ERA in 20 games last season. He pitched 128.1 innings, more than any other pitcher on the Bums’ staff. Returning to pitch out of the bullpen will be Matt Miller. Last season he went 6-4 with 12 saves, and a 2.25 ERA. He also tied for the team lead, throwing 41 games as a releiver. Miller walked just six batter in 64 innings of work in 2012. The kids and I are really looking forward to seeing some Beach Bums games this season, too. They really like seeing games at Wuerfel Park, and Traverse City has so many other fun things for us to do. Trevor even plans on attending a couple of baseball camps with the Bums this season, so we can’t wait for the season to start!
Top photo courtesy of The Record Eagle (Traverse City)
Bottom photo courtesy of The Leader (Kalkaska)/Greg Gielczyk
The Traverse City Beach Bums are the best team in the Frontier League. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but with a record of 64-32 at the end of the regular season, they are statistically the best. Now comes the hard part…winning the playoffs. They start their quest on Wednsday taking on the Souther Illinois Miners, and will then hopefully take on the winners of the Gateway Grizzlies/Florence Freedom series. It was probably no suprise, either, that the Beach Bums were named the Frontier League Organization of the Year. Contributing to the Bums win/loss record, was the fact that they led the league in overall attendance with 160, 581, and average attendance with 3, 491 per game. The roster also includes the winner of the Morgan Burkhart Award, given to the Frontier League’s MVP in Jose Vargas. He has broken many of Traverse City‘s offensive records this season, and was one home run short of setting a league record of 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s. Vargas ended the season with 29 dingers, and 100 RBI’s right on the nose. He also hit .290 for the season. The team also includes four post-season Frontier League All-Stars. Chase Burch was named as the All-Star first baseman after hitting .304 with 17 home runs and 76 RBI’s. Ryan Still was named as the All-Star second baseman, after hitting .301 with 110 walks. This set the league record for bases on ball in a season. Vargas is the league’s All-Star third baseman, for putting up his great numbers, and in the outfield, Jeff Flagg is defiantly an All-Star. He hit with power all season, knocking 20 over the wall with 83 RBI’s. Bums manager Gregg Langbehn seemed pretty proud of his team and what they accomplished so far.
“The Beach Bums are honored to be represented in several postseason categories,” Langbehn stated the the Bums website. “Like we have said all along, when you surround yourself with good people, the right people and quality players, good things will come of it. Burch, Still and Flagg all are deserving of being on the post-season All-Star team. Their contribution have been significant to this squad. Jose (Vargas) is well deserving of the FL MVP. Without question he earned that award.”
Something good also happened for Langbehn, too, as he was given the Roger Hanners Award given to the Frontier League Manager of the Year. His team’s 62 wins this season ranks fifth in the FL history books.
“As a whole, we are proud and honored to receive these awards,” Langbehn said. “It would not happen without the support, hard work, and determination of every person associated with the Beach Bums and all of our families. These are all organizational awards.”
Photo courtesy of the Traverse City Beach Bums
Wuerfel Park-Traverse City, MI: Well, it was that time of the summer again, when I packed up my scruffy lookin’ nerf-herders and headed downstate for our annual ‘Star Wars Night’ trip. This year we decided to check out our favorite characters from a ‘galaxy far, far, away’ at the Traverse City Beach Bums instead of in Grand Rapids at the Whitecaps. The kids were excited, and had fun meeting the characters. There weren’t nearly as many as we’ve seen in the past at the ‘Caps, but we had a good time regardless. They had Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers, an Imperial Officer, and the lovely Princess Leia on hand. I would have liked to have seen Boba Fett and maybe some droids, but maybe next year. It was pretty hot and there was an impending storm, so it could be that limited some of the costumes and attendance. Lucky for us we made it through the game without a drop on us! In the game itself, the Bums were taking on the Southern Illinois Miners. TC was leading up until the 5th inning, when the Miners stormed back to take the lead. Scott Dunn took the loss on the mound for the Bums, giving up two runs, and striking out three in 4 2/3 innings. Final: Miners 5, Beach Bums 1. May the Force be with you…
A trip to Traverse City wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Pirate’s Cove. It was a beautiful day out, and the kids and I were lucky enough to spend it doing the zip line, bumper boats, go-karting, and the water coaster. I had to fudge Brian’s age a little so he could drive his own kiddie kart, but he did a great job, and is actually a better driver than his mom… Anyway, this was a great day, a day spent with family (we met Papa and Nana at the ballgame) and fun, and one you feel very lucky to have had. I feel lucky to be able to do this for my kids, and hope we can take in at least one more game before school starts.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Rockford RiverHawks
It looks like this was our last game of the summer…bummer. At least we had some nice weather for our last game, and a lot of fun at Wuerfel Park in Traverse City. After a full day of fun and school shopping, it was nice to chilax at the ball park. Papa met us at the game from downstate, and continued to spoil the kids rotten. Trevor hurt his ankle while on the playground, but the Beach Bum medics fixed him up with an ice-pack and wrap. Turns out he is fine, and was up and playing on it the next day. Kids are so resilient sometimes it’s amazing. We had a fun time, and I even did a little school shopping in the gift shop (nothing wrong with baseball shirts on gym day). The game itself was a slugfest, with the Beach Bums knocking three over the fence on their way to victory. Again, it’s hard knowing I won’t be at a live game until next April, but what a fun season we had together and great memories. Lucky for us, though, we live in the original Hockeytown, and games start this coming weekend. That should keep us busy through the winter until baseball starts up again. Final: Beach Bums 8, RiverHawks 6.
Ok, this may not be a game or anything, but we did visit two fun parks over the weekend, and it’s fun to compare them and determine where we will spend our time and money in the future. Our first stop was at the Pirate’s Cove in Traverse City before the ballgame. We really like the mini golf here, and we tried some new things. The bumper boats were great, with a large pool and squirt guns. Brian manned the guns to drench his brother and sister, while I drove him around. We then went to the go-carts, and Trevor was happy to find that he is now tall enough to drive himself. This didn’t go over well with Lily, due to the fact that she is actually a year OLDER than he is. I got to drive a few laps, taking Brian and Lily around, and these go-carts could really move. Lily and Trevor took a ride on the water slide, while I drove Brian around again. He wasn’t too happy the he wasn’t tall enough for the water ride, but he got over it pretty quick. Lily and I next went on the ‘zip line’. She was a little nervous when she got up to the platform, and looked down about 50-60 feet. She’s a tough girl, though, and once her harness was snapped in, she was good to go and had a lot of fun on it. I would have loved to snap a pic of that, but dropped my camera, and couldn’t get it to focus (I ended up fixing it in the van on the way to the ball game, by beating it on the dashboard..it works). Pirates Cove gets a great overall grade in my book. The next day, we visited Adventure Island in Cadillac. We also went on the go-carts there, but they seems slow compared to the ones the day before. We’d been on the bumper boats here before, but decided on to partake in that activity on this day, due to the fact that we waited almost 20 minutes with no one helping us onto the ride. The kids got to do the water slides, which was what they really wanted to do, though. Brian came up less than an inch short to go on them, and the staff wouldn’t let me go down with him. Sooo….anyone keeping score, lets compare them like this. Mini-Golf: Tie-both are good. Bumper boats: Pirate’s Cove. Go-Carts: Pirate’s Cove. Zip Lines: Pirate’s Cove-maybe unfair because Adventure Island doesn’t have them, but it’s defiantly worth a run. Water Slide: Adventure Island. Final: Pirate’s Cove 3, Adventure Island 1. No doubt, we’ll be spending more time at Pirate’s Cove next summer.
Photos property of M.I.B.
Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Evansville Otters: Wuerfel Park-Traverse City, MI
We finally made it down to Traverse City this week for our first Beach Bums game of the season. The weather was beautiful, and the kids were able to play on the play ground inside the park for a while. The kids were happy that their Papa could meet us there, too, as he always spoils them rotten. What I really like about Wuerfel Park is that the concourse goes completely around the interior of the park, so we could take Brian for ‘walks’ and he can see the entire field, while we can keep track of the game. Lily and Trevor helped out a lot watching their little brother, and were rewarded with some ice cream. Not a huge crowd for a game during the week, but that’s fine with us, as the kids needed to run around a bit. It’s hard to ask them to just sit and watch a game when they’ve been in the car for a few hours. Our next game will be Star Wars night at the Whitecaps next weekend. That should be a memorable night.
In the game, the Beach Bums broke out the bats, scoring 12 unanswered runs. The Bums were sparked by a big fifth inning rally, scoring six runs. The offense was led by shortstop Jose Vargas, who had two two-run doubles and a solo home run during the game. He ended the game 3-4 with five RBI’s. Designated Hitter Chase Birch also knocked a two-run shot over the fence in the fifth. On the mound, Bryan Banes earned his fifth win of the season (5-0). Final Score: Beach Bums 12, Otters 4.
Despite ending the first half of the season in last place, the re-vamped West Michigan Whitecaps clinched a wild card playoff spot due to their second half performance. They were a dreadfull 26-43 in the first half and have a franchise worst 76 losses overall. The ‘Caps turned things around, however, going on a 26-12 tear since July 28. This is the seventh year in a row West Michigan will be involved in the Midwest League’s post season, and the 14th time in the franchises’ 17 year history. Whitecaps’ manager Joe DePastino said there absolutely is no complacency that his team is just happy to make the playoffs after dropping to as many as 29 games under .500 in late July.
“None at all,” DePastino said. “When you’ve gone from rock bottom to where we’re at, you want to win it all. These guys want to win it. To do what they’ve done, they would be disappointed if they didn’t finish it off with a championship.”
The Whitecaps might not be favored to win the MWL title, but may have as good a chance as any team. They start tonight at home against the Lake County Captains who finished first overall in the first half, but finished below West Michigan in the second stanza. The ‘Caps played the Captains more than any other team this season (21 times!), and are 7-5 against them since the All Star break. What could be interesting here, is if Lake County activates former ‘Caps All Star pitcher Giovanny Soto who the Indians organization picked up the Jhonny Peralta deal. If the ‘Caps can slip past the first round matchup, it’s possible they could play in-state rival Great Lakes Loons who, at 90-49, have the best record in professional baseball. This won’t scare the Whitecaps too much, though, as they went 7-5 against them in the second half.
Game 1: Whitecaps 2, Captains 4
Game 2: Whitecaps 8, Captains 0
Game 3: Whitecaps 2, Captains 3-Whitecaps Eliminated
Captains go on to win Midwest League Championship
Meanwhile, north of Grand Rapids up in Traverse City, the Beach Bums are making history of their own. Ending the regular season on a three game winning streak at home, the Bums qualify for the Frontier League playoffs for the first time in their five year history. They snagged the wild card bid with a 7-0 romping of the Washington Wild Things on the 4th, and ended the regular season in dramaitic fashion beating the Wild Things again the next night 4-3. Their first playoff game is on the 9th, while hosting the Windy City Thunderbolts on September 11-12. Good luck to both teams, and I’ll be updating this post with the results.
Game 1: Beach Bums 1, Thunderbolts 5
Game 2: Beach Bums 9, Thunderbolts 2
Game 3: Beach Bums 5, Thunderbolts 3-Bums advance to Championship Series
Game 1: Beach Bums 5, River City Rascals 3
Game 2: Beach Bums 0, River City Rascals 8
Game 3: Beach Bums 2, River City Rascals 6
Game 4: Beach Bums 0, River City Rascals 2-Rascals Frontier League Champions
Photos courtesy of West Michigan Whitecaps and Traverse City Beach Bums
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.
Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Windy City Thunderbolts: After a fun weekend at camp the kids and I decided to catch a Beach Bums game on our way back home. We were all pretty tired, but the game gave us a chance to relax and enjoy some baseball. We’ve hit at least one game every season since the team came here in 2006, and they’re all pretty fun. Not much of a crowd for a Monday night, but enough going on to keep us entertained. In the game, the Bums won 8-3 on the back of two hits by Matt Brown, who also had a stolen base. The team had four stolen bases in the game altogether including two by J.T. Hall. Ryan Platt got the win for TC on the hill. We’ll try to get to another game here this summer, but next on our slate are the Whitecaps next month on Star Wars night. Can’t wait for that one…
Photos property of MIB