League: Eastern League (Double-A)
Affiliation: Detroit Tigers
Home Field: Jerry Uht Park
Fun Facts: The Erie Seawolves started out up in Welland, Ontario as the Welland Pirates, affiliated with Pittsburg, and played in the short season NY-Penn League. The Pirates relocated to Erie in 1995 to become the Seawolves. This move caused the Frontier League franchise Erie Sailors to move themselves, over to Jamestown, NY. There was another Sailors team in Erie, who also played in the NY-Penn League, but they relocated to become the Hudson Valley Renegades before the independent team used the Sailors name. The Seawolves were upgraded to Double-A status when the Eastern League added two new teams in 1999. They became affiliated with the Angels after the upgrade for two seasons, then signed with the Detroit Tigers in 2001. Since 2003, the team has been rumored for another relocation, but upgrades to Jerry Uht Park have kept the team in place for now. Their mascot is named C. Wolf, and can be seen all over Jerry Uht Park, and in the Erie community. I’m really looking forward to visiting Erie, and taking in my first Seawolves game this summer. Seeing another Tigers affiliate will be a plus also, as many Whitecaps alumni will probably be in the lineup.
Notable Alumni: Justin Verlander, Alex Avila, Curtis Granderson, Omar Infante, John Lackey, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross
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.
Parrish to mange Erie: Lance Parrish is back in the Detroit Tigers organization. In what seems to be the final game of the Tigers’ minor league manager roulette, the former catcher will take the reigns of the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. Parrish’s last managerial job was with the Great Lakes Loons back in 2007. He led them to a 57-82 record, despite having Clayton Kershaw in the rotation. From 1999-2001, he served as the Tigers’ bullpen and third base coach under managers Larry Parrish (now with the Mud Hens) and Phil Garner. He was also the bullpen coach from 2003-06 under Alan Trammel. He really didn’t think he’d have another chance at a job in baseball until Al Avila gave him a call last week.
“What can I bring to this job? I can just bring me,” Parrish told the Detroit News. “My desire is to be the very best at my job and try to help the players out the best I can.
I’ve always felt I develop a good rapport with the players, whether in the minors or the majors.”
As a player, Parrish played most of his career in Detroit, helping the team win the 1984 World Series, was a six-time All-Star, and won three gold gloves behind the plate. Although he regretted leaving Detroit to play for Philly, among other teams, he always wanted a job back in Detroit.
“I always consider myself a Detroit Tiger,” Parrish said. “Even when I went to Philly, I didn’t want to go to Philly. After I was gone a year or two, I was hoping some time or way the Tigers would get me back.”
We had the opportunity to meet Parrish back when he was with the Loons, and he was nice enough to sign some baseball cards for the kids. We wish him the best with the SeaWolves this season, and look forward to seeing him back on the field while we’re in Erie this June.
Brookens retires: Someone who didn’t seem to be interested in the Erie job was Tom Brookens, who told the Detroit Free Press yesterday that he was retired. He was not asked to join new Tiger manager Brad Ausmus’ staff after spending the last four years under Jim Leyland as first and third base coach.
“I talked with a couple of teams,” Brookens told the Press. “There was basically minor league positions available, and that was it.”
He did talk to the Tigers about different jobs in the organization, but decided that if he couldn’t work in the major leagues, it was time to spend time at home with family. As a player, Brookens was also part of the 1984 Championship team with Parrish and Trammel. He played in Detroit from 1979-1988. He also managed in the Tiger system, as skipper for the Oneonta Tigers from 2005-06, Whitecaps in 2007 (leading them to the Midwest League championship), and Erie from 2008-09. We wish him all the best in his retirement. We were also lucky enough to meet him during his time in West Michigan, and he was great to the fans, and to my kids!
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
The off-season is a time to reflect in the season past, and at the same time look to the future. With sports in general, fans have always conversed on the ‘what if?’ factor, and I’ve been contemplating an idea for months now, ever since last season’s baseball trip. First, let me state that my two favorite Minor League’s are the Midwest League and the South Atlantic League. The MWL has three teams here in Michigan, and is where my hometown team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, reside. We also attend some Great Lakes Loons games over in Midland, and that is a great venue, also. In fact, I’ve been to every stadium in the MWL except two, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. We’ll get back to those teams momentarily, as they’re important. As for the SALly league, through work training down in Charleston and southern Georgia, I’ve was able to attend a few games of the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Charleston Riverdogs. During my baseball trip to North and South Carolina last year, I was able to visit another five SAL towns. Through my experience, these leagues have a lot in common. Between the two, we can see some of the best logos, nicknames, and mascots in all of sports. Both have teams in some great towns, with stadiums ranging from state-of-the-art, to simple and classic. Some of the best baseball fans we’ve had the luxury of interacting with attend games of these great leagues. Oh, the MWL and the SALly league have one more thing in common: they are the only two Single-A league. Now, I know there is short season and advanced ‘A’ league, but these two are just plain ol’ Single-A. The only two. These two league also have a link, so let us back up to two teams mentioned earlier, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Captains organization played in the South Atlantic League from 1991-2009, hosting their All-Star Game in 2006. The franchise started out in Columbus, Georgia, as the Columbus Indians (1991) and RedStixx. The franchise moved up to Eastlake, Ohio in 2003 and became the Captains. Lake County joined the Midwest League in 2010 with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Hot Rods were previously the Columbus Catfish up until 2009, and the two northern most teams jumped to the MWL to alleviate travel expenses.
So, now that the link between the two has been established the fun can begin. We can ask ourselves ‘what if the teams from these leagues played each other?’, and if so, ‘in what capacity?’. Due to the aforementioned travel expenses, any interleague play between the two is illogical, so we’ll just scrap that right away. It could be possible to have a Single-A All-Star Game, pitting the MWL against the SAL, but I don’t care for that, either. It may work at the Triple-A level, but I don’t like it for this one. What I would purpose is to have a simple championship series between the two leagues. For the Triple-A National Championship, they have a pre-determined neutral site to hold the event, and the winners of the International and Pacific Coast League play a one game winner-take-all. This could work at the Single-A level, also, and would ensure the fans of every team to have the opportunity to witness the championship game, and be exposed to the other Single-A league. Another route would be to have a three game series, with game one and games two and/or three at each of the participating teams’ stadiums. Last season, the Quad Cities River Bandits won the Midwest, while the Sand Gnats reigned supreme in the SAL. What an amazing series this would make, and not for just the prospects involved. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting both Modern Woodman Park with its breath taking sight lines in right field, and Historic Grayson Stadium, where you can feel the ghosts of baseball past when you enter the gates. What if the Loons would wind up playing the Greensboro Grasshoppers at some point? It would be awesome to cover the games from both ends with my buddies from Hoppers Fan, with both teams having phenomenal venues and fantastic community support. On a personal note, what if my transfer down south is granted next year, and the ‘Caps end up opposing the Greenville Drive. Where would my loyalties lie between my birth city and my adopted home? Although the possibilities my be endless, the one fact that stands out is this would be a win-win situations for all baseball fans involved, as well as the teams from both historic leagues. It would also be fun to see a game like this featured on MiLB.tv or the MLB Network. This is still nothing but a pipe dream, but it’s fun to imagine who the first team might be to win the ‘Minoring In Baseball Cup’…
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Whitecaps Winter Banquet: Last weekend the Whitecaps held their annual Winter Banquet, and over 20 current Detroit Tiger players, along with GM Dave Dombrowski attended. The players who attended included Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, Bryan Holaday, Austin Jackson, Steve Lombardozzi, Justin Miller, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, and Drew Smyly. Former Whitecaps now with Detroit also attended, like Nick Castellanos, Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, Hernan Perez, and Bruce Rondon. Some Tiger coaches also made an appearance, along with announcer Dan Dickerson. Whitecaps’ owners Lew Chamberlin and Denny Baxter spoke about the ballpark situation, and feel confident it will be ready by opening day, and fully restored by the Midwest League All-Star game in June.
“It will look better than ever, and we will be ready to go into the future for another 20 years”, Chamberlin stated. “Those are ambitious goals, but that’s what we’re going to do.”
Dombrowski also spoke, and showed the Tiger organizations support for their Single-A affiliate. He stated: “When you see the commitment of Lew and Denny and their staff, and also the community involvement and what you are doing and what you are overcoming, it shows what type of individuals that run this franchise and are involved in this city. From the Detroit Tigers perspective, we have no doubt that the West Michigan club will be ready to play and we’ll do whatever we can. You have our total support.”
There were also auctions that took place at the event, and they raised $58, 528 for YMCA Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball programs. Jon Connolly was unable to attend the event, but the former ‘Caps pitcher was inducted into their Hall of Fame. The event at DeVos Place was also a homecoming for other alumni like Castellanos, who is slated to be the Tigers starting third baseman this season. He seemed to have fond memories of his first full pro season.
“At this point, that was still my most favorite season that I ever had,” Castellanos told MLive. com. “I had the most fun, I learned the most and it definitely gave me an idea what pro ball was going to be like. It’s a day-in, day-out grind, and I fell in love with it. I think that we had a great deal of the fan support that we had here, they made playing so much fun. It was definitely a reality check. It introduced me to professional baseball.”
Tiger Fridays: Oh, yes! The Tiger Fridays are back in West Michigan this season, with some great former players making appearances. The ‘Caps brass has secured another impressive list of Tiger alumni, as well as one special guest for a special night. We kick it off on May 30, with Ron Leflore making an appearance. I remember ready his book, and it was really eye-opening. I recommend it for any baseball fan. On June 6, they welcome Daryl Patterson. He was a member of the 1968 World Series Champions, going 11-9, with a 4.09 ERA. Glenn Wilson comes to West Michigan on June 27th. Wilson suited up for Detroit in the early 80′s. July 18 will be a homecoming for Grand Rapids native, and ’68 Champ Mickey Stanley. Stanley was an excellent fielder, winning Gold Gloves in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973. On August 1st, the ‘Caps will be celebrating the 1984 World Series, with former manager Tom Brookens (who led West Michigan to the 2007 MWL championship) representing the Tigers, and Steve Garvey (who played at Michigan State), representing the Padres. The Tiger Fridays will conclude on August 22 with Craig Monroe, who now works as with Fox Sports Detroit. I would really love to make it down to meet Mickey Stanley, though. We’ll see how the summer goes!
The progress in rebuilding the decimated portion of Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Michigan, seems to be coming along nicely. Before the Whitecaps Winter Banquet last week, members of the Detroit Tigers organization took time to look at the fire damage and how much work has been done so far.
“I was amazed when I first showed up,” said Dan Lunetta, director of minor league operations for the Tigers. “I was expecting to see all the damage I had seen before online. I was amazed at the progress.”
“The first thing that one thinks about is that nobody got hurt,” Lunetta told MLive.com. “There could have been serious injuries or fatalities … Then you begin to think about the extent of the damage, and things that were lost that are irreplaceable, and your heart breaks when you hear that. It’s obvious that this place means an awful lot to an awful lot of people in this community, and there are memories that will be just that because the ballpark will undergo some change. But under Lew’s (Chamberlin) leadership, there’s no doubt they will get through this period and get the job done right.”
The Whitecaps still plan on having Fifth Third Ballpark ready for opening day. The weather here in Michigan has been brutal, so I really don’t envy the company doing the construction. We’ve been battling nasty blizzards, and sub-zero temperatures he last two weeks. Spring cannot come soon enough for us up here, where dreams of baseball seem so far away.
With Andrew Graham’s promotion from the Connecticut Tigers to the Whitecaps, the Detroit organization had another spot to fill. The Tigers filled that spot with another former catcher who played in West Michigan, with Mike Rabelo. He spent 2011 as hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Tigers, and 2012-13 in the same position for Connecticut. Rabelo was drafted by Detroit in 2001, spending the 2006-07 seasons with the big club. He started out his minor league career with the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League in 2001, before they relocated to Connecticut. In the first of two season with the Whitecaps in 2002, he hit .195 with 41 RBI’s. In 2003, Rabelo improved to hit .274 with 40 RBI’s, and 16 doubles. It’s always fun to watch former players move up the ranks in the coaching department, too.
“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to take the next step with a great organization like the Tigers,” Rabelo stated to MiLB.com. “We have a tremendous staff in place in Connecticut with Mark Johnson, Scott Dwyer, and Randy Brunner. I speak for all of them when I say we can’t wait to get started and play under the lights at Dodd Stadium in front of our fans. I wish the season started tomorrow.”
Johnson with serve as the teams pitching coach, as he did last season. He spent the 2008-12 seasons as pitching coach for the Whitecaps. Johnson pitched in the majors for nine seasons, including a stint with the Tigers. Scott Dwyer, who was the hitting coach in West Michigan just last season, will take Rabelo’s old job in Connecticut. They seem to have a very good staff lined up for the C-Tigs this season, that the Detroit organization seems to have some confidence in.
Stated the Tigers Director of Player Development Dave Owen: “Mike Rabelo is a talented young man with a very good baseball mind. He has done a great job as hitting coach and we are confident in his ability as he moves into his role as manager.”
We wish the Connecticut Tigers and Rabelo all the best this coming season. After all, they will be mentoring some future Whitecaps in the coming years for sure.
Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Tigers
Affiliate: Detroit Tigers
League: International League (Triple-A)
Home Field: Fifth Third Field
Fun Facts: The third game on our trip this coming season, will be a return to Toledo. We last took in a Mud Hens game back in 2007, so we’re very much ready to enjoy more baseball at Fifth Third Field. The Mud Hens have one of the best known minor league logos in history, mostly due to actor Jamie Farr wearing their hat during the run of the TV show M*A*S*H. They are also one of the oldest franchises, as pro baseball has been played in Toledo since 1883. The real era of baseball began in 1896, however, with the Toledo Swamp Angels who played in the Interstate League. The team played a Bay View Park, which was located near marshland which was inhabited by American Coots, also known as ‘mud hens’. The local press soon dubbed the team the Mud Hens, and the name has basically stuck though out the last 100 plus years. Toledo was also known for possibly hosting the first African-American to play in the major leagues. On May 1, 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker suited up for the Toledo Blue Stockings, who were a member of the major league American Association at the time. The Mud Hens played in the minor league American Association for many years (1902-1962), and then until the league folded after the 1997 season. The Mud Hens then joined the International League, playing in it’s West Division. They have won the Governor’s Cup (IL Champions) on three occasions in 1967, 2005, and 2006. The team has two mascots, Muddy the male Mud Hen, and Muddona, the female.
Notable Alumni: Casey Stengel, Freddie Lindstrom, Hack Wilson, Kirby Puckett, Jim Thorpe, Frank Viola, Travis Fryman, Billy Beane , Curtis Granderson, Lance Parrish