Archive for the ‘ Minor Leagues ’ Category

The Morning After

aftermath1The day after fire decimated a portion of Fifth Third Ballpark, it’s time to step back and see what was really lost. The Belfor Restoration company arrived at the ballpark early this morning, to begin removing debris from the burnt areas, and determining just what might be salvageable out of the mess. The Whitecaps’ co-owner Lew Chamberlin also arrived at the ballpark today to take in the damaged areas and reflect on what might be lost. After 20 years of baseball, many signed items, artwork, and personal mementos were damaged or lost.

“I can’t say it’s a life’s work, because there’s a lot more to life than just one profession or achievement or items”, Chamberlin stated to MLive. com. “Nonetheless, everything that’s in here represents a lot of my life, and in that case, it’s sad. But, you know what? We’re just going to do it all over again and build new memories.”

Chamberlin’s office is located behind home plate at the ballpark, but still sustained some water and smoke damage. Some items that are in jeopardy are autographed baseballs from players and coaches, original programs and schedules, signed baseball cards, as well as some original artwork featuring the Whitecaps that became program covers. Chamberlin is also fearful that some very personal items that his son made may be lost. According to Whitecaps’ vice president Jim Janecki, memorabilia that is confirmed to be destroyed includes photos from Opening Day in 1994, and autographed Matt Walbeck jersey, and a signed picture of former manager Tom Brookens and Ryne Sandberg (Peoria Chiefs).

aftermath2It’s a shame that those items are gone, I love baseball history and memorabilia, and this loss really seems pointless. Again, though, at least no one was hurt in the blaze, and that’s the important thing. We’ll be keeping updates on the progress on the re-building of Fifth Third Ballpark the next few months until opening day. We’ll be down that way for a Griffins game soon, and for the Whitecaps game on April 12.

Photos courtesy of MLive.com

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Fifth Third Ballpark in Flames

fire1Tragedy hit West Michigan this morning, with the Whitecaps’ Fifth Third Ballpark caught on fire. First I want to say that we are very thankful that no injuries occurred due to the fire, and that the Whitecaps staff members and dozens of brave firefighters are all safe. According to reports by WOODTV8 by the Plainfield Township Fire Dept., the fire was started by a heater in one of the suites on the first base side. Once it spread to the attic area, it ended up destroying approximately 40% of the stadium, including the clubhouse and 11 suites. Early reports also indicate that in that area of the ballpark the sprinkler system may not have been active or charged. At this time, nothing is known as an absolute cause of anything, though. Fifth Third Field, built in 1994, is just 95 days away from the ‘Caps opening day. It is also the venue for the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game on June 17.

Fifth Third Ballpark early on when the fire started 01/03

Fifth Third Ballpark early on when the fire started 01/03

The Detroit Tigers were notified of the event also, and seem to be supportive of their Single-A affiliate’s predicament. In a statement on Twitter, the Tigers’ organization said, “The [Whitecaps] are and extension of our baseball family. We certainly hope for the best for all parties involved. The Tigers look forward to attending the annual baseball banquet later this month as part of the annual Tigers Winter Caravan”. Some of the form ‘Caps were stunned by the news and pictures of their old ballpark, also.

In a statement to MLive.com, Detroit infielder Don Kelly stated, “The team means a lot to the Grand Rapids area. You hate to see stuff like that happen to a great organization.”

Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila started his pro career in West Michigan, and told MLive.com, “Just saw some of the pictures. Pretty crazy. I’m glad no one was hurt. That is one of the best Minor League Baseball stadiums. Always a packed house and a great atmosphere.”

fire3.jpgThis was a nightmare of a day for the Whitecaps co-founder, chief financial officer, and director of accounting Denny Baxter. While his wife is battling cancer, he was called away to help deal with the situation. Baxter seems positive, however, that the organization and community will band together, and the Whitecaps will be ready to play baseball in April.

“We’re going to survive this and come out of this. I’d like to believe, if we rebuild it, they will come,” Baxter stated. “April 8, plan to be here, we will be. We’ll be back, business as usual. We’ll just have some construction plans and design work, but we have a great staff and we’re up to that challenge. The community will show that support to us. We’re gonna play baseball–we’re very determined about that. We’re strong in our resolve. We’re going to play on Opening Day, we’re still going to have an All-Star Game. I’m absolutely confident about that.”

If any baseball organization can bounce back from this, I believe the Whitecaps can. We plan to make our first game of the season on April 12, and are really looking forward to seeing how much they’ve accomplished by then. All the best to the Whitecaps, and, again, we’re just grateful no one was hurt.

fire4Photos courtesy of Cory Morse/MLive.com/MiLB.com/WOODTV8

Combining Hockey and Baseball is Brilliant

winterclassic1Baseball and hockey, the two sports loves of my life, going together like chocolate and peanut butter. And with this outdoor hockey thing really catching on, more teams and leagues are taking part in this type of event every year. So whoever decided to build a hockey rink in the middle of a frozen baseball park, is simply brilliant. Although this is not a new concept, this past weekend was the first outdoor game for our own Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins took on the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, in American Hockey League action. The game was part of Detroit’s Winter Festival, which featured in-state high school, NCAA, Ontario Hockey League, and the Griffs AHL game. The Comerica Park venue also hosted two alumni games from the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Griffins, the defending Calder Cup Champions, and off to the best start in franchise history, found themselves tied at three all after regulation and overtime against the Marlies, however. It looked like a great experience for all involved, and will hopefully lead to more events like this in the future. I would really like the Griffins to stay close to home, though, and maybe one day play at an outdoor game at Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps. This would be another great venue for hockey, with many successful high school, college, and professional teams in the area. You can even look at what the Rochester Red Wings did with their Frozen Frontier this season, as a model of success. From what I’ve read, Frontier Field did a phenomenal job of hosting hockey of all levels last month, and the same could be done at other minor league stadiums in the north. Although a Frozen Fifth Third may be a pipe dream, I guess I’ll have to wait until April to see some action there. Until then, we plan on hitting a Griffins game very soon.

winterclassic2winterclassic3Photos courtesy of Brianne Bowen/MLive.com

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Haselman to manage Loons next season

haselmanThe Los Angeles Dodgers have named former Major League catcher Bill Haselman as the new manager of the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. Haselman spent last season as manager of the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers (California Angels), leading them the California League Championship. He has also managed the Single-A Bakersfield Blaze (Texas Rangers) in 2010. Haselman spent 13 seasons in the bigs, hitting .259 with 47 home runs and 210 RBI’s with the Rangers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Tigers. Playing with Detroit in 1999, he batted .273 with four home runs, and 14 RBI’s in 48 appearances.

Haselman will replace Razor Shines, who the Dodgers promoted to manage the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. In his one year stint with Great Lakes, he took the club to the Midwest League Playoffs with a 40-29 showing in the second half (67-72 overall). Along with Haselman, Bill Simas will return as the Loons pitching coach, while Johnny Washington will take over as their hitting coach. The Loons will kick off the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3 at Fort Wayne. We’re still waiting for the Tigers to name a manager for the West Michigan Whitecaps, too. Larry Parrish was promoted to Toledo earlier this year, and the ‘Caps are still waiting to see who will be taking the helm next spring.

Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons

M.I.B. Prime 9: Our top moments of 2013

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.

fsdgriffs18) 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.

first47) 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.

joe16) 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.

bccollage5) 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.

starwars44) 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.

BrianCollage13) 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.

cliniccollage2) 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.

bulls11) 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.

llboysPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps cameo in ‘Anchorman 2′

whammyThe West Michigan Whitecaps and their fans got an early Christmas present this year. Upon watching the newly released Anchorman 2: The Legend Continuessome fans and staff noticed the baseball footage in the film is none other than of their Whitecaps. During the film, sports reporter Champ Kind (actor David Koechner), plays a montage of home runs to boost the ratings. The montage happens to be a mash of West Michigan players’ homers, with Champ using his catchphrase ‘Whammy!’. And you’re probably wondering how a Single-A Minor League Baseball team can make into a movie such as this, as did I. According to MLive.com, a Detroit-based filmmaker working for a Los Angeles film company came to Fifth-Third Ballpark to film what is called ‘B-roll’. The ‘Caps signed an agreement, the film was shot, but no one knew how the film would be used. Now we know. Unfortunately, the Whitecaps’ name isn’t used, but baseball fans will recognize the uniforms. Koechner is familiar with Grand Rapids, also, as he was in town last month for a comedy show. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this movie, but even more so now. Stay classy, West Michigan…

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/Anchorman 2

Below back with Detroit

Below pitches for the Whitecaps in front of a sold out crowd at Fifth Third Ballpark

Below pitches for the Whitecaps in front of a sold out crowd at Fifth Third Ballpark

The Detroit Tigers have signed left-handed pitcher Duane Below to a minor league contract, with a non-roster invite to major league training camp. The former Tiger is expected to compete for a spot in the bullpen for next season. Below played eight seasons in the Detroit organization, before being claimed off waivers early last season by the Miami Marlins. He then took his talents to Korea in July, playing for the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization. In 43 games for Detroit, he posted a 4.27 ERA. He flopped between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season before making the moves to Miami and Korea. He went 5-5 with a 3.04 ERA in 17 starts between the two farm clubs. A member of the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2007, he went 13-5, with a 2.97 ERA, and 160 strike outs. Below is a hometown boy from Britton, Michigan, and played college ball for Lake Michigan Community College. I wish him all the best in his return to Detroit, and hope he can crack the opening day roster next season.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Logo of the Month: 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic

allstarclassic2014 Location: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI

I kind of went off the beaten path the Logo of the Month on this one. It is such a cool logo, though, I just had to feature it. Tickets for the 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic that will take place just north of Grand Rapids, go on sale on March 4th, with the game itself scheduled for June 17th. This will be a great way to kick off our baseball trip for sure. Grand Rapids boasts the name ‘Beer City, USA’, after winning an online poll for two years in a row. Fifth Third Ballpark also host the annual Michigan Brewer’s Guilds Winter Beer Fest in February, with many local breweries at the event. This is the third time in history that the Whitecaps have hosted the All-Star Classic, the other years being 1995 and 2003. Last season, Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis won the Most Valuable Player award. Deik Scram also won that award in 2007 for his all-star game performance. Four current Detroit Tigers’ players have represented the Whitecaps in the past, including Ramon Santiago (2000), Don Kelly (2002), Hernan Perez (2011). and Bruce Rondon (2011). Miguel Cabrera participated during the 2001 season, representing the Kane County Cougars. Other notable MWL alumni to play in the all-star game are Mike Trout in 2010 (Cedar Rapids), Clayton Kershaw in 2007 (Great Lakes), Prince Fielder in 2003 (Beloit), and Wil Myers in 2010 (Burlington).

Official Midwest League Website

Baseball Trip finalized for 2014

bt1Next seasons’ Baseball Trip will be a little later this time, in June instead of May. One of the reasons for the change, is that we wanted to hit the Midwest League All-Star game on June 17th in West Michigan. This should be a great experience as I’ve never been to an all-star game before. This will be the hardest game to get tickets for, so I really need to be on the ball when they go on sale. The next day takes us south to Columbus, OH to check out our first Clippers game. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the stadium and franchise, so it should be a game to remember. The day after is a double-header for us. We start out with the Toledo Mud Hens for a day game. We saw the Hens back in 2007, and look forward to another great time at Fifth-Third Field. After we see the Hens, we head east to see the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and our first New York-Penn League game. Travelling in the early spring usually prevents us from making these games, since they start their season in mid-June. We stay busy the next morning, hitting the big city of Cleveland to check out the Baseball Heritage Museum. I don’t know much about this, so if anyone has been there any info would be appreciated. Next we enjoy more Midwest League action visiting the Lake County Captains in Eastlake, just east of Cleveland. Lake County and Bowling Green are the only two MWL teams I haven’t visited yet, as they transferred from the South Atlantic League a few years ago.

bt2The next stop on our journey should be interesting, visiting Canton, OH, and just south of that the Temperance Tavern and Cy Young Museum. Again, I don’t have much info on this, so if anyone has visited there I’d appreciate your input. That’s just one stop on our way to Washington, PA to see the Wild Things in Frontier League action. Washington is an independent team, but it look like they have a nice stadium. The town was just awarded a pro softball franchise called the Revolution, too, so that’s something else to look into. The next morning, we travel north to see the Detroit Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, the Erie Seawolves. This is another team I’ve wanted to see for some time, and look forward to checking out some of the Tigers’ prospects. Another double-header for us, we go a little farther east to check out our second New York-Penn League team in the Jamestown Jammers. And..our trip concludes with the newly dubbed Akron RubberDucks. This should be a fun adventure if the weather holds, and it should be better in June. If anyone has been to this region and can recommend any other points of interest or eating establishments, I’d love to hear about them.

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