Great Lakes Loons vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)
Dow Diamond-Midland, MI: Flying home from Florida, I decided to take an extra day and spend it with my dad. We usually go to a game for his birthday the first of April, but my training pushed that back a couple of weeks. I flew in just south of Midland, so we had a nice lunch and took in a Loons game, which is always a good time. As you can see by some of the pics, also, I finally discovered the MiLB In The Park app, and took advantage of it with the photos I took with my phone. I wish I would have used it in Jacksonville, but will definitely use it for any of our upcoming games.
I did get spoiled a little bit with the warmer weather down south, and it seemed that some of the rain followed by back up north here. It was a little cooler here in Michigan that it was in Florida and Georgia, but in reality not all that bad for the time of year. The rain didn’t last long and didn’t delay the game, either, so it’s all good on that front.
As far as the game goes, the Lugnuts jumped to a 2-0 lead after scoring a run in each of the first two innings. The Loons came back to score single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to tie things up, but then both offenses would come to a complete stand-still.
The game went to a whopping 16 innings, with the visitors finally plating a pair. For the Lugnuts, they were led by Rowdy Tellez, who went two for seven with three RBI’s in the game, and Dickie Joe Thon who went three for six at the plate. Andrew Case pitched the last four inning for Lansing, picking up the win while striking out two. For the home-town Loons, Josmar Cordero went three for seven, while Alex Verdugo and Mike Ahmed had two hits each. Kevin Guzman got the start on the hill for Great Lakes, going five strong innings while only giving up one earned run. Cordero, despite his three hits, would come in a take the loss, giving up both runs in the 16th. Also making an appearance for the Loons, was pitcher David Reid-Foley. Reid-Foley was born in Sault Ste. Marie (where I currently live), then moved down to Brunswick, Georgia (where I was training just the day before), and went to school and was drafted while in Jacksonville, Florida (where I caught a couple of Suns games). Baseball does unite the world, does it not? Final: Loons 2, Lugnuts 4.
I wish I could say that we stayed for the whole 16 inning marathon, but honestly can’t. After being up since four in the morning, travelling back to Michigan, and still being and hour and a half until I could lay my head down, we couldn’t do more than 12 innings. A long day, but a fun time as always at Dow Diamond. We don’t have any plans to come back as of yet this season, but once Little League starts and gets a schedule, I can start looking at the rest of the summer. We do have plans to hit a pair of Whitecaps games next month, though.
Jacksonville Suns vs. Jackson Generals (Southern League)
Bragan Field/Baseball Grounds-Jacksonville, FL: We had such a great time at Friday’s game, we just had hit at least one more! Sunday games are great, as they’re usually earlier in the day, so we didn’t have to be worried about being too tired for training the next morning. Again we got tickets that day, right behind the Suns dugout this time. I have no idea why tickets are so easy to get (not that I’m complaining), or why there wasn’t more fans in the stands for a Sunday game. We got to the this game on time, and by that I mean about an hour early. Lucky I was able to meet a couple of the Sunbeams coming through the gate, as they were pretty rare throughout the game.
Another plus about being at the ballpark early, as that we had a chance to explore some and get some good photos. I was able to get a couple panoramic from the concourse above our seats, and from the outfield.
Between innings, the SweetRight Brothers were on hand to entertain the kids. Since Brian wasn’t there, I really could have cared less, and would have preferred a performance from the Sunbeams. The kids in the crowd liked them, however, so I guess there are no complaints.
We started to get a little rain about the fourth inning, but not enough to stop the game, or stop us from enjoying ourselves. I really give the Jacksonville organization credit for just playing through a little rain. The grounds crew did come onto the field and put dry dirt on the mound and batters box, but that’s about it.
The game was another solid one for the home team. At the plate, the Suns had production from Austin Nola, who went two for three and drove in three of Jacksonville’s four RBI’s. Also going two for three on the day was Kenny Wilson and catcher Sharif Othman, who pushed across the Suns’ other run. On the hill, Kendry Flores earned the win, going five innings and allowing only one run. The Generals made a game of it late, but Sean Donatello earned the save. Final: Suns 4, Generals 2.
Another great day of baseball, and I really missed the games here in Jacksonville. This team was really a big part of me being down here ten years ago, and it was good to get back to the Baseball Grounds. I waned to get one more game fit in before flying home, but the rain spoiled that.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Jacksonville Suns vs. Jackson Generals (Southern League)
Bragan Field/Baseball Grounds-Jacksonville, FL: While in southern Georgia for some training for work, I took the opportunity to take in a ballgame or two in Jacksonville. This was my first Suns game since I was in the area for training in 2005. The ballpark hasn’t changed in a decade, as the Baseball Grounds are still a fantastic venue to watch a game.
We missed the first half-inning, due to our facility being about an hour north and having to get a car rented. I was surprised that there weren’t more fans at the game, and that we were able to get such good seats right behind the Jackson dugout. We didn’t miss too much of the action, however, as the Suns plated a run in the second inning, and never looked back.
I used the rain delay to get a selfie with the Suns mascot, Southpaw, too! This definitely made Brian jealous back in Michigan, but I bought him a Southpaw souvenir, and we’re good. I really give the Jacksonville organization and the grounds crew credit, as the field was ready to go in under an hour.
After the delay, the Suns kept playing well in victory. On the bump, Jake Esch earned the win with 5 1/3 innings of work. He only allowed three hits and struck out six, in a start they was cut off by the rain. The Suns bullpen pitched in after the rain, also with Blake Logan, Matt Tomshaw, and Sean Donatello helping secure the shutout. Offensively, Jax was led by Matt Juengel who went three for four with two RBI’s, and Austin Nola who went one for three with a home run and two RBI’s. Also pitching in: Kenny Wilson and Carlos Lopez, who each went two for four with an RBI respectively. Final: Suns 7, Generals 0.
And some video of the Sunbeams and the game:
All Photos and Video property of Minoring In Baseball
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: This weekend the West Michigan Whitecaps officially kicked off the 2015 season, hosting a ‘SnOwPEN house’ at Fifth Third Ballpark. There were s’more stations and a pitching area out front for the kids and adults alike. The mascots Crash, Roxy, and Frankie were interacting with the fans, also.
Brian’s favorite activity of the day was getting a ride by the sled dogs. This was a very popular activity for others, too, as we waited in line for an hour in the balmy 20 degree weather (at least it wasn’t -35, as it is today). The wait was worth it, as Brian had a blast getting pulled around in the snow. We were lucky to get him on, too, as he was in the second to last group, and so many people had given up that were ahead of us.
Up in the ballpark, the ‘Caps were serving up free hotdogs for fans. They even were playing the movie ‘Frozen’ on the giant video board for the kids to enjoy while they ate. The ticket office opened up, too, as single game tickets went on sale. A fun day, that got us excited for baseball season. It doesn’t look like the cold and snow is going anywhere soon, but we can certainly dream. We ended out day at the Van Andel Museum in downtown Grand Rapids. Brian enjoyed all of the artifacts, and especially the Real Pirate exhibit.
YouTube video of the dog sled:
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
This summer, the Great Lake State will be opening it’s very own Baseball Hall of Fame. The location will be at the Lansing Lugnuts’ Cooley Law School stadium, in left center field on the outfield wall. The idea came last year, when the Lugnuts started a $26.5 million renovation to their ballpark. Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson helped to conceive the idea, realizing there is no such place yet.
“We said, why don’t we do it,” Dickson told MLive.com. “Sometimes it’s amazing what you stumble upon with a little but of luck.”
The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame will start with 10 members in its inaugural class. It will include plaques with images of the inductees, as well as the when and why they were inducted. The Hall will include players and coaches native to Michigan, as well as those who came to our state and ‘contributed significantly and positively within the national pastime.’ The Hall won’t be limited to just major league players, either, and could include a little league team, high school or college players, and coaches.
“We’re looking for people who have made an outstanding contribution to baseball in the state of Michigan across all levels”, stated Dickson.
There is a very impressive selection committee in place, looking to seek out the worthy candidates from our state. Along with some of the great players from the Detroit Tigers, I would love to see pitcher Jim Abbott selected, as he was one of my favorite players growing up. Michigan also has a great history of amateur baseball, as the very first College World Series was played in Kalamazoo, and the Stan Musial World Series being played in Battle Creek. C.O. Brown and Arch Flannery would be good bets, also, as they were responsible for bringing the series to BC back in 1937. I definitely can’t wait until June 27th, when the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame opens its doors.
Logo courtesy of Michigan Hall of Fame/MLive.com
The West Michigan Whitecaps seem to be faring well at the current Baseball Winter Meetings. They were first presented with the 2014 Bob Freitas Award, that is given to the organization with the best overall operations. The award honors teams that demonstrate a sustained excellence in the business of Minor League Baseball based on the last five years. The Whitecaps also earned this honor back in 1998, making them the second Class A team in history to win this award twice. The San Jose Giants also won it in 1990 and 2009. The Whitecaps CEO and Managing Partner Lew Chamberlin seemed very humbled that his team had been selected.
“The Freitas Award is one of the most prestigious awards that a Minor League franchise can receive and we couldn’t be more honored to be this year’s designee,” Chamberlin stated to MiLB.com. “The success that the award recognizes is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of our staff, the support of and incredibly engaged fan base and community, a terrific Major League partner, and a little but of luck. It’s been an incredible year for us in so many different ways and we’re very appreciative of this award.”
The ‘Caps also earned a Minor League Baseball Presidential Citation, which is a special award presented by MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Connor, and recognizes exemplary service on behalf of Minor League Baseball. Due to the fire last January at Fifth Third Ballpark, the team was given the award due to their effort through the community to rebuild and be ready by opening day. West Michigan also hosted the Midwest League All-Star Classic last season, and it drew the highest attendance in the last 12 years.
“We’re appreciative of this recognition,” Chamberlin also stated to MiLB.com. “Our Minor League peers have all been very supportive during the days immediately following the fire and throughout the rebuilding process and we’re pleased that that support has culminated in this citation from MiLB.”
This was a great season for Whitecaps baseball, that started with their open house back in February. The team made the playoffs, and I wish they would have made it a little farther, but we all had a great time at Fifth Third Ballpark this season. I’m hoping 2015 is just as fun, but if I get my transfer I will definitely miss being at the ballpark in West Michigan.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Affiliate: Chicago Cubs
Home Field: Four Winds Field
League: Midwest League (Single-A)
Notable Alumni: Justin Upton, Brandon Webb
Fun Facts: One of the teams we hope to see next summer is the South Bend Cubs. South Bend came into the Midwest League in 1988, as the South Bend Silver Hawks, named after the Studebakers that were once produced in the city. They started out as affiliates of the Chicago White Sox, and became a long time affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks (17 years!). In September, the franchise announced they signed a four year affiliation with the Chicago Cubs, and changed the team name accordingly. The franchise has won the Midwest League Championship on three occasions: 1989, 1993, and 2005. We were able to watch the Silver Hawks back in 2009, before they chanced the stadium name from Coveleski Stadium to Four Wings Field. The franchise has made some great improvements to the ballpark in the last five years we’re looking forward to also. The new logo was just released this afternoon, and I’m sure the boys, as Cubs fans, will be begging for some merchandise.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again when we get to vote for the very best of Minor League Baseball this past season. As usual, a few of the local players made the list. I’ll be voting as much as possible, and hoping some of them can bring home an award or two.
Top Offensive Player: Former Great Lakes Loons short stop Corey Seager had a fantastic season for the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He led all of the minors with 50 doubles, and was tied for first with a .349 batting average. Throw in 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s, and you have a player worthy of being named a top offensive player.
Breakout Prospect: Most Tiger fans knew outfielder Steven Moya was a top prospect going into the season, but he really earned that moniker in 2014. Hitting .276 with the Double-A Erie Seawolves, he also belted 35 home runs and drove in 105. He also showed some speed, stealing 16 bases this season. Those stats were good enough to be named the Eastern League MVP, but will they be good enough to be the breakout prospect? As a former West Michigan Whitecaps, he’ll be in completion for that crown with hurler that pitched for the ‘Caps this season. Kevin Ziomek quickly moved up the Tigers prospect list with his accomplishments this season. A member of a rotation stacked with top prospects, he led the Midwest League with a 2.27 ERA, and his 152 strikeout were second in the league. With is 10-6 record, he can certainly be considered a breakout prospect.
Photo of the Year: No monkey business here, as the ‘Caps are up for the photo of the year award. The above photo was taken during one of the promo nights (Team Ghostrider) where the monkeys ride around on dogs and heard sheep. We didn’t get to see the act this season, but last year in West Michigan. It’s a funny photo and I’m voting for it to win! You can vote for your favorites HERE.
Seager and Ziomek photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Monkey photo courtesy of MiLB.com