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
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Ohio Bobcats
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Madness. Sheer Madness. Attending a baseball game in Michigan in March, one would have to be classified as mad, or crazy, or whatever. The weather actually wasn’t that bad, however, and dealing with a personal loss, my dad and I decided to use baseball as therapy. This was the Chips home opener, so there was a decent crowd on hand (until the sun disappeared, anyway).
The game itself was a rough one for the Chips. Sophomore Nick Deeg took the loss one the mound, but two unearned runs didn’t help his cause. CMU had a couple other defensive lapses that could have been errors, also, so a tough day for the left-hander. Five times during the game the Chippewas had at least two runners in scoring position, and stranded 13 total for the game. Nick Regnier and Alex Borglin had two hits and an RBI each to lead CMU offensively. Logan Regnier and Joe Houlihan each legged out doubles, and freshman Zach McKinstry added a hit and an RBI.
The Chippewas bounced back to beat Ohio the nest two games, but we were left with the lone loss in the series. Still a fun day, and getting to a ballgame really helped take our minds off things for a little while. We’ll try to see the Chips play again this season for sure. Final Score: Chippewas 4, Bobcats 6.
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.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Saturday was Valentine’s Day, and who wants to spend that day alone? So Brian and I, being the wild and crazy guys that we are, bundled up to combat the sub-zero temps and spent the evening with the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team. The team was having their annual pasta dinner to raise funds for their road trips this season. We ate well, and Brian kept busy playing with some of the other kids in attendance. He even gave some of the players a Valentine, and got his picture taken with his favorite player (with spaghetti sauce on his shirt, no less).
The Lakers start their season in two weeks, travelling to Marquette, Michigan to face Marian (Wisc.), Finlandia, Edgewood, and Concordia (Wisc.) in the Superior Dome. They then will travel to the St. Louis area in March, to face some more non-conference teams, gearing up for their GLIAC schedule. The Lakers complete schedule can be found HERE. We wish the girls the best of luck this season in their GLIAC playoff bid, and are confident they’ll reach their goal. Trevor joined us for the hockey game after the dinner, but we missed him and Lily this year. I hope they’ll join us next year if we’re still living in the area.
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
Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium/OSU-Columbus, OH: Well, tonight’s the night, when the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Oregon Ducks for the NCAA national football championship. Not having a horse in the race, I did think it was a good chance to show off a few photographs from my visit to Buckeye country this past summer. We had plenty of time to kill before our Columbus Clippers game, so we decided to check out the campus, and that included their baseball stadium. Bill Davis Stadium is really one of the nicest collegiate baseball stadiums that I’ve had a chance to see, though I haven’t been to too many. They have the artificial turf that many of the NCAA teams are going to now, also. I was lucky that they were doing some maintenance work and that the stadium was open for me to poke around and take some pictures. I almost got locked in, though, and I really wasn’t in the mood for climbing fences. It’s too bad I didn’t get to see a game here, as, again, it’s a really beautiful college ballpark, and I’m sure the atmosphere would have been great, especially if they were playing a rival. Our trip was in mid-June, however, and the only college ball being played at the time was in Omaha. I hope to make it back to Columbus for more baseball to catch a Buckeye game, and another Clippers game, as ours was shortened by some rain. Have fun watching the football game tonight.
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Iowa Wild (American Hockey League)
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: I hope this post finds that everyone had a safe and very Merry Christmas! To celebrate our holiday, we headed downstate to visit family, and to keep busy, took in a hockey game. There are really only two seasons in our eyes, baseball in summer, and hockey in winter, so we spend many nights at the rink when the ballparks are covered in snow. On this night, Brian and I went with Papa to see the Griffins host the Wild at the Van. Our first Griffs game of the season, and it was a good one. They wasted no time, as Andy Meile tickled the twine just 14 seconds into the game. The Wild tied the game shortly after, but not long after that Landon Ferraro re-established the lead for Grand Rapids. Teemu Pulkkinen scored with 43 seconds left in the period to give the Griffins at 3-1 lead going into the first intermission.
The second period was a good one for the home team. Mitch Callahan scored a power-play goal just 2:35 into the period to put the Griffins up by three. Grand Rapids kept pouring it on, as Tomas Nosek scored a highlight-reel goal, and Marek Tvrdon scored his first AHL goal shortly after. The scoring didn’t stop there, as defenseman Nathan Paetch scored on a laser from the left circle, and Nosek tapped in his second of the night to put an end to the second period. Brian and I tried to catch up with the mascots Griff and Finn, but they didn’t get out with the fans during the game or intermissions.
The third period wasn’t as excited, but still held some very good stories. First, with the Wild getting beat up, they decided to finally pull their starting goalie, and replace him with David DeSandler. With the other netminder called back up to Minnesota, the Wild needed a back-up, and signed the west Michigan native to a one-day tryout. DeSandler did a fine job, too, only giving up one goal and making six saves in his one period of work. The only goal he gave up was to former Lake Superior State Laker Colin Campbell at the 5:53 mark. In net for the Griffs, Thomas McCollum, who was sent down from the Detroit Red Wings earlier in the day. He was stellar on the night, stopping 32 out of 34 shots for Grand Rapids.
Fight! Fight! Dropping the gloves!!!
This was a fun night with family, and we hope to make it down to another game this season. As the last post of 2014, it was a great year and we really look forward to the challenges that 2015 will bring us. I’m still hoping to get transferred to a warmer, more baseball friendly environment, so keeping my fingers crossed, and see where the new year takes us! Final: Griffins 9, Wild 2.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
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.