Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Back, again, just north of Grand Rapids for our last Whitecaps game of the season. A very bitter-sweet moment, but so much going on at this game, I’m not sure where to start. First, Brian was happy they had a ‘bounce castle’ set up in the parking lot. We didn’t have much time for him to play, but he still was able to bounce around for a little while before we made our way into the stadium. Upon entry, each of us received a free mini-bat, to commemorate the ‘Caps 20th season of play. Brian has been collecting the bats lately, so more for him. It was super hero night at the ballpark, just like in Battle Creek last month, but the only ones dressed up were the Whitecaps’ on-field staff. Still, some of them has some cool outfits. We were at the ballpark early, so we saw the Captains take some batting practice, and waited for the home team to hit the field for their warm-ups. We went down to field level, where we met former Tigers’ relief pitcher, and current ‘Caps pitching coach, Mike Henneman. He was nice enough to sign a baseball card for Brian (a future hurler, himself!). Before the game got underway, we were also entertained by team Ghostrider: basically monkeys riding around on dogs. They would appear a few time throughout the game, herding goats and riding away. When monkeys act like cowboys, everybody wins! It didn’t take the kids long to get hungry, and Lily, Brian, and their Papa stuck with traditional hot dogs. Trevor and I, however, wanted to try the Baco! We made our way through the concourse, and with a sold-out crowd we were moving slowly. We took a break, though, to check out the Whitecaps 2007 Midwest League Championship trophy that was on display. The team was also celebrating the championship during this game, too. We finally made it to the other side of the ballpark to get our Bacos. Trevor didn’t care for it too much, but I thought it was pretty good. Not worth $6 each, but had to do it. Unfortunately the Whitecaps has some of the slowest concessions ever, so we missed a good chunk of the game waiting in line. We decided to head back to our seats through the lower bowl, which was a good idea because Trevor got a foul ball that bounced our way. We were finally able to sit down and enjoy the rest of the game, which was a good one. The ‘Caps also provided post-game fireworks that the kids really love, too. It was a hectic night all around, and sold-out crowds will do that, but still hard to wrap my head around the fact it will be a minimum of nine months before I’m enjoying baseball at Fifth-Third Ballpark again!
Like I stated, the game between the ‘Caps and the Captains was a good one. West Michigan was down 2-0 in the third, but busted out for three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Connor Harrell and David Gonzales started it off with a pair of singles, then Lake County started walking some batters. The Whitecaps scored two runs on walks, then Jason King hit a sac fly for the third run. In the fourth inning, Jeff Holm hit a solo shot to put the ‘Caps up 4-2. West Michigan concluded the scoring in the eighth inning, when Lance Durham hit his team leading 14th home run, after King singled. On the hill for West Michigan, Edgar De La Rosa pitched a solid game, only giving up the two runs in six innings of work. He struck out four and didn’t walk any of the Lake County hitters. The bullpen finished the job, throwing four shutout innings, with Corey Knebel closing the door in the ninth. Holm lead the offense going 2-4, and Gonzalez went 2-3. Final Score: Whitecaps 6, Captains 2.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Next season, Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, will be hosting the Midwest League All-Star Game. The announcement was actually made during the seventh inning stretch at last Saturday night’s game that we attended. Next season’s classic will also be the 50th All-Star Game for the MWL, and will take place on Tuesday, June 17. This will be the third time West Michigan has hosted the event, with the first time being in 1995, and again in 2003.
“This is a bid deal for us”, Whitecaps President Scott Lane stated to MLive.com. “Not only are we hosting the Midwest League’s premier event, but we’re hosting it in it’s 50th year. We intend to put on a grand show for the fans, executives and players of the 16 teams in the league. We will showcase not only Fifth Third Ballpark during the two-day event, but West Michigan as well.”
All I can say, is that I have to make this game. I’ll be waiting to jump on some tickets when they go on sale for sure. Attending an All-Star Game is definitely on my baseball bucket list, and where better than at my home-team Whitecaps!
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Beach Bums Baseball Academy
Wuerfel Park-Traverse City, MI: As Trevor’s Little League season came to an early end this summer due to shoulder problems, we weren’t sure if he was going to participate in this baseball academy hosted by the Traverse City Beach Bums. As his x-rays were examined, he was cleared to play, but we also found out that he wasn’t dealing with a sprained shoulder, but a broken clavicle. The bad news is that even though it’s looked to have healed, it also still causes him extreme pain. Trevor is a trooper, though, and gave the camp a go. The gates opened early, and the players came and got the kids promptly at ten a.m. After some stretching and warming up, the kids were separated into five stations. Trevor’s first station was hitting. They did soft-toss with tennis balls in the outfield. He never got under one to get it over the fence, but had a few nice line-drives. His next station was in the outfield, working on pop-ups and fly balls. The Beach Bums really had some fun and unique drills to help the kids adjust to catching a ball on the fly. This is one of the biggest weaknesses of kids this age, so I’m glad they taught them some of these manuevers. The kids’ next stop was the bullpen, for some pitching drills. By this point, Trevor’s shoulder was causing some major discomfort, so he sat this one out. I don’t think he feels like he’s pitching material anyway, as he prefers to be behind the plate. After the pitching portion of the academy was complete, his group headed in for some base-running. They did some good drills that taught them how to run through the bag at first, and round it if the ball got through the infield. The kids really liked sliding on the artificial turf, too. He ended his day doing some infield drills. The Beach Bums did a great job of encouraging the kids, even when they made an error. They reminded them that the pros make mistakes, too, and not to get discouraged.
Overall, this was a very good experience for Trevor. I think he learned a lot and had some fun. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t make it for the second day due to the pain in his shoulder. I really recommend the Beach Bums Baseball Academy, however, for anyone living in the area. There seemed to be kids from all over the northern part of the state attending. I thank the Bums for their work with the kids, I want to personally thank Jason Wuerfel for giving Trevor this opportunity! We will be back next year, and with Brian old enough to join in the fun.
There’s still a few weeks left in the minor league season, but already the West Michigan Whitecaps maybe be seeing their playoffs hopes slipping away. They currently are 6.5 games out of first place, and sixth in the Midwest League West, and very much in danger of not making the playoffs for the third year in a row. They just completed a home stand where they went 1-5, including a three game sweep by in-state rival the Lansing Lugnuts. The first two games of the series were some what competitive, losing 6-2 and a close 2-1, but it’s the series finales’ 14-5 shallacking that has Whitecaps’ fans concerned. The Lugnuts scored nine runs in the third inning alone, and led the game 12-0, and had 16 hits. One of the reasons was the play of Lansings’ Emilio Guerrero, who went 6-6 on the night, with five RBI’s and three runs scored. His 6-6 night ties a Midwest League record. The Whitecaps are just under .500 for the second half at 25-27 (including last night’s win in Dayton), and 58-64 overall, but will have to find a way to win on the road to gain some ground in the five teams in front of them.
“We had a long home stand and this was time to get back in it,” West Michigan manager Larry Parrish told the Grand Rapids Press. “Instead we go 1-5 and we’re going on a long road trip. So now we have to do something we haven’t been able to do all season-put together a long winning streak. That’s tough.”
In the 14-5 loss, Endrys Briceno took the loss, after giving up 10 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Whitecaps scored their share of the runs in the fourth inning, when Jake Stewart hit a two-run home run, Dean Green (who went 4-5 on the night) had a two-run single, and Connor Harrell added a RBI double. I hope things look much brighter for the ‘Caps when we see them next weekend. Stranger things have happened in baseball, and I’m hoping the ‘Caps will put together the wins they need for the post season.
C.O. Brown Stadium-Battle Creek, MI: It seems to always rain when we visit Battle Creek, and this trip was no execption. We were lucky enough, though, that it stopped in time for us to enjoy ourselves at the ballpark. Here at C.O. Brown Stadium, where my love for Minor League Baseball began, has now seen four generations of my family enjoy baseball here. Because trips to BC usually revolve around family, however, not necessarily baseball, it was good to enjoy the game with loved ones. It was also super hero night at the Bombers game, so even though Brian was a bit tired and grumpy from the long trip, he perked up when he saw the likes of Wolverine, Spider Man, and Batman. The boys also met the BC mascot, Moe Skeeter! My dad also set me up to throw out the first pitch, despite the fact my birthday was last week. I shot a perfect strike, and was even complimented by the Bombers’ catcher. Brian really wasn’t happy with me that I was on the field without him, but he got his turn later in the game. At one point the kids chased the super heroes through the outfield, and he also competed in a race where he had to run with flippers, a scuba mask, and floatie. He did better than the other kids he was racing, but wasn’t happy about falling while running in the flippers. Anyway, we had a super fun time on super hero night, and it’s always good to visit family.
Ok, the game itself pitted the hometown Bombers against the Rochester Honkers in Northwoods League action. The Northwoods League is a summer college wooden bat league. Some of the best college players in the country hone their skills here. Playing for the Bombers is Cam Gibson, son of Detroit Tigers legend Kirk Gibson. During the school year, Gibson suits up for the Michigan State Spartans. Due to super hero night, the Bobers were wearing special jerseys to look like Superman. We had some free baseball, too, as the game went into extra innings. The Bombers only had six hits in the game, but the Honkers’ pitching staff had trouble finding the plate, and walked in some runs. The Bombers scored in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, and came through with a run in the 12th for the win. On the hill, Todd Eaton earned the victory, pitching four innings, giving up one hit and striking out four. Offensively, the Bombers didn’t have much going, but Rouric Bridgewater (Arizona State) was 1-3 with a RBI and run scored. Final: Bombers 6, Honkers 5 (12 innings).
And Brian’s on field race:
If you find yourself in Battle Creek with some time to spare, the Binder Park Zoo is a nice place to visit, especially for the kids. The one thing they really got a kick out of is feeding the giraffes! The looks on their faces were priceless! Lots of other animals to see there, too, but the Africa exhibit is probably the best.
For the second time in the last eight months, we say goodbye to a Fox Sports Detroit Girl. While Allison departed last December, and now Lauren is leaving to pursue other endeavors. Apparently she wants to focus on modelling, and will still be living in the Detroit area. Here at M.I.B. we want to thank Lauren for representing the Detroit sport teams with dignity and class. She will be difficult to replace, but Fox Sports Net is having a contest to pick the next FSD Girl. It’s too bad we never got to meet Lauren, but we were lucky enough to meet Stephanie and Brittney back in February. Good luck to Lauren in the next step of her career. Here’s her ‘goodbye’ video on YouTube:
Photo courtesy of Fox Sports Detroit/FSD Girls
It’s the trade deadline, and the Detroit Tigers decided to make some moves to improve the teams chances at making the post season. Unfortunately, the moves included trading away two West Michigan Whitecaps alumni, and one of their current players. The Tigers’ first move took West Michigan’s starting left fielder Danry Vasquez and sent him to the Houston Astros organization. In return, Detroit acquired relief pitcher Jose Veras. Vasquez struggled last season with the Whitecaps, but went down to Connecticut and ended up leading the NY-Penn League in hits. This season he’s been hitting .281 with five home runs and 39 RBI’s. He started the season hitting in the number three slot, but moved to lead-off hitter in June. He will be staying in the Midwest League, however, suiting up for the Quad Cities River Bandits.
“It made me sad that I will be leaving the Detroit Tigers organization but it made me excited that Houston made a trade for me,” Vasquez stated to Ben Chiswick, the Whitecaps’ radio announcer (and courtesy of MLive.com).
The Tigers next dealt outfielder Avisail Garcia and relief pitcher Brayan Villarreal to the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox in a three-way deal. The full deal sends Garcia to the ChiSox, Jake Peavy from Chicago to the BoSox, Villarreal to Boston, and the Tigers get short stop Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. Iglesias is said to be one of the best young middle infielders in the game today, so it will be excited watching him in Detroit. Villarreal has been sidelined in Toledo due to a thumb injury, but has been up with Detroit part-time for the last three seasons. He is 4-8 with a 4.56 ERA with the Tigers. During the 2008 season he split between the GCL Tigers and the Whitecaps, he was 1-6 with a 4.69 ERA and 37 strikeouts. He spent the entire 2009 season in West Michigan, going 5-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 118 strikeouts. As for Garcia, he was one of the top prospects in the Tigers organization, hitting .241 with two home runs and 10 RBI’s with the big club this season. He also played in West Michigan in 2009, splitting the season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers. He hit .264 with 31 RBI’s that year. Spending the entire 2010 season with the Whitecaps, he hit .281 with 17 doubles and 63 RBI’s. Good luck to all three players with their new clubs. We’ll still be keeping track of these guys.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball