Sticking with our ballpark theme this week, C.O. Brown Stadium, home to the Battle Creek Bombers of the Northwoods League, has its own renovations in store for the 2014 season. As the scoreboard at C.O. Brown was struck by lightning last season, a new and improved one will take its place, and the outfield fences tended to. The centerfield fence will be moved and lowered, and should give the outfielders a chance to rob some home runs, but also make the ballpark a little more hitter friendly. All the fencing in the infield, will be replaced and upgraded, also, including the field and grandstand areas. There will be new poles, lamps, and lights in the outfield and infield that will improve the overall play of night games. The Bombers will also be re-vamping the parking lot on the third base side, increasing the flow of traffic before and after games. As of now, there is only on main entrance into the whole Bailey Park complex. The organization will also be re-painting areas of the ballpark, including the restrooms and visitor’s clubhouse. The Bombers expect to have all of the renovation completed by the time their opening day rolls around on May 29th, when they host the new Kalamazoo Growlers. The upgrades might not seem as grand as the ones in Lansing and Grand Rapids, but they will make Bombers’ games a better experience for the fans.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
While down on Lansing, the Lugnut staff is going over the future plans for their ballpark, in West Michigan they’re just focusing on getting Fifth Third Ballpark ready for Opening Day. When that day comes on April 8, the Whitecaps will use the third-base dugout and locker room while they wait for theirs on the first-base side to be completed. The visiting teams will be using a temporary trailer just outside the center field gate, as will the umpires. The new locker room and clubhouse facilities are expected to be completed by May 1, in time for the ‘Caps home stand on the 5th. The temporary visitor clubhouse will only affect two home series, and four opponents in Wisconsin, Beloit, Bowling Green, and Fort Wayne.
“I know it’s going to be a bit of a change,” stated Whitecaps Vice President Jim Jarecki to MLive.com. “But cooperation from them (the opposing teams) has been very good. These guys may be prepping a bit and going back and showering at their hotel, but, for the interim, that’s the best setup we can do. Hopefully, it’s for a short period of time and we’ll put it behind us.”
The Whitecaps still expect to have the first-base side enclosed with concessions stand and restrooms ready to go. The re-building of the suites will be ongoing, but the smoke damaged ones on the third-base side will be ready to use. The effort by all involved has to be the weather we’ve been hampered with here in Michigan. This is one of the coldest winters in recent memory, and only two cities in the country (Buffalo and Erie) received more snowfall this year. The organization is still push to be ready by the home opener, and grounds crews will be removing over a foot of snow off the field in the coming week.
“We’re usually starting work on the field at this time,” Jaracki stated. “But you just can’t take off all the snow and go. You (remove it from) the warning tracks, then the infield skin. The grass will take care of itself, but the biggest focus will be on the infield skin and the mound and the home plate area. That has to get dried out.”
There’s no doubt that the ballpark will be ready by opening day, in my opinion. I know this organization will be striving to meet all of their goals. We plan on being in the stands on April 12, and for the Midwest League All-Star Game in June.
Cooley Law School Stadium, home of the Lansing Lugnuts, will be receiving a $22 million dollar renovation. First, there will be an $11 million renovation to upgrade and modernize the ballpark itself. There will also be an $11 million project called ‘The Outfield’, that is a privately funded residential and commercial development venture. There will also be a state-of-the-art high-definition video board that will be attached to the Outfield complex, but paid for by the Lugnuts. Along with the new video board, other upgrades will include and 360 degree walk-around concourse, and enhanced picnic area, new kids playground, upgrades to the clubhouses, refurbished seating, and brand new playing surface, renovated suites, an energy-efficient lighting and window system, and a new special event facility.
“This revolutionary project is a model for how the private and public sectors can work together to preserve a community asset while also propelling further economic growth downtown,” Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson stated in a press release. “It’s inclusion of a mixed-use development directly in the outfield of the ballpark delivers a twist that is unprecedented in the industry, creating more energy in both the ballpark and surrounding downtown Stadium District.”
This new Outfield project will include about 80 residential units as well a restaurant. The development will be constructed over the existing outfield wall, and will give some of the residents to have front row seats to the games. The Lugnuts organization will be working with the city to secure City Council approval by May 1st, and want the renovations to be completed over the next two off-seasons.
“The opening of the stadium in 1996 dramatically turned around the downtown area and catalyzed capital-area and regional development,” Lansing mayor Virg Bernero stated in the same press release. “With this renovation, we’re solidifying a crown jewel in Cooley Law School Stadium and ensuring the Lugnuts remain an amazing entertainment option for Lansing area patrons for the next twenty years.”
This is great news for the city, and for Lugnuts fans, and I really look forward to experiencing the finished product. We have plans to attend a Lugnuts game on May 4th, so hopefully the weather is at least a little bit warmer by then, and we can enjoy another Star Wars day. We didn’t have much luck in our two trips to Lansing last season.
I’ve really enjoyed watching the Detroit Tigers’ pre-season games so far during Spring Training. I especially like seeing the former West Michigan Whitecaps players wearing the ‘D’, and hanging with the big boys in major league camp. Nick Castellanos is hitting the ball very well, and proving so far he’ll fit nicely into the hot corner at Comerica. It’s fun to watch Casey Crosby on the mound, trying to get back to that form that made him a top prospect, and the likes of Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez, and Devon Travis patrolling the infield. There is always that one player, however, that really stands out, and this season that guy seems to be outfielder Steven Moya. The 22-year-old started out on a tear this spring, going 2-4 with a double, a triple, and four RBI’s against Florida Southern College in the Tigers’ exhibition game. He recently followed that up with another impressive performance against the St. Louis Cardinals, being a home run away from hitting for the cycle, and knocking in another four RBI’s. So far in Grapefruit League play, he’s batting .412, with two doubles, a triple, and five RBI’s (stats against FSC don’t count). Moya was added to the Tigers 40-man roster in December, but despite his play, few think he’ll make the Tigers’ roster out of spring training.
“I like what I see, but he’s young,” manager Brad Ausmus told Chris Iott of MLive.com. “He’s inexperienced, really. He’s had some freak injuries that he missed some time with. I definitely like him. He still needs some time in the oven. He’s swung the bat well from day one. He really hasn’t let up at all offensively.”
Moya played for the Whitecaps during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2011 he struggled a bit, hitting .204, with 10 doubles, and 39 RBI’s. He improved drastically in 2012, hitting .288, with 14 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and 47 RBI’s in only 59 games before being injured. He also played in the 2012 Midwest League All-Star Game, going 1-2 with two runs scored, and three RBI’s on a bases-loaded triple. We should have a good chance to see Moya play this season if he stays in the minors, as we’ll be making stops in both Toledo and Erie form some games this June. All the best to him the rest of the spring, and for the 2014 season.
UPDATE: Moya has been optioned to Double-A Erie SeaWolves. The Tigers also cut five other players on Friday, bring the number of players in major league camp to 40. Moya’s final big league camp numbers are a .333 average, with five doubles, and one triple in 21 at-bats.
“You can make an argument he was the MVP of camp. The problem is that he was in A-ball and he really just needs to play. He needs experience,” Ausmus stated to MLive.com. “We certainly have a high ceiling for him. But asking a guys with 90 games in A-ball to go to the big leagues is an enormous jump. So, the best thing for Steven Moya is to play.”
Photo courtesy of MLive.com/Grand Rapids Press
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
Over the weekend our own Fox Sports Detroit Girls, Stephanie and Angela, paid a visit to the Kalamazoo Women’s Life Style Expo. Here’s a description for the Expo’s website:
‘The Women’s Lifestyle Expo is Kalamazoo County’s premier event created for women by women. The Expo features businesses, communities, artists, workshops and celebrities from the greater Kalamazoo area including Portage, Mattawan, Schoolcraft, Richland, Vicksburg, Paw Paw, Plainwell, Otsego and Battle Creek’
Wow, lots of familiar towns on that list for sure. We have lots of family in Battle Creek, used to live in Richland, and played against the likes of Mattawan and Paw Paw in Little League when I played for Kellogg’s (yes, THAT Kellogg’s, the cereal). It seemed the FSD Girls had a great time, especially when they were visiting with the Girl Scouts, and representatives of the Kalamazoo Growlers. Entering their first season, the Growlers will be playing in the Northwoods League along with the Battle Creek Bombers this season at Homer Stryker Field. We are very much going to try to make down to K-zoo for a game this season. We never had a chance to visit there when the Kalamazoo Kings were playing in the Frontier League. It would be great if we ran into the FSD Girls at a game this summer, too. They didn’t make any appearances at any of the minor league ballparks here in Michigan last summer for some reason. Maybe they’ll be at the Midwest League All-Star Game this June (ordering tickets for that this week!). Anyway, just very happy that baseball is starting up, and April can’t come soon enough.
Photo courtesy of the Fox Sports Detroit Girls/Kalamazoo Growlers
Langbehn to Cleveland: Manager Gregg Langbehn has left the Beach Bums organization to take a job with the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball. He will be in charge of the new instant replay system in Cleveland, and report to the Indians’ bench on what calls should be challenged. He’s worked in organized baseball with the Houston Astros, but not at the major league level.
“It’s an incredible opportunity and challenge to be in the big leagues and one that I couldn’t pass up,” Langbehn stated on the Beach Bums website. “I’m really excited about it.”
Langbehn is the most successful manager in Beach Bums history, compiling a record of 267-212 in his five-year run with the club. He led the Bums to three playoff appearances including the Frontier League championship series in 2010. His 2012 season was one for the record books, as the Bums’ 64 wins was the third most in league history, and the best record for the organization. He was named the 2012 Frontier League Manager of the Year, and managed the 2012 and 2013 East All-Star teams.
Team president and CEO Jason Wuerfel also stated on the Bums website: “I’m excited. Any time a player or one of our coaches moves on it’s a real compliment to our organization and the area. We sincerely thank Gregg for the job he’s done over the last five years and we part ways as friends.”
Rohn promoted: With Langbehn leaving for Cleveland, this opened the door for bench coach Dan Rohn to take the helm of the Beach Bums. He started with TC in 2011 as a special assistant, then was promoted to bench coach in 2013. He is a native of Alpena, Michigan, and played ball down at Central Michigan University for the Chippewas. Rohn played in the pros for 13 seasons, including three in the majors. He began his minor league coaching career back in 1990 as hitting coach for the Triple-A Portland Beavers. Rohn went on to become a four-time MiLB Manager of the Year winner, in the Double-A Eastern League (2000), and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (2001, 2004, and 2005). He worked in the bigs with the Seattle Mariners as an administrative coach, and last managed the Triple-A Las Vegas 51’s of the PCL in 2010. This seems to be a great situation for both Rohn, and Traverse City.
“I’d really like to thank the Wuerfel family for the opportunity. I love the chance to work in the city that I live in,” Rohn stated on their website. “We have a strong ball club coming in this year; I’m really looking forward to putting a winning team on the field.”
It’s by great coincidence that Rohn was residing in TC, and that his wife teaches at a nearby arts academy. Matt Pulley will return as the Bums hitting coach, but the rest of Rohn’s staff has yet to be named. Jason Wuerfel seems very thankful that Rohn was available, also, as stated on the website.
“We are very fortunate to have a manager with his qualifications. There are a lot of good managers in this league but none with the experience Dan has. Dan will manage the team professionally on and off the field; the timing is perfect, we are just very fortunate.”
Again, this seems like a win-win situation for all involved. We’d like to wish all the best to Langbehn in his new journey, and we’ll be at Wuerfel Park cheering on Rohn and his Beach Bums whenever we get a chance this summer.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. San Antonio Rampage
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: After a fun afternoon at the West Michigan Whitecaps’ Open House, and a great meal at Enza’s Pizza, we made out way to the Van Andel Arena for an evening of AHL hockey featuring the home town Griffins taking on San Antonio. The Griffins won the Calder Cup last season, and were out to their best start ever in 2013, but injuries to parent club the Detroit Red Wings have depleted the roster here in GR. The Griffins still have a lot of fight in them, though, and it was fun to finally make it down to a game this season. The kids really like Van Andel Arena, also, as it’s the biggest one they’ve had a chance to visit so far. They also had a free hockey figure promotion, and we all know how much kids love getting free stuff. Brian finally got to meet one of the Griffins’ mascots, so he was all his glory at that point.
The game itself was a rough one for the hometown Griffins, as they got spanked 3-0 by San Antonio. They really just didn’t look like a typical Grand Rapids team, and made too many mistakes. The only stand out player was Petr Mrazek in net, who made 22 saves on the night, but was hung out to dry on the three Rampage goals. Head coach, and Sault Ste. Marie native, Jeff Blashill should have this team back to their winning ways by next weekend, though. The games are always a little more fun with a win like they did for us last season, but we still had a great time together. I’m not sure if we’ll make it down to another game this season, but if not we surely wish the Griffins luck on another championship run. Looking over the Whitecaps schedule, I was hoping to find a baseball/hockey double-header we could go to, but their games just don’t match up. All together, another day with the kids and my dad that I’m extremely thankful for.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
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.