Results tagged ‘ Ernie Young ’

Young is done-who’s next to lead the Whitecaps?

Ernie Young signs autographs for fans for the last time as manager of the Whitecaps last weekend.

Last Monday the West Michigan Whitecaps’ season came to an end. Also coming to an end, was Ernie Young’s tenure as the ‘Caps manager, as he was notified after the game by the Detroit Tigers organization that his contract won’t be renewed. This news he handled with class, and kept to himself, until he was back home in Arizona the next day.

“They’re not going to renew my contract for next year,” Young stated to MLive.com over the phone. “I knew yesterday, I just didn’t tell anyone. They gave a reason (but Young did not state the reason). There are going to be some changes, but that’s the only one that I can tell you about. I can’t speak to or for anyone else.”

The ‘Caps went 72-68 this season, and 70-69 in 2011. Unfortunelty, they missed the playoffs both years even with winning records. At this point it’s unknown whether pitching coach Mark Johnson or hitting coach Scott Dwyer will be brought back, but both did their job well. Coaching in the minors is a tough gig, but I thought Young has done a pretty good job. Last season with top prospect Nick Castellanos struggling out of the gate, the coaching staff helped him turn his season around and lead the league in hits. West Michigan struggled at times this season more due to injuries than anything else. They lost power hitters Steven Moya and Dean Green to injuries, then a promotion to Green. They also lost catcher Curt Casali when he was promoted. Young is a former manager of the Class-A Kannapolis Intimidators in 2009-10. The 2009 team lead the South Atlantic League with a 82-57 record. He has also served as hitting coach for Great Falls in the Pioneer League in 2008 following  his Major League career that included eight seasons with Oakland. His 142 wins is fifth all-time for the Whitecaps. He seems positive he’ll land with a new team, though.

“I’ll redo my resume’ tonight and tomorrow and get it out to the other teams and go from there”, Young said. “I’ll bounce back and I’ll be on my feet. I’ll tell you what, I enjoyed my time in West Michigan. The fans were great to me. I don’t have anything to be upset about because I know how hard I worked and what I gave to the organization.”

I wish Young all the best, as I think that he did well the last two seasons in West Michigan. Now, I guess, is the time to try to guess who the new manager will be, although we may not get an answer for several months. Back in February, I wrote that I thought that former Tigers infielder Brandon Inge would be a perfect fit in West Michigan. Some of my reasons included his 12 year stint with Detroit, and owner Mike Illitch’s reputation for taking care of his loyal players, and the fact that Inge still lives in Michigan and has his family here. His experience at various positions and the fact that his playing career may be coming to and are other factors. In fact, this season for Inge has already come to an end due to injury. Now, also playing for the Oakland A’s, Inge suffered a season ending shoulder injury on the first of the month. He originally dislocated it on August 11, and had just come off the DL when he injured it again.

“My damn shoulder came out again,” Inge told the Sporting News. “I gave it my best shot. I knew it was going to be rough coming into it. In a year like this, you don’t leave anything on the table. I literally gave everything I had to offer to this team. And I’m at peace with it.”

He also stated he was in pain before the re-injury, but wanted to help the A’s in their playoff push. In 74 games with Oakland, he hit .266 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI’s. Inge was brought in last April when fellow Whitecaps alumni Scott Sizemore went down with a season ending injury of his own. If Sizemore is good to go by next season, it will be unlikely that Inge’s contract will be picked back up, and courting a new time at this point in his career could prove difficult. Now, I like Brandon Inge, I really do. I love the fact that he wants to compete and contribute to his team, and I respect the hell out of that. At this point in his life, though, it may be time for a change. A job with the Whitecaps would put him very close to his family, and give him a stable environment. Inge is still very popular in West Michigan and has said nothing but good things about playing there. I’m sure if the Whitecaps themselves had a say in it, he might be a top candidate. It’s the Tigers organization, however, that will make that call. Honesty, I don’t see any other reason that Young would get the axe unless they really had someone else lined up to replace him. Hitting coach Scott Dwyer has head coaching experience, so he would be a solid candidate to get promoted also, with maybe Inge taking his job. If any of these bold predictions do come to pass, however, remember you read it here first: http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

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Season end in West Michigan

The West Michigan Whitecaps ended their season this week. Despite missing out on the playoffs and losing the final game of the season 7-3 to the Dayton Dragons, they did end up with a winning record, and a lot of high points. They did end up in third place in the Midwest League‘s Eastern Division, and were the fifth best team overall this season. Their final record was 72-68, going 36-34 in both halves of the season.

The Whitecaps meet their fans at the gate in the final game of the 2012 season!

“We came up a bit short, but if you look at the big picture, we had a very successful year,” second baseman Brandon Loy told the Grand Rapids Press. “We didn’t make the playoffs, it goes by halves, but if you look at the full year perspective, I think we had one of the better teams. We have some mixed emotions because we wanted to be in the playoffs, but it was a fun year for us and we had great guys on this team.”

Before their last game, the Whitecaps players greeted their fans as they entered the stadium, thanking them for their support and taking the time to come watch them play. This is a pretty classy move, and find it a great way to continue the great fan support that they get. After the game, the crowd gave the team and standing ovation, as they once again gave thanks. The praise is well deserved for both fans and players. This team played hard, but was struck with injuries and promotions that prevented the team from a real hot streak. That’s baseball, however, especially in the minors. The Whitecaps had 74 roster moves and placed a player on the disabled list 14 times, 11 of those since June. A total of 357 games were missed by players on the DL. Manager Ernie Young is proud of his team and their competitiveness, despite all of the setbacks.

“We dealt with a lot of injuries early, and we had a lot of injuries late, but we still were able to compete,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “Although short-handed, we were competitive and we gave ourselves an opportunity to be successful, which for me was a success. We have the fifth-best record in the Midwest League and third best in our division and we didn’t make the playoffs. They system’s not fair but it’s in place for a reason. The changes we made we were able to compete, but we just weren’t able to get on a big enough roll to separate ourselves from the middle of the pack.”

Young was also asked what grade he’d give the season and he stated a ‘B’. He was impressed with the pitching staff who had the second-best ERA  in the MWL at 3.45. Four West Michigan starters made 23 or more starts, and Tommy Collier’s 2.74 was fourth overall in the league. On another positive note, Marcelo Carreno was named the MWL Pitcher of the Week for his two performances against the Dragons. The last outing he only allowed four hits and struck out 13 batters. Relief pitcher Jade Todd was also named the Detroit Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Month, along with Adam Wilk. Todd struck out 21 hitters in 15 2/3 innings in August, earning two wins and a save for the Whitecaps. Well, there’s always next year, and for me April can’t come soon enough.

Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com/Sally Finneran

Whitecaps roll over Great Lakes

Fifth -Third Ballpark-Compstock Park, MI: In another chapter in the in-state rivalry of the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Great Lakes Loons, the ‘Caps were able to stay hot and take the home series three games to four. Game one was showcased by West Michigan pitcher Jeff Ferrell, who stayed as hot as the August sun this month. He threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up only two hits and striking out four, and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Ferrell is 3-0 this month with a 0.74 ERA in his last four starts, as has already been named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for his efforts earlier this month.

“I’m just trying to keep the ball down and mix up my pitches the best I can.” Ferrell told the Grand Rapids Press. “All of my pitches have been working for me this month, and that has been a big part of my success right there.”

He got some run support early, on a solo home run by Lance Durham. Jeff McVaney would hit a three-run shot in the sixth innings, propelling the ‘Caps to a 4-1 win. Brandon Loy had two hits in the game for West Michigan also. Will Clinard preserved the win in relief, striking out two batters with the bases loaded to earn the save.

In game two of the series, the Whitecaps were down 5-0 early, but battled back to within one, 5-4, before the rain hit. The hour and a half rain delay seemed to wash away all of the ‘Caps momentum, and the over-worked bullpen got hit hard when play resumed. In the 13-4 loss, West Michigan gave up a season high runs, hits (19), and four relief pitchers combined to allow nine runs and 14 hits in six innings. Starter Wilsen Palacios took the mound for his first start in ten days, but couldn’t make it out of the third innings. The ‘Caps were only able to connect for six hits, with Jason Krizan going 2-3. Eugenio Suarez hit a two-run double in the fifth inning, and Jason King hit one over the wall in the fourth.

Game three of the series saw the Whitecaps only get five hits, but they made the most of them, scoring all of their runs with two outs in a 5-2 comeback win over the Loons.

“That was key,” ‘Caps manger Ernie Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “Any time you can score with two outs, it is going to benefit your ball club. I would like to get some one-out runs, but today was outstanding. Even though we got behind early, I thought we did a good job of making their pitcher throw some pitches that inning and we were able to capitalize. It is always good for your confidence when you can come back and win a ball game after losing the day before.”

Down 2-0, the ‘Caps started their comeback in the third inning on a single by Aaron Westlake, an RBI double by McVaney, and two-run single by King. In the fourth inning, Westlake struck again with a RBI single to make it 5-2. On the hill, starter Tommy Collier tossed three innings giving up the two runs. Relief pitchers Brennan Smith and Jade Todd kept Great Lakes off the scorecard the rest of the game.

The series finale was the most dramatic game of them all, believe it or not. The game went back-and-forth with neither team being able to pull away. Things looked good for the ‘Caps in the seventh inning, when Westlake tied the game on a deep home run. The Loons answered, though, when Tyler Ogle hit his first home run of the season to help his team re-take the lead. Westlake was 2 for 4 in the game with two RBI’s, but his ninth inning walk would prove crucial. Set the stage for Jeff McVaney, who’s two run blast sent the Whitecaps and their fans into a frenzy, giving them the 6-5 walk-off win.

“I don’t think there is a better way you can win a ball game than a walk-off home run,” McVaney told the Grand Rapids Press. “I knew the situation, and I knew we had to get that run in. I thought about driving the ball to center field, and I definitely had home run in the back of my mind. I was trying to swing extra hard. Both teams came up with clutch hits and clutch pitches. It was good for our team, especially when we are trying to win every game to get into the playoffs. It was definitely a good moral boost to have a win like that.”

McVaney ended the game going 3-5 with two singles and the homer. On the mound, starter Kyle Ryan had his best recent outing. He gave up only one run on three hits in his five innings pitched. Will Clinard would earn the win, despite giving up the go-ahead run in the ninth. The Whitecaps now lead the season series with the Loons 12 games to 7. This season’s end is rapidly approaching, and we’re hoping to make one more game before it ends!

Photos courtesy of Sally Finneran/Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com

Bad call burns Whitecaps

Fifth Third Field-Comstock Park, MI: The first game of the three-game series between the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Bowling Green Hot Rods was marked by controversy. The highly contested ballgame went into extra innings, and it seems the ‘Caps had the victory as Eugenio Suarez crossed the plate after being driven in by a double by Aaron Westlake. He and Westlake were being mobbed by teammates, although their celebration would be short-lived. Home plate umpire Ben Guttenberger ruled that Suarez did NOT cross the plate, and that he was out after being tagged by a Hot Rods player. Despite the fact that every reply proved that he did touch the plate, the call stood. The Whitecaps went on to lose 2-1 in 15 innings.

Manager Ernie Young told MLive.com: “I don’t know what to say. That’s a call that…Damn, I really don’t know what to say. I’m at a loss for words on that play.”

Westlake now leads the Midwest League in doubles with 34. He was also in shock, after being dubbed the hero for his efforts.

“We were celebrating as a team, it’s already been a long game and you think the game is over and all of a sudden something like that happens. It kind of takes the wind out of your sails. That’s baseball. We still battled together. In the end, we did score that winning run. I’ve got not much more to say about that.”

The Whitecaps pitching staff kept their team in the game the whole time, though. Starter Marcelo Carreno on allowed one run on five hit, while striking out one and walking one. Slade Smith, Jade Todd, and Melvin Mercedes kept the Hot Rods at bay the rest of the way.

The Whitecaps would bounce back in game two of the series, for the 3-2 win. Suarez scored the eventual winning run in the third inning, stomping on home plate just to drive the point home that he had scored. It was another Aaron Westlake doubled that scored him, too.

“I was frustrated about last night, and wanted to let everyone know that I touched home plate”, Suarez  also stated to MLive. com. “I felt so bad right after the umpire’s call because I know that I touched home plate. I  knew it wasn’t my fault and the umpire made a bad call. I tried to forget about it.”

On the mound for the ‘Caps, Jeff Ferrell game up one run on six hits in five innings. Reliever Nick Avila came in and protected the lead in the late innings. Westlake ended up with two doubles and two RBI’s to lead West Michigan offensively.

Bowling Green won the rubber match, though, 10-4. On the hill, West Michigan hurler Chad Smith had thrown four hitless innings before getting knocked around in the fifth. This is just Smith’s third start since being promoted from the short season Connecticut Tigers. He’s been on a pretty strict pitch count and hasn’t pitched more than four innings in his last two starts. He as a 17th round pick by Detroit last year, and is still making his come back after Tommy John surgery last season.

 Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com

Whitecaps Update: It’s all in the cards

Fifth-Third Ballparks’ outfield during the ‘Aces in the Outfield’ promotion

The Standings: The West Michigan Whitecaps are still treading water in the Midwest League Eastern Division, but are sinking a bit. They are currently 21-22 in the second half, and are six games out of first place. They hit a little speed bump with a five-game losing streak, but have bounced back and won two games in a row from the talented Lansing LugNuts, 7-1 and 6-3, who ran away with the first half title. Manager Ernie Young, though,  will have to have some Aces up his sleeve, if the ‘Caps are going to capture a playoff spot this season…

Ferrell Honored: Whitecaps pitcher Jeff Ferrell has been named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for July 30-August 5. Ferrell had an extremely impressive showing against the Lake County Captains last week in the ‘Caps 6-0 shut-out win. He retired all of the 21 batters he faced before being taken out of the game after seven perfect innings of work. His outing included 11 ground-outs and six strikeouts in 79 pitches, and gave up only three hits. Ferrell, just 21 years old, underwent Tommy John surgery just 14 months ago. He started the 2011 campaign with the Whitecaps, before injury his elbow that led to the surgery. He missed the rest of last season and the start of this season, before joining West Michigan in May. So far, he has a 4-4 record with a 4.42 ERA, with 60 strikeouts, and holding the opposition to a .209 batting average. Ferrell is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina and a 26th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers.

Fifth-Third one of fifth best: The Whitecaps home, Fifth-Third Ballpark, was mentioned as one of five Minor League ballparks on the Fox News website recently. The story titled ‘Five Minor League Baseball Parks You Have To Visit’, stated that the stadium in Comstock Park, Michigan has the best food for baseball fans. The Fifth-Third Burger certainly still packs a mighty punch. The story can be found here: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2012/08/01/five-minor-league-baseball-parks-have-to-visit/?intcmp=features

MudHen Marathon: The Tigers Triple-A affiliate in the International League, the Toledo MudHens suffered a  tough 10-9 loss Monday night to the Rochester Red Wings. One-run losses are always hard to swallow, especially when they are in extra innings….19 innings to be exact. The contest took over 6 1/2 hours to compete, and featured plenty of former Whitecaps. For the Red Wings, Clete Thomas  went 2-8 with a walk and two runs scored. Wilkin Ramirez was 4-9 with a double, run scored, and an RBI. Pitcher Luke French threw for 3.1 innings, giving up two hits and five strikeouts. For the MudHens, Andy Oliver pitched 2.0 innings giving up one hit and striking out 3. Luis Marte gave up one hit, but was burned for two runs in just 0.1 innings. Luke Putkonen pitched five innings, giving up four hits, no runs, and striking out three. Jose Ortega threw for 2.0 innings giving up six hits and three runs.

Former West Michigan Whitecap and Detroit Tiger Clete Thomas.

Rond-on the move: Former Whitecaps pitcher Bruce Rondon has been promoted from the Double-A Erie Seawolves to Toledo. He fills a spot after on of the MudHens’ pitchers was injured in the 19-inning loss. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski stated that he believes that he’s ready for the Triple-A level, though. Rondon started the season at Lakeland, going 1-0, with a 1.93 ERA, with 15 saves, and 34 strikeouts. With Erie, he was 0-1 with a 0.83 ERA, with 12 saves on 23 strikeouts. He struggled with his control last season with West Michigan, issuing 7.6 walks per nine innings, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio this season is 3.8.

Fifth-Third Ballpark photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

Ferrell photo courtesy of MLive.com

Thomas photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps win with walk-off!!!

Jason Krizan celebrates with with teammates Ramon Labron and Brandon Loy after driving in the winning run!

Going 20 innings without scoring a run, the West Michigan Whitecaps were due. Facing the best team in the West Division the Burlington Bees, the ‘Caps won last nights’ game 3-2 with a walk-off bloop single by outfielder Jason Krizan in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Ernie Young had the ‘Caps playing ‘small ball’ that inning, with Eugenio Suarez getting hit by a pitch (and would score the winning run), a bunt by clean-up hitter Aaron Westlake, and a sacrifice by Jeff McVaney.

“We didn’t know much (about Bees pitcher Macias) other than he threw a two seamer,” Krizan told MLive.com. “So, it was late in the game, I had a feeling he was going to throw it away the entire at, and the first pitch was there.”

West Michigan started its comeback in the eighth inning, scoring three runs to tie the game. Pat Leyland and Lance Durham earned the RBI’s. The team was also helped by relief pitcher Ramon Lebron, who pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win. As stated in yesterday’s post, winning these close games is so important, and the Whitecaps are now 16-14 (52-48 overall). This was a great game to finish the current home stand, too. The team has today off to travel to Eastlake, Ohio for a series with the Lake County Captains.

Photos courtesy of Cory Morse/MLive.com

A streaky season so far

After being swept at home by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the West Michigan Whitecaps came back with two impressive wins over the Beloit Snappers, but were unable to complete the sweep. The ‘Caps suffered their worse loss of the season, by the score of 8-0. They had their chances, but have not been very good at the plate with runners in scoring position. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, they came away with no runs due to a called third strike. Dean Green and Patrick Leyland each had two hits in the game, though. The team has been getting hits, but not the ones that count…the ones that drive in the runs and win games. During the current home stand, the Whitecaps had eight to ten hits in each game, but they left approximately nine runners on base in four of those. With runners in scoring position, the team was 11 for 59. Ouch.

The Whitecaps are now 9-10, not horrible, but it’s been a season of streaks so far. Already in 2012, they’ve had two three-game winning streaks and one three-game losing streak. If they could have pulled out a victory yesterday, it would have made for three consecutive sweeps in the last three series, with the ‘Caps sweeping Lake County, being swept by Wisconsin, and taking the first two from Beloit. Manager Ernie Young still have confidence in his young team, though.

“We had opportunities…sometimes you just have to find a way to get that big hit,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “The timely hits will come. The guys just have to get up there and see it happen and it will. Two wins in six game? Yeah. Tough. It would have been nice to go ahead and get that last one a salvage a home stand with a split, but we’re going to be fine. We have a lot of games left. No time to panic. There’s no panic from me and none on staff members.”

The Whitecaps are getting some good production from guys like Steven Moya (.400 average), Green (.268, 5 home runs), and Brandon Loy (.300), but are getting little help from the lead-off position, as well as the bottom part of the line-up. Today is their first day off since April 8, and then it’s off to Quad Cities for a seven game road trip.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Young excited for ‘new look’ Whitecaps

Whitecaps second year manager Ernie Young seems to be expecting a new look to this years West Michigan lineup. He’s been in Lakeland, FL keeping an eye on the prospects there, getting an idea of who might be on the 2012 roster, and get a game plan. He told Peter J. Wallner of MLive.com: 

“Each manager for each ball club wants to see what the players can or can’t do. We have to see for ourselves so we can make them better and going in the right direction.”

Based on age and experience, we might see players like catchers Patrick Leyland (son of Tigers manager Jim Leyland) and James McCann. McCann was Detroit’s second round draft pick in 2011 who played five games with the Whitecaps last season. Another possibility is Melvin Mercedes, a relief pitcher who spent most of last season in short season Connecticut. That’s just a great baseball name, period. Young compared last seasons roster to this years possibilities:

‘I had a really young team and we had a lot of growing pains the first part of the year, and I knew that was going to happen. I kept telling the guys to keep battling because we would be better on Sept. 7 than on April 7. And sure enough, we were. Every year is a different year. I’m sure this group of Whitecaps will probably be a little older than the team I had last year. But still, we’re going to learn to play baseball the Tiger way and that’s the key-them going out there and getting better and learning from their mistakes throughout the season to make ourselves better by the end of the season.”

Last season the Whitecaps were 70-69 overall (32-37 first half, 38-32 second half), good for fifth overall in the Midwest League, but missed the playoffs by just one game. Young will be joined again this season by pitching coach Mark Johnson. The new hitting coach will be Scotty Dwyer who moved up from short season Connecticut. The Tigers break camp on Sunday, April 1st, and the players will be assigned. Not much of a turnaround, as the ‘Caps begin their season on the road in Dayton April 5, with the home opener slated for April 9th hosting Bowling Green.

Fans will be able to get their first look at the 2012 Whitecaps on Tuesday, April 3rd at Fifth Third Ballpark. The club will hold an open practice from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. After their workout, the team will be on the concourse to sign autographs for fans. This will also be a chance to showboat the new scoreboard and high-resolution video board at Fifth Third. The start of the Minor League season seems sooner than usual, as they’ve started about a week later than their MLB counterparts in the past. It doesn’t look like they’ll have an exhibition game against Grand Valley State this season, either. It will feel good to get the season going, though.

Photo property of M.I.B.

Whitecaps Update 1/12

Ernie Young Returns: Ernie Young will return in 2012 for his second season managing the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Whitecaps were 70-69 under Young last season, and barely missed the playoffs. He also led Team USA to a silver medal at the Pan-Am Games in October. Also returning for his fifth season in West Michigan will be pitching coach Mark Johnson. Scott Dwyer will be replacing Ben Oglivie as the hitting coach in 2012. Dwyer spent the last two seasons as the hitting coach for the short-season Class-A Connecticut Tigers.

2012 Winter Banquet: The 18th annual Whitecaps Winter Baseball Banquet took place yesterday at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids. It was hosted by ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. Kurkjian has been with ESPN since 1998, as a reporter for Baseball Tonight and senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Also in attendance were current Detroit Tigers pitchers Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. The event included a silent auction with proceeds going to the YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Programs and the Detroit Tigers foundation. It’s estimated that about $461,000 has been raised from the previous banquets.

Whitecaps HOF: Two former players and one manager have been selected to the 2012 West Michigan Whitecaps Hall of Fame. Having the most impact on baseball in West Michigan without a doubt was former manager Matt Walbeck. Walbeck led the Whitecaps to a Midwest League championship in his first year at the helm in 2004. Two seasons later, he won another championship in 2006 (the Whitecaps won the title in 2007 under Tom Brookens after Walbeck was promoted to AA Erie). He managed the ‘Caps for three seasons with a 238-181 record. Walbeck seemed to enjoy this time with the Detroit Tigers Class A team, too, in his statements to the Grand Rapids Press:

“It was a perfect spot to start my managerial career. It’s a great sports town, with super fans there and I just could not ask for a better situation for me and my career as a manager. It’s a tremendous honor, and something that I am really looking forward to (the HOF). It’s truly and honor to be among the names that are in that Hall of Fame.”

Joining Walbeck, are former players Ramon Santiago and Ben Greive. Santiago (currently with the Tigers) earned midseason and postseason Midwest League All-Star honors during the 2000 season. He was named the best defensive shortstop by Baseball America and finished the season with a .272 batting average. Grieve played for the ‘Caps in 1995, and came in as a first-round draft pick by the Oakland A’s (parent club at the time). He broke into the big leagues with Oakland in 1997, and hit .288 with 41 doubles and 18 home runs as the 1998 American League Rookie of the Year. All three were inducted at the Winter Banquet.

Tiger Fridays at Fifth-Third Ballpark: Oh, yes, Tiger Fridays will be back for the 2012 season. The year six former Tigers will be a guest of the Whitecaps and signing autographs for baseball fans. The lineup includes: Lance Parrish (June 8), Bill Madlock (June 22), Willie Horton (July 6), Jon Warden (July 20), Howard Johnson (August 3), and Elroy Face (August 24). I can image that July 6 with Willie Horton will be a mad house. I haven’t had much luck getting to many of these games, but the few I’ve been to have been a lot of fun. Be prepared to wait in line for you autograph, though, and they usually give out a bobble-head at the gate.

Young photo property of M.I.B.

Walbeck photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Whitecaps Update 4/11

The Streak: The Whitecaps young season has been interesting so far, to say the least. After having the first three games of the season postponed, to a beautifull opening day with 80 degree weather, to their five game winning streak. The unfortunate part, however, is thier current streak that has the team suffering it’s eleventh loss in a row, a new franchise record. The previous record was the inagural 1994 team that endured a nine game losing streak from July 22-30. A streak like this is tough on a ball club, especially the mangaer. Ernie Young made some statements to the Grand Rapids Press:

“We have a young team and we’re going to make mistakes. Right now, we’re taking some lumps, but I expect these guys to keep battling, get better and be professional.” He also stated: “It’s tough on everybody. It’s tough on the players, it’s tough on myself. I go home every night and re-manage the game from that day for anything I could have done differently. My job is to go out there and encourage these guys, let them know I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve done the same things they’re doing. As long as I can keep preaching to the and believe, they’re going to come through.”

Young seems to be the perfect manager to turn this youthfull team around. They’re in the cellar of the Midwest League as of now with a record of 7-14, but they were in last place at the begining of last season while still earning a playoff spot in the second half. The players seem to be taking things in stride, also. Some of the players also spoke to the Grand Rapids Press.

“It’s not like we’re not hitting, it has just been the timing of them,” stated Nick Constellanos. “We’re going to work hard to get through this.”

“Obviously, we’re frustrated,” stated P.J. Polk. “You want to win, but I think we’re as positive as you can be in this situation. Everybody is doinig their part in picking each other up. We’ll be all right.”

It’s only the fist month, so even a small winning streak can even out their record and get them back into the MWL title hunt.


losing1.jpg
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losing4.jpgJonathan Welscott:
The Whitecaps had a very special guest announcer on Friday, junior-high student Jonathan Welscott. Jonathan, who just happens to be blind and suffers from a mild for of cerebral palsy, announced the batters in the third inning at Fifth Third Ballpark.

“It was really cool,” Welscott told the Press. “I guess I was a good luck charm for the Whitecaps. I had no idea what it would be like, but it was a cool experience.”

The Whitecap scored three runs in the third while he was announcing. Maybe hire this kid full time? Why not, as announcing is nothing new to this eigth-grader. He’s called middle school and high school games in the past two years including volleyball, basketball, and football. Despite not being able to perticipate in sports, he still loves the games, and has a great attitude for someone who’s undergone more than 20 eye surgeries since he was born.

“Since it is hard to be involved in sports because I’m blind, this is a way for me to be involved in sports and I like doing it.”

This is a ‘beyond baseball’ moment if I ever heard one, people. All the best for this kid.


welscott.jpgThe Zumaya List:
This is formerly known as the disabled list. Whitecaps pitcher Richard Zumaya has recently been put on the DL with shoulder stiffness. The 21-yr-old experienced discomfort after he took the loss in Friday’s game. He joins his brother Joel Zumaya, a career DLer with the Tigers. At least they can keep each other company and get some quality video game time in.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

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