Results tagged ‘ Fifth Third Ballpark ’
Opening Day of the 2012 baseball season is finally here in West Michigan. A lot more goes into this event, and every other game for that matter, than the coaches strategies and the players batting practice. The grounds crew, vendors, and maintenance workers are tirelessly getting Fifth Third Ballpark ready for the thousands of fans. This Miller Lite‘s for you….for all the workers who make it possible for us fans to enjoy the ballpark experience. We can’t make it tonight, but the kids and I will be there on Wednesday! The Whitecaps are 1-2 on the young season, beating Dayton Saturday night in 11 innings.
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
The home opener for the West Michigan Whitecaps is scheduled for April 9, against the Bowling Green Hot Rods. There is a lot of preparation that goes into getting a ballpark game ready after it’s been dormant for the winter months. Even though the weather has seemed to revert back to its ‘winterish’ form here in Michigan, about a week about we had record highs in the upper 70′s-lower 80′s. That’s just unbelievable weather for Michigan in March, and helped speed up the process of getting Fifth Third Ballpark ready for opening day. The grounds crew was able to take off the 35 tarps that cover the playing surface during the winter months. These guys work tirelessly to ensure that the ball field is in pristine order when it’s game time. I’m hoping that the weather warms back up some, especially for our first ‘Caps game on April 11.
With the new scoreboard and video board in place, the next project for the Whitecaps staff was putting the new stadium sign up. This sign towers above the 131 highway that cuts through the heart of Michigan, and either welcomes, or says goodbye to travellers entering or leaving Grand Rapids from the north end. The new sign looks great, and I can’t wait to see it in all it’s glory in a few weeks. At least the crew and staff have more time to get things ready than the actual team, who breaks camp on April 1, and has its first game on April 5 on the road!
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press
During the off-season, they are busy at work in West Michigan, getting the new scoreboard and video board ready for game play. Things seem to be coming along nicely, and I can’t wait to get to our first game of the season and check all the changes out. I think I’m really going to like the new manual scoreboard, as it brings baseball tradition to the modern ballpark. The new state of the art video board will satisfy the fans of the modern age, too. With the way things look, everything should be up and running by April.
The only change I wish would be made is the ballpark’s name. The stadium’s name was originally Old Kent Park in 1994, but was changed to Fifth Third Ballpark in 2001 after the merger of Old Kent and Fifth Third banks. The name generally wouldn’t bother me so much, if it wasn’t for the fact that Fifth Third bank has been digging it’s claws into so many Minor League stadiums here in the midwest. Just south in Toledo, the MudHens(International League) play at Fifth Third Field, and in their same state of Ohio, the Dayton Dragons(Midwest League) also play in a Fifth Third Field. Confused yet? To make things more confusing, this season the Kane County Cougars changed the name of their stadium to…you guessed it….Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. So, here’s the break down: West Michigan=Fifth Third Ballpark; Toledo=Fifth Third Field; Dayton=Fifth Third Field; Kane County=Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Where is the originality that we love about the Minors? I’m not niave…I know money talks and make these teams possible, but I’d rather have a stadium named after a local ballplayer, coach, or even a local business or benefactor than another large bank. Then again, I’ll take Tiger Stadium over Comerica Park, too. I would love to see the Whitecaps play in, say a Mickey Stanley Stadium, named after the Tigers legend who’s from Grand Rapids. Anyway, this blog is just more of a rant than anything else. Enjoy the pics, and I’ll have some of my own in April.
The original deal made with Old Kent Bank (which made Old Kent Park) in 1994, was continued after Fifth Third Bank merged with Old Kent, and the stadium was re-named in 2001. New to 2012, will be a new state-of-the-art video board, and new manually operated score board, a new electronic sign along US 131, and a new sign to greet fans at the main entrance of the stadium. The new video board will measure 28 feet tall and 55 feet wide. The high-resolution screen is 25% larger than the size of the existing scoreboard and advertising panels combined. The new manual scoreboard will be 24 feet tall by 39 feet wide, and will replace the video board currently in left field. The manual scoreboard will have Whitecaps staff stationed behind it to update the score, and will offer and old-time traditional baseball feel that will offset the high-tech new video board.
“I think that it just makes sense, as we continue to add new high-tech fan amenities like the new video board, that we also stay connected to the traditions of baseball,” stated Lew Chamberlain, who runs the ‘Caps organization. “I’ve always loved the old manual boards like the one at Fenway Park and this old-style scoreboard will play homage to baseball history. It will be great fun for the fans.”
The Fifth Third Ballpark logo will be updated to reflect Fifth Third Bank’s new logo and color scheme, and will replace the existing one along the highway, US 131. Other upgrades to the ballpark include installation of flat screen TV’s throughout the concourse that display the Midwest League standing, league leaders, and player of the week information. This will replace the A-Frame signs around the concourse, and create more room for the fans. There will also be state-of-the-art equipment upgrades in the production room to go with the new video board. These include a wireless camera system for fan shots and close-up baseball action. Posted are some artist renditions of what the changes will look like.
Lots of new stuff to look forward to in 2012. The new schedule is already out, and I’m starting to plan what games to attend. We should be able to get there in April, weather permitting.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Fort Wayne TinCaps: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a Whitecaps game as part of our baseball trip, and it was good to be home back in Michigan. On the plane waiting to fly home, the pilot announced the weather in Grand Rapids as 77 degrees and sunny. When we arrived and hour and a half later, it was 69 and raining. I swear these storms have been following me around all week like some really bad Jaws movie (see: Jaws- The Revenge). You could also tell we were back in Michigan as I ran into an old friend from Battle Creek, as the Kelloggs employees were occupying the party deck in right field (Fact: I played Little League Baseball for Kelloggs when I was younger). After only a thirty minute rain delay, we finally got things started. It was Military Appreciation Night, so the ‘Caps were wearing special camouflage jerseys, we saw a WWII Vet throw out the first pitch, and had a fly over by some older military planes. It actually turned out to be a really nice night for baseball, and we were able to shed our corny yellow ponchos and enjoy the game. Despite the weather, 7, 313 fans were in attendance, but we were still able to get our free Whitecaps camo hats at the gate. The game was exciting, but error filled, as the young West Michigan team lost to Fort Wayne. It was a long trip, and we were happy to be home with all of our baseball memories. I’m already hard at work on the early stages of planning for next year, and we’ll be down to see the Whitecaps a couple of more times this season. Final Score: Whitecaps 7, TinCaps 9.
If it’s a beautifull day where you’re at, thank your mom for putting up with all of your crap all those years by treating her to a baseball game. Most Minor League teams have some sort of special going on today featuring teams in pink jerseys and discounts for the special woman in our lives. The pink jerseys worn by legendary teams like the Whitecaps and Sand Gnats get auctioned off to help raise funds to fight breast cancer.
I love watching baseball with my mom. She is ever the optomist. Our team can be down by ten runs, and she’ll just keep watching, never giving up hope. Win or lose, I just think she enjoys watching the game itself, which is great. I have a lot to thank her for, as I wasn’t an easy kid to raise. As bad as my kids can get (which isn’t really bad), I’m always thankfull that they’re not as mischievious as I was. Thanks MOM, for all of your love and patience.
Top photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Bottom photos courtesy of the Savannah Sand Gnats