Results tagged ‘ Great Lakes Loons ’
The off-season is a time to reflect in the season past, and at the same time look to the future. With sports in general, fans have always conversed on the ‘what if?’ factor, and I’ve been contemplating an idea for months now, ever since last season’s baseball trip. First, let me state that my two favorite Minor League’s are the Midwest League and the South Atlantic League. The MWL has three teams here in Michigan, and is where my hometown team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, reside. We also attend some Great Lakes Loons games over in Midland, and that is a great venue, also. In fact, I’ve been to every stadium in the MWL except two, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. We’ll get back to those teams momentarily, as they’re important. As for the SALly league, through work training down in Charleston and southern Georgia, I’ve was able to attend a few games of the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Charleston Riverdogs. During my baseball trip to North and South Carolina last year, I was able to visit another five SAL towns. Through my experience, these leagues have a lot in common. Between the two, we can see some of the best logos, nicknames, and mascots in all of sports. Both have teams in some great towns, with stadiums ranging from state-of-the-art, to simple and classic. Some of the best baseball fans we’ve had the luxury of interacting with attend games of these great leagues. Oh, the MWL and the SALly league have one more thing in common: they are the only two Single-A league. Now, I know there is short season and advanced ‘A’ league, but these two are just plain ol’ Single-A. The only two. These two league also have a link, so let us back up to two teams mentioned earlier, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Captains organization played in the South Atlantic League from 1991-2009, hosting their All-Star Game in 2006. The franchise started out in Columbus, Georgia, as the Columbus Indians (1991) and RedStixx. The franchise moved up to Eastlake, Ohio in 2003 and became the Captains. Lake County joined the Midwest League in 2010 with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Hot Rods were previously the Columbus Catfish up until 2009, and the two northern most teams jumped to the MWL to alleviate travel expenses.
So, now that the link between the two has been established the fun can begin. We can ask ourselves ‘what if the teams from these leagues played each other?’, and if so, ‘in what capacity?’. Due to the aforementioned travel expenses, any interleague play between the two is illogical, so we’ll just scrap that right away. It could be possible to have a Single-A All-Star Game, pitting the MWL against the SAL, but I don’t care for that, either. It may work at the Triple-A level, but I don’t like it for this one. What I would purpose is to have a simple championship series between the two leagues. For the Triple-A National Championship, they have a pre-determined neutral site to hold the event, and the winners of the International and Pacific Coast League play a one game winner-take-all. This could work at the Single-A level, also, and would ensure the fans of every team to have the opportunity to witness the championship game, and be exposed to the other Single-A league. Another route would be to have a three game series, with game one and games two and/or three at each of the participating teams’ stadiums. Last season, the Quad Cities River Bandits won the Midwest, while the Sand Gnats reigned supreme in the SAL. What an amazing series this would make, and not for just the prospects involved. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting both Modern Woodman Park with its breath taking sight lines in right field, and Historic Grayson Stadium, where you can feel the ghosts of baseball past when you enter the gates. What if the Loons would wind up playing the Greensboro Grasshoppers at some point? It would be awesome to cover the games from both ends with my buddies from Hoppers Fan, with both teams having phenomenal venues and fantastic community support. On a personal note, what if my transfer down south is granted next year, and the ‘Caps end up opposing the Greenville Drive. Where would my loyalties lie between my birth city and my adopted home? Although the possibilities my be endless, the one fact that stands out is this would be a win-win situations for all baseball fans involved, as well as the teams from both historic leagues. It would also be fun to see a game like this featured on MiLB.tv or the MLB Network. This is still nothing but a pipe dream, but it’s fun to imagine who the first team might be to win the ‘Minoring In Baseball Cup’…
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
The Los Angeles Dodgers have named former Major League catcher Bill Haselman as the new manager of the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. Haselman spent last season as manager of the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers (California Angels), leading them the California League Championship. He has also managed the Single-A Bakersfield Blaze (Texas Rangers) in 2010. Haselman spent 13 seasons in the bigs, hitting .259 with 47 home runs and 210 RBI’s with the Rangers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Tigers. Playing with Detroit in 1999, he batted .273 with four home runs, and 14 RBI’s in 48 appearances.
Haselman will replace Razor Shines, who the Dodgers promoted to manage the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. In his one year stint with Great Lakes, he took the club to the Midwest League Playoffs with a 40-29 showing in the second half (67-72 overall). Along with Haselman, Bill Simas will return as the Loons pitching coach, while Johnny Washington will take over as their hitting coach. The Loons will kick off the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3 at Fort Wayne. We’re still waiting for the Tigers to name a manager for the West Michigan Whitecaps, too. Larry Parrish was promoted to Toledo earlier this year, and the ‘Caps are still waiting to see who will be taking the helm next spring.
Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons
I have to admit that 2013 was pretty good to us, and I’m probably going to miss it. We had a rocky start to the baseballs season, with some rainouts in Lansing (along with freezing rain, ice, snow, and so on), but after that it was sunny days ahead for us. It was really difficult to narrow a list down to just nine, as far as the fun things that we participated in this year. In reality, the whole trip through North Carolina could be listed (especially Greensboro and Asheville), it was so much fun. We have some fun things planned for 2014, but you’ll see how hard it will be to top our 2013 list. I am very thankful that we had such a fun year, and that my kids, and my dad, and I could spent this time together.
9) Meeting the Fox Sports Detroit Girls: It’s no secret, we love the FSD Girls here! They do a great job of representing our local teams here in Michigan. The kids and I were lucky enough to meet them at a Grand Rapids Griffins game earlier this year. They were very nice to the kids, especially Brian, who they signed a baseball and his hat for. With luck, we might run into them again at a ballgame next season, maybe at the all-star game or something.
8) Double-Header in Midland: Like I stated, our baseball season got off to a rough start. Here in Michigan, we had a horrible spring that was cold, rainy, and snowy. On this day, though, we took advantage of a rain-out to catch at double-header on a Sunday afternoon at Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons. The first game, or games, of the season are always special, and this one was no different. It was still a cold day in early April, with the temperature about 30-40 degrees, but we stayed in the sun and it was pretty nice. The Loons mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel entertained the kids between games. We brought the kids’ Papa along for his birthday, and it was a great way to kick-off our 2013 baseball year.
7) The ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum: I really loved visiting Greenville, South Carolina. The city made such an impression on me that I’m trying to get a transfer down there. Can you imagine a state where you can play catch outside almost ten months out of the year? It’s a very beautiful and historic town, with plenty to do for any sports fan. First, we dropped by Flour Field to watch the Greenville Drive, which was a great time. The next day was a thrill visiting the ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum. The family that runs it is very nice, and knowledgeable about Jackson for sure. It was a fun experience that I highly recommend for anyone in that area.
6) Back in Battle Creek: It’s hard to believe, but we this is the first game we’ve seen in Battle Creek since the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays packed their bags and moved up to Midland. We were down here in 2010, but got rained out, unfortunately. This is where it all began, though, here at C.O. Brown Stadium. The start of the baseball trip, and my love for minor league baseball. This was the kids first game here, too, as well as the opportunity to see the Battle Creek Bombers in the Northwoods League. The day itself was special, because we were able to spend some quality time with family down there. Plenty of family was in attendance to see me throw out the first pitch, too (a beautiful strike, by the way). Lily and Trevor really enjoyed trying out their Twinkie Dogs, as well. It was super hero night, and Brian was able to chase the costumed staff across the field between innings with the other kids. He also participated in an on-field game that he did great at. This was all-around one of the best baseball days anyone could ask for.
5) Star Wars Night: Well, this will probably make the list every year. This year we were back in West Michigan for the Whitecaps game. There were plenty of characters on hand from that galaxy far, far, away to entertain us this year, too. We were able to get pictures with Boba Fett and all the Imperial Stormtroopers, as well as Darth Vader himself. All the kids got lightsabers, and Brian didn’t have any trouble finding other kids to play with. After the game, the lights went out and we enjoyed the fireworks as this special night came to an end.
4) Running the Bases: Being on the field is always fun, and Brian was able to do a lot of that this summer. As mentioned in #6, he was able to run through the outfield and do a race in Battle Creek. Along with that, he ran the bases at the Loons game in Midland, and the Beach Bums game in Traverse City. The kid is a little speed demon, and he had to slow down so not to lap some of the other kids. As a parent, it’s so much fun to watch your kids having such a good time. At least having some baseball experience under his belt, he knows which way to go.
3) Training for Trevor: Despite a shoulder injury that kept him out half of his Little League season, Trevor was able to take part in a couple of baseball clinics. The first one was put on by Major League Baseball Alumni. Former players like Doug Mirabelli, Roger Mason, Dennis Rasmussen, and Rob Ellis were there and did a great job teaching the kids. They were all very patient and helped many of the kids one-on-one. The second clinic was the Beach Bums Baseball Academy in Traverse City. Trevor was able to learn first hand from the Bums’ players and coaches. He was a little limited to what he could do due to his shoulder, but still had a great time. I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid.
2) The Durham Bulls Experience: Seeing the Durham Bulls was on my baseball bucket list for a long time, and now I can finally cross that off. The Bulls really don’t disappoint, either. It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful game to watch. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is an amazing place to watch a baseball game, and seeing the Bulls during the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham was an awesome experience. The Bulls have to be one of the most recognized baseball logos in minor league history due to the movie, and a game here should be on every fan’s bucket list. We even visited the old ballpark where they filmed the movie, and they still use it for local games.
1) Coaching the Boys: Yeah, this one is personal. Being able to coach my kids in baseball is one of the highlights of my life, not just this year. Lily decided to take a year off, and I really missed watching her play. The boys had a fun season, though, even with Trevor’s injury. Brian made some big improvements, and is hitting the ball better than any five-year-old should. The kid has a rocket arm, too. Being at the local ball fields three or four nights a week is something I’m truly grateful for.
Los Angeles Dodgers‘ hurler Clayton Kershaw has won the Cy Young award for being the best pitcher in the National League. With a recor of 16-9 and a microscopic ERA of 1.83, not too many can really argue. Before he became a star on the west coast, however, he honed his stills in the Midwest League as a member of the Great Lakes Loons in 2007. I remember a lot of talk about him back then, like everyone knew that this kid was going to be that good. In 25 starts for the Loons, he ended up 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA. The sad part is, though, I never was able to see him pitch down in Midland. And to think, just one season later, he was making his big league debut with the Dodgers. A new team in 2007, the Loons had Lance Parrish as their manager, who was a member of the 1984 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers. So, the only game I attended that season, I was more determined to meet a local hero like Parrish then an up-and-coming superstar. That was my mistake, though seeking an autograph from a starting pitcher isn’t an easy task. On days they pitch, they’re not allowed to sign autgraphs, and on days they don’t they’re not really out of the dugout, or even in uniform at times. It would have been nice to have seen him pitch, but it’s always good to have alumni do well and make through the system, and in Kershaw’s case excel at the highest level.
Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons
This past season I was lucky enough to see the Dodgers second ranked prospect Corey Seager play a couple of games with the Great Lakes Loons. Seager had a solid season in his first full year of pro ball, hitting .309 with 12 home runs, 33 extra-base hits, with a .918 OBP to boot. The 19-year-old was promoted to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Single A Advanced) for the second half of the season. He’s currently playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Glendale Desert Dogs, and took part in last weekend’s Fall-Star Game. Having two brother also playing professional baseball must add to the pressure, but he seems to handle himself pretty well. Here is the interview from MiLB.com by Josh Jackson:
MiLB.com: It seems like this was a really big year for you on a lot of different levels, with you doing what you did in your first full pro season, with the Dodgers having the season they had and with the success of both of your brothers. Have you felt like it’s all been kind of a magical stretch?
Corey Seager: Yeah, you know, it feels like it’s been really crazy, actually. This was [Kyle’s] second full year in the Majors and he was looking to have a good year like he did. For me, I didn’t really have any expectations for myself other than to just play hard every day all season, and I ended up having a good year. I was just trying to get through the season. And it was awesome to see my middle brother get drafted and go to the Mariners and be in Kyle’s organization.
MiLB.com: How much are you able to pay attention to what they’re doing on any given night or week during the season?
Seager: I checked up on my eldest brother [Kyle] every night. We texted or talked every night or almost every night. I kept up with my middle brother [Justin] every week, usually on the weekend. When he was in school, it was hard to follow what he was doing when he had games in the middle of the week. But I’ve gotten really close to both my brothers over the last couple years. We’ve spent more time talking to each other and keeping up, and it’s been really fun.
MiLB.com: And what about following what goes on at the big league level? Obviously, your job is to stay locked in on your game, but, for example, when the Dodgers went on a 42-8 run, how tuned into that were you?
Seager: Yeah, I definitely follow the Dodgers. I was checking the box score every night. My brother [Kyle] gave me the good advice not to ever look ahead. He told me, ‘Make every level your Major Leagues. Don’t push, stay in the moment.’ That’s really good advice. I definitely checked the box scores but not for any other reason to see what they were doing. I checked, but I didn’t put much thought into what might be going on with them.
MiLB.com: Having so much going on on the periphery could be overwhelming for some players your age. Do you have to get into a certain mind-set to only take from that stuff the time and energy that will help you?
Seager: Yeah, for sure. You never want to root against anybody or anything like that, but you can’t get caught up in somebody else’s game. You root for everybody, but you really need to remember that the most important thing, by far, is to handle your own business.
MiLB.com: Since Justin joined the Mariners system, are you feeling a little outnumbered in the family? Are your parents going to root for Seattle harder than L.A.?
Seager: I’m pretty sure I’m going to get ganged up on during the holidays. That’s probably going to happen. But I was really excited for [Justin] when he got drafted. And I’m really looking forward to working out with both of them during the offseason. That should be good.
MiLB.com: Have you guys ever been on different teams in the same league growing up or did the age differences keep that from happening?
Seager: I’ve never played against them. I played with my middle brother in high school for two years but never against either one of them. If that happens, it definitely will be weird.
MiLB.com: Speaking of high school, when you were drafted last summer, were you tempted at all to go the college route? Or after you went where you went in the first round, did you know you wanted to jump in and start working on improving your game full-time?
Seager: You know, I was really excited to go to [the University of] South Carolina and I had a good relationship with South Carolina. I told them ahead of time, if it happens that I’m drafted between this spot and this spot, I’m going to sign. It did happen that I got drafted in those spots and once it happened, I was really glad it wasn’t [on the cusp of my limits], because that would have been a hard decision and I would have really had to think about it.
MiLB.com: Did you know what you wanted to study, if you were going to go to South Carolina?
Seager: Not really. That was something I was still kind of thinking about, still deciding.
MiLB.com: What you’ve been able to do as a pro shows you were ready. You had a pretty darn good first full season. Looking back, is there anything you would have liked to have done differently or any particular part of your game you wish you’d been able to develop more?
Seager: I had a pretty good year, fortunately. There’s not one specific thing I can look at and say I wish I’d done much better. Obviously, you’re always looking to improve on everything. I want to get faster on defense, get to some more balls and just kind of my overall game — there’s all kinds of things I want to improve on overall.
MiLB.com: Is that really what this experience in the AFL is all about for you?
Seager: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a quicker game. I’m getting used to that and working on improving everything against better quality players.
MiLB.com: I’ve heard that the AFL can be especially tough on guys who haven’t faced Double-A pitching before, because there are so many pitchers who can get younger batters to chase breaking pitches that start in the zone. Has that been kind of a challenge?
Seager: Yeah, for sure. Everybody here is a top guy in his organization. Every pitcher has good quality off-speed stuff and throws well and hits his spot. There’s a real difference with the control they have over all their stuff. I’m always hoping to swing at a strike, and [facing this high-quality pitching] changes your approach a little bit. You’ve got to be a little quicker. And you’ve also got to be quicker on defense. I think this is really improving where I’m going defensively.
MiLB.com: Is it kind of weird to be down there playing right now? The World Series just ended and now you guys are kind of the only game in town, the only pro ballplayers still playing competitive games in the States.
Seager: Well, I don’t know. It’s just, my year hasn’t ended. I’m grinding out the year. It’s definitely a little weird, kind of a weird feeling.
MiLB.com: And for a guy who’s just had his first full season — you’ve been playing almost every day for about eight months now, right?
Seager: This is definitely the longest I’ve ever played consistently. Everybody here is a little bit nicked up or has a little bit of fatigue. We’re all just trying to grind out at-bats and play the game right. A little fatigue is a part of it for everybody here.
MiLB.com: What’s the most fun you’ve had with a team?
Seager: Probably making the playoffs [this season], after playing that long season and then to get there. That was really fun.
MiLB.com: Did you go to a lot of Minor League games in Kannapolis growing up?
Seager: I went to a few Intimidators games but not many, really. I was pretty busy all the time playing ball as a kid, plus both my brothers were playing, so we were pretty busy during the baseball season.
MiLB.com: Did you have a favorite Major Leaguer growing up?
Seager: Derek Jeter, probably. I’d have to say Derek Jeter.
MiLB.com: Yeah, for a shortstop, that’s probably going to be the answer, right?
Seager: Well, yeah, he’s a good guy and he’s a good all-around player — he does everything right on the field.
MiLB.com: And if you weren’t a pro ballplayer, do you know what you’d want to be doing for a living?
Seager: Not really. No, I can’t answer that question for you. Sorry.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Midland, MI-July 2-3: The first two game of the series were played at Dow Diamond. In game one, ‘Cap second baseman Harold Castro’s ninth inning home run broke West Michigan’s losing streak with a 4-3 win. He was 2-4 in the game, while Zach Kirksey was 2-3. For the Loons, Aaron Miller hit a home run of his own in the sixth inning, to tie the game at three. He was 2-4 on the night, also, while third baseman Leo Rodriguez went 3-4. On the mound, Angel Nesbitt earned the win to improve to 3-1, while Corey Knebel got the save. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss for the Loons. Great Lakes would take conrol the next night, however, pounding the Whitecaps 8-0. Shortstop Corey Seager went 2-3 with four RBI’s to lead the Loons offensively. Rodriguez and Miller each went 2-4, also. The Whitecaps only managed four hits during the game, with 16-yr-old Julio Urias getting the win. He pitched six shut-out innings while striking out eight. Endrys Briceno took the loss for the ‘Caps, giving up four earned runs in three innings of work.
Comstock Park, MI-July 4-5: Both teams would re-unite at Fifth-Third Ballpark on Independence Day! The Whitecaps continued their defensive woes, however, and fell to the Loons 7-5. They committed two errors and one miscue that led to two Loons’ runs. Three of the Loons runs were unearned in the game. Left-fielder Robbie Garvey had a nice game for Great Lakes, though, going 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. For the Whitecaps, Jason King went 2-2, with two runs scored, and RBI, and two walks. On the mound for West Michigan, Chad Smith started the game, but Yorfrand Lopez took the loss, giving up three runs in just over three innings. Geoff Brown earned the win for the Loons, pitching five innings giving up one earned run and striking out five. In the final game of the series, the Loons would take a 2-0 lead early, but watched the ‘Caps roll off seven in a row. Zach Kirskey lead the offensive charge for the ‘Caps, going 1-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBI’s. Helping out was Danry Vasquez, going 2-3 with a double and two RBI’s, and Jason King who went 2-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and an RBI. Malcolm Holland delivered a solid game for Great Lakes, going 2-3 with an RBI and two walks. For the ‘Caps, Charlie Gillies won his first game of the season in the 7-2 win. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss, giving up six runs in two innings. It was a good series for both teams, especially West Michigan, who has been struggling as of late. The Loons are in first place of the Midwest League East.
Bottom photos courtesy of Emily Jones/MLive.com
Dow Diamond–Midland, Michigan: The second game of our double-header was a little chillier, but we toughed it out anyway. The kids stayed warm on the playground, and trying to get a game ball, which Brian finally did! He also gave the ball to Trevor, which I thought was pretty nice. Lily stayed warm by visiting the Loons’ Loft gift shop and Trevor hung out by the fire pit to get some heat. After all that, the kids were still up for some cold ice cream…go figure. After the game Brian was able to run the bases at Dow Diamond, and he got a kick out of that, and being on the field with the mascots Lou E. Loon and Rall E. Camel.
The game itself was yet another low scoring pitching duel, with Ralston Cash taking the rock for Great Lakes. The Loons took an early lead this game, however, as Corey Seager singled in the second inning, than advanced to third on a Pat Stover single and a Captains’ error. Dashenko Richardo drove in the run with a sacrifice fly. In the fifth inning, James Baldwin got a bunt single, but advanced to third on another Captain throwing error. A Malcolm Holland singled scored the winning run. Cash earned the 2-1 victory for his team, going five and a half innings, giving up one run on one hit, and striking out eight. Luis Meza and Scott Griggs finished the game on the mound for the Loons. Final Score: Loons 2, Lake County Captains 1.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Great Lakes Loons vs. Lake County Captains (Midwest League)Dow Diamond-Midland, Michigan: Despite having plans to attempt another Lugnuts game in Lansing, the weather report prompted the kids and I to head south over the weekend a little early to avoid the storms. Our journey took us to Midland, Michigan to attend a pair of Great Lakes Loons games, and I’m pretty sure we made the right choice! The weather was a little cool, but with not rain and sunny skies, it was fine for us. After the rain-outs earlier this month, is was just nice to watch baseball and get these first games in. The kids were happy that their Papa was able to make it over to the game, too. Brian headed right for Lou E. Lookout (playground) and the mascots Rall E. Camel and Lou E. Loon entertained the kids throughout the game. It was a fun game to watch, and good to get the first one in for the kids and I.
The game itself was a solid pitchers duel, with the score 0-0 going into the seventh inning, with Jharel Cotton getting the start for the Loons against the Lake County Captains. The seventh inning started off good for Great Lakes, as top prospect Corey Seager shot a single to right field. He then advanced to second on a nice bunt by Pat Stover. Outfielder Jeremy Rathjen then scorched a single to score Seager and give the Loons the walk-off victory! A great way to start the season for us, and a nice win for the home team.