Results tagged ‘ Mark Johnson ’

Rabelo to manage C-Tigs

rabeloWith Andrew Graham’s promotion from the Connecticut Tigers to the Whitecaps, the Detroit organization had another spot to fill. The Tigers filled that spot with another former catcher who played in West Michigan, with Mike Rabelo. He spent 2011 as hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Tigers, and 2012-13 in the same position for Connecticut. Rabelo was drafted by Detroit in 2001, spending the 2006-07 seasons with the big club. He started out his minor league career with the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League in 2001, before they relocated to Connecticut. In the first of two season with the Whitecaps in 2002, he hit .195 with 41 RBI’s. In 2003, Rabelo improved to hit .274 with 40 RBI’s, and 16 doubles. It’s always fun to watch former players move up the ranks in the coaching department, too.

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to take the next step with a great organization like the Tigers,” Rabelo stated to “We have a tremendous staff in place in Connecticut with Mark Johnson, Scott Dwyer, and Randy Brunner. I speak for all of them when I say we can’t wait to get started and play under the lights at Dodd Stadium in front of our fans. I wish the season started tomorrow.”

Johnson with serve as the teams pitching coach, as he did last season. He spent the 2008-12 seasons as pitching coach for the Whitecaps. Johnson pitched in the majors for nine seasons, including a stint with the Tigers. Scott Dwyer, who was the hitting coach in West Michigan just last season, will take Rabelo’s old job in Connecticut. They seem to have a very good staff lined up for the C-Tigs this season, that the Detroit organization seems to have some confidence in.

Stated the Tigers Director of Player Development Dave Owen: “Mike Rabelo is a talented young man with a very good baseball mind. He has done a great job as hitting coach and we are confident in his ability as he moves into his role as manager.”

We wish the Connecticut Tigers and Rabelo all the best this coming season. After all, they will be mentoring some future Whitecaps in the coming years for sure.

Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Tigers

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 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:

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

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 name Ernie Young Manager for 2011

capslogo.jpgThe West Michigan Whitecaps and Detroit Tigers organizations have name Ernie Young to manage the ‘Caps in 2011. Young seems like a good fit in West Michigan with a solid managing history to date. He started out in the ChiSox oraganization in 2008 as a hitting coach for Great Falls in the rookie Pioneer League, helping them win a league championship. In 2009, he was promoted to manage the Kannapolis Intimidators of the low-A South Atlantic League. Young led the team to a league best 82-57 record, but was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. In 2010 the Intimidators went 65-74. Also this season, Young coached Team USA at the Pan American Qualifier tournament in Puerto Rico, where his team went 9-1 and tied for third place. That was good enough for Team USA to qualify for a spot in both the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2011 IBAF World Cup. Young began his playing career in 1990 after being drafted by Oakland. He would go on to paly in the Kansas City, Arizona, Detroit, and Cleveland organizations, as well as playing in Japan. Young commented on coming to the Whitecaps by saying: “I’m excited for the opportunity to be back in the Detroit Tigers organization and I’m looking forward to being back in the Midwest. I can’t wait to get the 2011 season started, and lead the Whitecaps to another successful season.” Detroit Tigers Director of Minor League Operations Dan Lunetta also commented on Young’s hiring: “We are very fortunate and excited to have someone of Ernie’s caliber as a member of the Tigers organization, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity for him to start his Tigers managing career in West Michigan. He will be an outstanding addition to our organization and to the Whitecaps.” Also joining Young on the 2011 staff will be hitting coach Ben Oglivie. Oglivie played sixteen season in the Majors with Boston, Detroit,  and Milwaukee. In 1980 with the Brewers, he hit 41 home runs which tied the league lead with Reggie Jackson. Oglivie started his coaching career in 1995 in the Pittsburgh organization with their AAA team in Calgary and has coached at every leavel in the Minors for the Pirates, Padres, and Rays. He’s also served as hitting coach at the Major League level with San Diego in 2000. Young replaces Joe DePastino who has been assigned the Tigers roving catching coach, and Oglivie replaces Louis Quinnones who’s contract was not renewed. Mark Johnson returns as pitching coach in what will be his fourth year in 2011.

Whitecaps Update

capslogo.jpg2010 Coaching Staff: The Detroit Tigers organization announced the coaching staff for this season’s Whitecaps team. Returning to the helm as manager for his thrid season is Joe DePastino. He led the ‘Caps to two playoff appearances in 2008(72-65) and 2009(81-59). Also returning for a third season is former Tiger and pitching coach Mark Johnson. Joining the staff this season as hitting coach is Luis Quinonnes. Quinnones was the hitting coach for the Class A-Short Season Oneonta Tigers for the last three seasons. Moving on is former hitting coach Benny Distefano who has been in West Michigan since 2006. He resigned to accept a position in the Mets organization. Benny was very good to the fans and always good about signing autographs. Below is a good pic of him and my daughter from last season.

 2009 Promotional Video: Click HERE for the Whitecaps 2009 Promo Video. It’s entertaining and gives a good view at what to expect at future Minor League games.

Tiger Fridays are back: This will be the second season the Whitecaps are offering Tiger Fridays, where a former Detroit player or players will be at 5/3 Ballpark to sign autographs. They usually have a bobblehead giveaway, or something like that, too. Here’s the lineup for this season; Jack Morris (June 4), Juan Berenguer and Ozzie Virgil (June 25), Larry Herndon (July 23), Mike Henneman (Aug. 6), Dick McAuliffe (Aug. 20), and Frank Howard (Aug. 27).

Path of the Pros: is continuing it’s Path to the Pros series this time featuring former Whitecap Jair Jurrjens. Jurrjens was part of one the worse trades in Tigers history (maybe that’s pushing it, but my opinion) being sent to Atlanta in a deal for Edgar Renteria. You can read the full story at HERE.

Prospect Chat: Baseball America has a nice interview with Casey Crosby who played for the Whitecaps last season and was named the top Minor League Pitcher in the Tigers organization. You can check this out HERE.

Winter Beer Festival: 5/3 Ballpark is hosting the 5th annual Winter Beer Festival this year on Saturday Feb. 27. You have a unique chance to sample some great beers that are brewed in Michigan. They are expecting over 35 microbreweries and beerpubs to participate, and over 200 beers to sample. Sounds like a good way to handle the winter weather to me.

Photo property of MIB

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