Results tagged ‘ Midwest League ’
The start of the new Minor League Baseball season is upon us, with the first pitch due to be thrown out at hundreds of ballparks today. As with a new season, comes many new stories for every team. As is such with the West Michigan Whitecaps, as they welcome a new manager this season, along with some returning players. Fans of the West Michigan team were able to watch them practice yesterday, and then had a chance for pictures and autographs. It was a cold, but sunny, day just north of Grand Rapids, but many fans attended the open workout.
One positive story, is how Michael Hernandez worked his way back into the Detroit Tigers’ organization. The 29-year-old Brooklyn native played for the Whitecaps back in 2006, helping them win the Midwest League Championship. In his first tour of duty, he made the team as an un-drafted free agent from Oklahoma State. After being traded away to Texas, and spending four years in the Independent Atlantic League, Hernandez finds himself once again patrolling the outfield at Fifth-Third Ballpark.
“I feel blessed just to be here, to get this opportunity to tell you the truth”, Hernandez told MLive.com. “I knew it would be tough, and it went really well in spring training. They asked me if I’d be willing to go Low-A until maybe something opens up, and I said 100 percent. If I’m here, I have a chance. I’m willing to take that. I know they wanted to put in a guy with some experience to help anchor the outfield, especially with a couple of young guys we have. I want to be known as a veteran guy here, and I want to help out as much as I can while I’m here. Hopefully they’ll learn something from me and I can learn from them.”
That’s a great attitude by Hernandez, and I hope he has a great season, as he wants to move up the ladder to Double-A or Triple-A. He has good power with his bat, and can captain the outfield. In 2006 with the ‘Caps, he hit .278, with 13 home runs, 63 RBI’s, and hit for the cycle twice. Last season, playing for the York Revolution, he hit .303, with 13 home runs, and 55 RBI’s. He asked the Tigers organization for an invitation to spring training, and they granted it for him. It’s a good chance that with his locker room presence and a veteran skipper, the Whitecaps can go a long way.
Speaking of the veteran skipper, Larry Parrish may be in his first season as the Whitecaps manager, but his resume’ is extremely impressive. He has even managed the big club, back in 1998-99, and the Toledo Mud Hens in 1994, 2003-06, and 2008-10. He left the Hens with a record of 569-551, and two Governor’s Cup championships. Before the circus of the new season begins, Parrish chatted with Peter Wallner of MLive.com about a few issues with the Whitecaps
Here are five notable things Parrish had to say about the team:
• What to expect from Briceno in the opener. Endrys Briceno, in his first full season as a pro after back-to-back seasons with 12 starts each in short-season A, drew the starting nod.
Parrish has been impressed.
“He’s a long, lanky guy, and it’s all a matter of location with him,” Parrish said. “He has pretty strong movement to his fastball, and his breaking ball can be inconsistent at times, but Mike (pitching coach Mike Henneman) has been working with him on gripping it a little tighter.”
Briceno went 4-3 with 60 hits in 58 innings with 30 strikeouts and 22 walks.
• A second baseman to love. Devon Travis won fans over in Connecticut last season with his gritty play, and Parrish expects West Michigan fans will think the same.
“I could see him becoming a fan favorite,” Parrish said. “He’s not a big guy, but he has strength and some pop in his bat, too.”
Travis, who’s listed a 5-9 and 183 pounds, was a 13th-round pick of Detroit in 2012, leaving Florida State after his junior season. He hit .283 (.352 OBP) in 25 games with Connecticut.
• Living with the talent. Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez are ranked as the fifth and sixth best prospects in the Tigers’ organization and will be patrolling the Whitecaps’ outfield this season – Schotts in center and Vasquez in right. That will bring highlights, and test patience, too.
“There’s going to be some really good days and then some days where they look young,” Parrish said.
The two will be closely watched as the best prospects. Vasquez, who played in 29 games at West Michigan before going down to Connecticut, will gain power as he adds weight (currently 177 pounds) to his 6-3 frame. Schotts, the highest pick on the team (third round last season), is known for his speed. He hit .310 with 15 stolen bases in 40 games last season in the Gulf Coast League.
• Adolfo Reina will be key to the pitching staff. The thing is, Reina isn’t even a pitcher, but a 23-year-old catcher.
“With all the Latin pitchers we have, Reina could be a real stabilizer for us,” Parrish said. “We expect him to really be able to work with the staff.”
Reina, in the organization since 2008, played most of last season at Lakeland, though he did get into one game at Triple-A Toledo – and homered. He has the experience, Parrish said, to help youngsters such as Endrys Briceno, as well as other Latin pitchers such as starter Edgar De La Rosa and starter/reliever Yorfrank Lopez.
• Of all the starters, keep a close eye on Hudson Randall. The right-hander, projected to be the third starter in the rotation, is a 6-4, 185-pounder who was drafted in the seventh round last year after a stellar career at University of Florida.
“If I had to bet on a pitcher to watch, it would be Hudson,” Parrish said. “He was the most consistent pitcher (during spring training), he has some big-game experience (with the Gators) and he has a bunch of pitches that he can throw well.”
Randall, 22, has curve, slider and change-up to go with his fastball
The Whitecaps open the season with a seven game stint hosting the Dayton Dragons and Fort Wayne TinCaps. Here’s to another fun season of baseball for all, and at this point I’m really happy just that there’s no snow on the field!
After looking at the Loon’s opening day roster, it looks as if they have a pretty talent laden team. Manager Razor Shines, who has one of the coolest names in baseball, should have a successful season leading his charges at Dow Diamond. The team seems to have a pretty good mix of young talent and they return eight players from the 2012 roster. Possibly the player Loons fans may be most eager to see play, is infielder Corey Seager. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ top pick of the 2012 draft, 18th overall, Seager will play his first pro season for Great Lakes. He’s ranked by Baseball America as the Dodgers’ 3rd best prospect, is the first position player since James Loney (2002) to be a first pick for L.A. With this assignment, Seager becomes the highest drafted position player to ever play for the Loons. He joins five other prospects currently ranked by Baseball America on the Great Lakes roster. Pitching prospects include Scott Griggs (ranked 18th), Zach Bird (19), Angel Sanchez (25), outfielders James Baldwin III (22) and Jeremy Rathjen (29). Baldwin and Griggs are two of the returning players, as well as pitcher Ralston Cash, Daniel Carela, Arismendy Ozoria, and Miguel Sulbaran, catcher Tyler Ogle, and outfielder Davin Shines, son of manager Razor. Sanchez also played for the Loons back in 2011. Also joining Shines in the dugout, are pitching coach Bill Simas and hitting coach Mike Eylward. The Loons open their season at home on April 4th, hosting the Fort Wayne TinCaps. I expect to see some great games between the Loons and Whitecaps this season, as both organizations have their games on the MiLB.tv network. Less than a week away from the season’s start, it already looks like it could be a very entertaining one, if mother nature ever decides to stop punishing us. With another blanket of snow dumped on us, and blistering cold wind, it seems more like December 1st than April 1st…I guess the joke’s on us here in Michigan.
Photos courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons
Right-handed pitcher Phil Brua knows the Michigan ballparks well, after playing last season with the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League. This season, however, he’ll move north, and call Wuerfel Park home, as he’s signed with the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League. A native of Avon, OH, Brua played collegiate ball for the Oberlin College Yeomen. In 2010 he went 6-3 with a 2.78 ERA, and a North Coast Athletic Conference leading six saves. Brua signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, and suited up for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League. He had a record of 7-1, with an impressive 2.70 ERA in Vancouver. He led the NWL in wins, was ninth in saves, and walked only 19 batters in 87.2 innings. In 2012 he split time between the Canadians and the Lugnuts. Between the two teams, he combined for a 5-1 record and 4.72 ERA. From Lugnuts to Beach Bums, we’ll enjoy watching him on the mound this summer. In Lansing last season, Brua played for manager T.J. Tamargo, who is the former hitting coach for the Beach Bums. Good luck this season to Brua and the rest of the Bums. As for the Lugnuts, we really look forward to being at Cooley Law School Stadium in less than two weeks rooting them on!
Photo courtesy of Whitecap Wendy
As I mentioned in my last post, winter here in Michigan is hanging on, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, soon. Down in Comstock Park, the grounds crew at Fifth Third Ballpark has begun the snow removal process. Without the warm sunshine, or even warm rain, to melt the snow, head grounds keeper Michael Huie and his crew have to do it the old-fashioned way. Shovels and snow blowers. This doesn’t look like much fun, but us Michiganders have been doing this for five months now. It looks like the weather may warm up a little, into the 40′s, this weekend, but still not baseball weather in my opinion. The West Michigan Whitecaps host the Dayton Dragons in the season opener on April 4th, so good luck to them getting the ballpark ready.
We all know how the song starts….’On a cold winter’s morning..’. And that’s exactly how it felt this morning when my alarm blared in my ear, telling me it was time to get up and get the kids ready for school. Despite being the first day of spring, ’old man winter’ pounded us with another few inches of snow. Throw the high winds and cold with it, and it’s just another winter storm, complete with low visibility and icy roads. Spring has not sprung, and winter looks as if it wants to stay with us for a little longer. Today was also the day that single game tickets went on sale for the Lansing LugNuts. Here’s where the gambling part comes in.. Despite there being several feet of snow on the ground, and temperatures in the 20′s, I took a gamble and ordered tickets for the Crosstown Showdown on April 11th. I’m sure the grounds crew at Cooley Law School Stadium is working diligently to get the field ready for game action, but there’s still no guarantee what the weather will be like and how cold it will be in just a few short weeks. If it was just me, I wouldn’t care too much, but I’m hoping it’s warm enough for the kids to sit through. I rolled the dice, however, so we’ll see what happens. The Crosstown Showdown is the LugNuts opening day exhibition game against the Michigan State University Spartans, based in East Lansing. According to the LugNuts, this is one of the most attended games every season, so I guess we were lucky to get tickets. Trevor is the one who really wanted to see this game, as he’s a Sparty backer, for some reason. It should be a fun day all around, too, as we plan on visiting the State Capitol building while down there, as well as a couple of museums. If I’m going to pull the kids out of school, I have to justify it somehow, right? It should be a good game to watch, also, as MSU is the defending Big Ten champions, and Lansing had a great season last year. So, in a few weeks we’ll pack up and head downstate…and hope that Mother Nature deals us a favorable hand.
Promotion courtesy of the Lansing LugNuts
I can’t even imagine what former West Michigan Whitecaps and current Detroit Tigers pitcher Brayan Villarreal was going through the other day. Being away from your family is difficult enough, but when they are in real danger, well, Villarreal stated he felt totally helpless. His family was back home in Venezuela, when they were robbed at gunpoint. His parents and brother arrived to their house, finding armed robbers already there. His father and brother were tied up, and the family was threatened they would be kidnapped. Lucky for them, one neighbor called the police when they suspected something was wrong at the house. Unfortunately both robbers escaped custody, even though one had received a gunshot wound.
“It was hard”, Villarreal told MLive.com. “I was mad. And then I couldn’t do anything because I was here. I was angry. That happened and now I’m good. They are good. They’re going to come here. They’re going to be safe. Thank God, everything is fine.” He continued about Venezuela, “It’s a very dangerous place. That’s my country. It’s sad to say that, but it’s very dangerous to live in Venezuela. I’ve thought about it. We’ve actually talked about coming here one day, but they didn’t want to before. I don’t know if they’re going to want to come now.”
Villarreal went on to state that the robbery seemed to be a random act, and not connected to him, or the fact that he’s a professional baseball player. Apparently they only broke in to steal a tv and maybe his car. If not, things could have gone much worse, and there may have been a kidnapping and ransom involved. So glad to know that his family is now safe. Again, I can’t even imagine going through something like this, and being in no position to help. Villarreal pitched one game with the Whitecaps in 2008, going 0-1. In 2009, he had a 5-5 record, 2.87 ERA, and 118 strike-outs.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Former West Michigan Whitecap and Detroit Tiger Brandon Inge was looking for a new home this coming season. Looks like his ship has found port in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. He has signed a minor league contract with the Pirates with an invitation to major league spring training. Inge’s season was cut short in 2012 with a right shoulder injury which needed surgery. Splitting the season between Detroit and Oakland, he had a .658 on base percentage and 12 home runs. Inge has much versatility, playing third, second, and every outfield position in his major league career. He’s had many games as catcher, too, but hasn’t been behind the plate since 2008. If he makes the Pirate roster, it will most likely be at second base or as a utility player. He could also be assigned to the Indianapolis Indians, and play in one of my favorite ballparks, Victory Field. Inge played for the Whitecaps way back in 1999, batting .244, with 9 home runs, 46 RBI’s, and swiping 15 bases. I still think that when his playing days are done, he’ll be back in the Tigers system as a coach, hopefully in West Michigan.
Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com
Recently Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, has been honored by Stadium Journey magazine as the best overall Minor League experience. This is the second year in a row that Parkview and Fort Wayne has received this award. In Stadium Journey’s ‘Top 101 sports venues of 2012′, Parkview ranked #14 overall.
“The thing about Parkview Field, is that it combines all of the elements that we recognize as making a stadium experience great”, stated Stadium Journey’s president and co-founder Paul Swaney. “The food and beverage is better than you’ll find most places and (the concessions options are) related to the overall theme. When I go to Parkview Field apple turnovers are something I seek out. Having a downtown location is an important factor as well. The variety of seating selections is important, too. Fans can go back again and again and have different experiences each time depending on where they want to sit.”
Stadium Journey ranked the venues on many different factors, including the neighborhood, food and drink options, fan experience and atmosphere. The access to the outside and inside of the stadium is also taken into consideration.
“This award is a testament to our great community and fans who continue to make Parkview Field an enjoyable place to be,” TinCaps president Mike Nutter stated to Stadium Journey. “We’re honored to be ranked among the best venues in all of professional sports.”
We were lucky enough to visit Parkview Field in its first year during our 2009 baseball trip. We had a great time at the game, and the ballpark does live up to the hype. Our seats were directly next to the Fort Wayne dugout, to the point that we could literally look right into it and interact with players. It didn’t take much for Trevor to snag a game ball that night. It had been raining all day, and we were pretty lucky to even get the game in.