Results tagged ‘ Whitecaps ’
Most kids like to spend the day at the ballpark. Some games are better than others, though, and this weekend for young Alex Alder it was one of the best. After his ticket was scanned and he walked through the turnstile at Fifth Third Ballpark, Alex was named as the West Michigan Whitecaps‘ eight millionth fan! Most kids would also be happy to walk away from a game with a foul ball, but look what Alex was awarded:
Men’s or Ladies Seiko watch from Talsma Jewelers
• $100 gift card from Bob Evans
• Eight – 9-hole rounds of golf from Maple Hill Golf
• Tree tops midweek round of golf for two
• Whitecaps 4Topps table package with $88 gift card
• Tigers Tickets
• Whitecaps jersey & other apparel
• Rock the Rapids Concert Tickets
• Giant stuffed animal
The Whitecaps had promotions going on all weekend, too, and all season to celebrate the 20th year of baseball in the Grand Rapids area.
Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/Facebook
After we watched the Lake County Captains drop a double-header at the Great Lakes Loons, they headed over to western Michigan to take on our Whitecaps. The Whitecaps won the first game of the series by the score of 8-4. West Michigan was led offensively by second baseman Devon Travis, who went 4-5 on the day, with two home runs, and five RBI’s. Travis’ first home run was a bomb over the old-fashioned green scoreboard, but his second one took a little more effort on the base path. He drove the ball to the centerfield wall, and after a missed attempt by the center fielder, he just kept going. Manager Larry Parrish gave him the go-ahead, and he slid safely into home with a ‘in the park’ homer.
“I was running to third base assuming it was a triple,” Travis told MLive.com. “I was hoping that LP (Parrish) wouldn’t send me home. I was too tired. It’s one of those games that you won’t have very often, that’s for sure. I don’t try to hit the ball out, it just happens sometimes.”
Travis leads the Whitecaps with four home runs and 14 RBI’s, and is hitting .362 in 15 games. Parrish has been in pro baseball for 41 years, and stated he’s never seen a player knock a traditional home run and inside-the-park home run in the same game. On the mound, Yorfrank Lopez earned the win for the ‘Caps, striking out three batters in five innings, and giving up three runs. In relief, Brennan Smith worked three innings, allowing no runs and striking out four. The next day was another first for Travis, though, as he witnessed a little thing called snow, that we see way too much of here in Michigan.
“The guys were giving me a hard time because I was really excited. I was walking out of the gym, and I saw snow, and I started jumping around because I was excited my first time seeing it ever come down. I was definitely happy to see it, but I’m glad we didn’t have to play in it.”
The snow wasn’t all that kind to the ‘Caps, however, as they lost the second game of the series 8-5 to Lake County. They would bounce back in the rubber match in a big way, though. They won 10-1, on the back of Danry Vasquez and his four hits, four RBI’s, and two stolen bases. And he has country music to thank for it…. Manager Larry Parrish convinced him to listen to country instead of latin music in the locker room, and the rest is history.
“I think I will do it again,” Vasquez told MLive.com. “I will be superstitious.”
Vasquez played in West Michigan last season, before being moved to the Connecticut Tigers of the NY-Penn League, but is batting .302 with 11 RBI’s this year.
“I’m just much different than last year.” He stated. “I feel more comfortable, and I feel much stronger.”
Also pitching in offensively, Jeff Holm contributed two hits, with a triple and two RBI’s. Relief pitcher Josh Turley earned the win, with three strike outs in two innings. Julio Felix also pitched two innings with only one hit, and Jose Valdez took care of the ninth. In all, a pretty good way to end a home stand.
The West Michigan Whitecaps are competing in their 20th season in the Midwest League. To celebrate this event, the team is having the fans vote on the best players they’ve seen in each position for the last two decades. Even three managers are up for the vote, in Bruce Fields, Matt Walbeck, and Tom Brookens. All three won the Midwest League Championship in West Michigan. Catchers such as Brandon Inge, current Tiger Alex Avila, and Miami Marlin Rob Brantley are all up for the best behind the plate. At first base, I think that Robert Fick has the inside edge. He was voted into the first Whitecaps Hall of Fame, and has the honor of hitting the last home run in Tiger Stadium. That’s just my vote, though. Second base is my favorite position, so I’ve followed the players there pretty closely. It will be tough for me to choose only one of my favorites such as Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, and Brandon Douglas. At short stop, in my opinion, the vote might come down to current Tiger Ramon Santiago, or last’s years MiLB Gold Glove winner Eugenio Suarez, which is a tough call. At the hot corner, top prospect Nick Castellanos may be the favorite despite being moved to the outfield last season with Lakeland and Erie. He may get a push from guys like Wade Gaynor and Wilkin Ramirez, though. Fans are allowed three choices for outfielders, and there are plenty. While players like Matt Joyce, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, and Brent Clevlen have all seen action at the MLB level, Gorkys Hernandez had a great season in West Michigan in 2007. He was also named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year that year. Fans are also allowed to vote for three pitchers. Players like Andy Van Hekken, Casey Crosby, Duane Below, and Joel Zumaya all found success on the hill in West Michigan. Rounding out the relief pitchers, fans can vote for two, including Michael Torrealba and Anthony Claggett. This is another great way the Whitecaps are celebrating so much success the last 20 years. VOTE NOW!
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Just a quick entry before the kids and I head off downstate. The West Michigan Whitecaps have gotten off to a pretty good start this season. An early record of 3-2 isn’t amazing, but we’ll take it in this Michigan weather. After a great 7-6 comeback win against the Dayton Dragons on opening day, they followed that up with a nice 6-0 shutout. They faltered the next couple of games, losing to Dayton by the scores of 8-3 and 4-1, however. The ‘Caps bounced back in a big way, taking the first game of the series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps 11-4. Jake Stewart is currently leading West Michigan with a .462 average, followed by fellow outfielder Michael Hernandez at .429, and second baseman Devon Travis hitting .381. Travis is also one of the RBI leaders for West Michigan at five, tied with outfielder Jeff Holm, and trailed by Lance Durham with three. It’s a little early to judge the pitching stats, but Endrys Bicendo and Brennan Smith lead the team with four strike-outs each. Today’s game with Fort Wayne has been rained out, and the weather doesn’t look good for the rest of the week. High percentage of rain is anticipated for both games in Great Lakes and Lansing we planned on going to.
I don’t think that the West Michigan Whitecaps could have scripted last night’s game any better. Opening Day. Celebrating 20 years. Ten innings. A walk-off win. Add those together, and you get a night that Whitecaps fans won’t soon forget. West Michigan gave their fans something to cheer about right away in last nights’ game against the Dayton Dragons, by jumping out to a 3-0 lead. They let that slip away, however, but fought back to take a 6-3 lead. Things got more exciting, as the Dragons would tie it up again, and set up the extra inning. With Jeff Holm on second base representing the winning run, Jake Stewart blasted a fastball to right-center field to give his team the win, and Larry Parrish‘s debut a success.
“It was exciting,” Stewart stated to MLive.com. “I was looking for a fastball, something up in the zone, something I could hit through the infield, and I was fortunate to get something I could hit.”
The ‘Caps pitching staff struggled in the cold Michigan weather, as five pitcher combined for eight walks and three wild pitches. Josh Turley earned the win, however, after shutting down the Dayton bats in the ninth inning. He pitched two innings and only gave up one hit. Starting pitcher Endrys Briceno lasted 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, two earned runs, walking three, and striking out four. Offensively, West Michigan was led by Stewart, who was 3-3 with two RBI’s, and a run scored. Also pitching in was second baseman Devon Travis, who went 2-5 with a triple, RBI and run scored. Designated hitter Lance Durham also went 2-5, with two doubles, and RBI and run scored. Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez also added RBI’s in the game. First year skipper Parrish seemed happy with the effort and end result, too.
“I thought we hit the ball pretty good, made a couple of nice plays in the field and, overall, we pitched very well when we threw strikes,” Parrish told MLive.com. “I mean, obviously, we had way too many walks and they really hurt us.”
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!
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.
Here’s a question and answer segment off of MiLB.com by Andrew Pentis. There’s been much talk about Bruce Rondon this season, and he’s been under the microscope all spring. After a few shakey innings, he’s settled down in his last few outings and thrown the ball pretty well. Hopefully he keeps his off-speed pitches under contol, and really helps the Tigers out this season. Rondon pitched for the ‘Caps in 2011, with a record of 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA, 19 saves, and 61 strike-outs. Here’s the interview by Pentis:
The last time the Tigers started grooming a closer with 100 mph heat and a tattoo running down his forearm, things didn’t go according to plan. Joel Zumaya, who sported flames on his skin and whipped his elbow high into the air and seemingly above his cap, struck out 97 batters in 62 games as a rookie in 2006. His violent motion limited him to an average of 27 relief appearances over the next four seasons, and he hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2010.
Bruce Rondon is not Joel Zumaya.
And his style gets results. After saving 29 games with three Detroit affiliates last season — nine more than his Opening Day goal — Rondon is MLB.com’s No. 92 prospect and in his first Major League camp. If he succeeds there, few among the long-tenured Tigers will remember at all the hurler he only slightly resembles.
Thanks to Tigers official Aileen Villarreal for transcribing and then translating Rondon’s Spanish into English.
MiLB.com: How would you describe your mind-set and approach while on the mound?
MiLB.com: Has that always been your attitude?
Rondon: Always. Every time I’m on the mound, I always think I’m the best. Off the mound, I don’t think that, but when I’m on there I have to have that mentality, that I’m the best and that I’m invincible.
MiLB.com: Your repertoire should inspire self-assuredness. Tell us about it.
Rondon: Fastball, slider and changeup. The fastball, I try to throw over 100 [mph]. The changeup is around 92-93. The slider is around 86-88. From last year ’til now, I would say I have [improved my] control. I’ve worked very hard to control them.
MiLB.com: You’re obviously known for your fastball. Were you always able to throw hard growing up or did a specific mechanical change in your career increase your velocity?
Rondon: Yes, I could always throw the ball pretty hard. Actually, they didn’t let me pitch when I was young because I threw the ball too hard. Everyone knew [I could pitch], but they wanted me to hit. [Then I was converted] into a catcher.
MiLB.com: Could you have ended up playing that position?
Rondon: Honestly, I never loved being a catcher; my love was always pitching. It was something that always inspired me, that caught my attention, that motivated me. I felt happy pitching, and it was just always what I loved. so when they asked me if I wanted to pitch I was very excited and of course said yes. [That was when] I signed with the Tigers [on Sept. 12, 2007].
MiLB.com: Before you made your way to the States, what was baseball like at home in Valencia, Venezuela?
Rondon: The crowds over there are very aggressive. It’s a little crazy, but it can be motivating because when you do well, the whole stadium gets up and cheers. On the other hand, when you don’t have a good outing, you have to know how to handle it with the crowds. The greatest thing in the world for me is when my family is able to watch me play. Sometimes I’m sad when I’m playing here and look in the stands and they’re not there. When I was growing up, I would always tell my dad that I was going to pitch professionally so that they could watch me play.
MiLB.com: How good of a hitter were you? Do you think you could have made it as a position player?
Rondon: During batting practice, I was good, but not really during the game. Maybe after practicing, I could learn, but I don’t think so.
MiLB.com: How old were you when you turned to pitching full-time?
Rondon: I was 15. [I had] never practiced. I knew I could throw, but I had to start from point zero. When they told me I was going to pitch, I was so excited that I was going to be pitching that it didn’t matter about taking the hits I was going to take. I wanted to learn, so I started with just my fastball. I didn’t have any other pitches aside from my fastball. Once I got to the Tigers, they helped me with my pitching and I have really learned a lot.
MiLB.com: What is the fastest reading you’ve registered on a radar gun?
Rondon: 104 mph — against the [Class A Advanced] Yankees at their stadium in Tampa. My teammates told me after the game. They said, “Rondon, we have some news for you.” I asked them what had happened. They told me I had thrown the ball 104. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Then they showed me the radar gun and I said, “Wow.”
MiLB.com: Have you ever been on a team with a pitcher who threw harder than you?
Rondon: It has always been me so far.
MiLB.com: That would seem to inspire a nickname. What’s yours?
Rondon: Up to this point, I have not gotten one.
MiLB.com: Bruce doesn’t seem like it would be a popular first name in Venezuela. Where does it come from?
Rondon: My dad loves Bruce Lee. My dad wanted to name me “Bruce Lee.” My mom didn’t want the “Lee,” but she was fine with the “Bruce.”
MiLB.com: Where does your dad’s admiration for the martial arts master come from?
Rondon: He loves all the Bruce Lee movies. He always asks me to get him Bruce Lee movies from here and shirts and those kinds of things. [Lee] was big for him because he made it to the United States by himself. My dad would always tell me that I would make it to the United States by myself and I was going to accomplish big things … and here I am now. Things have happened where I think, “Wow, my dad was right.”
MiLB.com: So your name works on a couple different levels …
Rondon: Maybe he chose that name became [Lee] never lost faith. I would always tell him that I loved baseball and he’d tell me, “Son, you have to work a lot and work hard because it will be very difficult for you to be in the United States by yourself.” I didn’t believe him because I was young, but everything that he told me was true. Sometimes [now] my family will call me and tell me, “Son, you came out in the newspaper next to Miguel [Cabrera],” and I tell them sometimes, “I’m next to him and can’t even believe it.”
MiLB.com: What would it mean for your family back in Venezuela if you make a Major League Opening Day roster?
Rondon: I’ll tell you this, they probably wouldn’t sleep the night before. They really wouldn’t sleep because that’s what they’ve been waiting for. If [the Tigers] tell me I’m making it, I probably won’t sleep that night, either, from thinking about it so much. Thinking to myself, “Wow, it’s me — I’m the closer.” It would really be something special if they gave me that news, like a dream come true.
MiLB.com: Do you notice a different feel to the ninth inning, compared with pitching in the seventh or eighth inning?
Rondon: Honestly, I don’t like throwing in the fifth, sixth, seventh innings. It just isn’t the same attention, it’s not the same adrenaline. When you come out in the ninth inning, people are waiting for the ninth inning. People are thinking, “Wow, there comes the closer.” And that is what motivates me, what gets me going.
Photos courtesy of MLive.com/MiLB.com
Ok, hell or high water, I need to make a Battle Creek Bombers game this season. Not just to witness some great summer college league baseball action, but also temp my palate with…the Twinkie Dog. Yes, it’s a hot dog with a Twinkie for the bun. No sure how the Bomber staff acquired all the Twinkies, or maybe they use a knock-off brand, but either way, this is something I need to try. I think the kids are on board with me on this, too, so we can make it a family dinner type thing! Battle Creek is pretty confident in its new concession, too, as they’ve released a Twinkie Dog t-shirt. Anyone in the Battle Creek area can also stop by the ballpark offices for a free sample up until the end of March. That’s a little too far for me to drive for a snack, so I’ll wait until the Bombers season starts! Not that I need much of an excuse to go to C.O. Brown stadium, since that’s where my love for Minor League Baseball started, and where the baseball trip originated! I hope we don’t get rained out, however, like we did last time.
Just north of BC, another one of my haunts, is the Grand Rapids area, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. The ‘Caps gained some national attention a few years again when they released the Fifth Third Burger. The burger made headlines on CNN, and has been featured on the Food Network, and the Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. This year, the winner of the fourth annual Whitecaps food contest is the Baco…a taco with a bacon shell. The Baco received 30% of the online votes from a list of ten food items that had been dwindled down from a list of 150. My personal vote was for the Bad Joke, a corn dog covered with cheese with two strips of duck bacon in a bun. That fell just short at 27%. Either way, the fans at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park will have many culinary delights to snack on while watching the Whitecaps play this season. Just another reason why I just can’t wait for this winter to be over, and baseball to begin!
Twinkie Dog promo courtesy of the Battle Creek Bombers
Baco photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps