Results tagged ‘ Whitecaps ’
Although no players were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this season, the West Michigan Whitecaps will be. Holland, Michigan native, and former ‘Caps and Tigers pitcher Andy Van Hekken will be inducted during the Whitecaps Winter Banquet ceremonies on January, 23. Van Hekken pitched in West Michigan during the 2000 season, winning 16 games that is still tied for a team record. He still ranks in the top ten in team records for winning percentage at .727 (8th), ERA with 2.45 (8th), and the strikeouts to walk ratio at 3.41 (10th). Van Hekken made his major league debut for the Tigers in 2002, pitching a complete game shutout victory against the Cleveland Indians. He went 1-3 that season in five appearances, with a 3.00 ERA. He then spent the next two seasons in the Tigers farm system, as well as the systems for the Reds, Braves, Astros, and Royals in the following seasons. His latest stop is in Korea last season, playing for the Nexan Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization. Van Hekken will report back to the Heroes after the Banquet.
The Whitecaps Winter Banquet not only features the HOF induction, but dinner, a live auction, and guest speakers. This year, the guests will include Tigers President/CEO/General Manager Dave Dombrowski, outfielders Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks, and pitcher Drew Smyly. The proceeds from the banquet and auctions go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation, which in turn donates the funds to the YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program and the Detroit Tigers Foundation. The YMCA program, that is funded by the Whitecaps and Fifth Third Bank, provides about 1,900 children the chance to participate in a structured activity that provides guidance in their lives, per year. I would love to make it to this event at some point, but at $80 a ticket, it’s just to rich for my blood when you have three kids to bring along. This is a great event, though, for a great cause.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
The Detroit Tigers organization recently re-acquired Gustavo Nunez, now they have re-signed West Michigan Whitecaps alum Michael Hernandez to a minor league deal. An outfielder, Hernandez played for the ‘Caps in 2006, then split time in Lakeland and Erie in 2007. While in West Michigan, he hit a solid .278, with 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. He was a two-time Midwest League Player of the Week, as well as being an All-Star in the Florida State League. He was traded to the Texas Rangers after the 2007 season, in the deal that brought Armando Galarraga to Detroit. He was released by Texas, spent a couple of years in the Mets system, and recently has been honing his skills in the Atlantic League. The Tigers have also signed right-handed pitcher Michael Dubee to a minor league deal. Pitching out of the bullpen the last few seasons, Dubee was 4-4 last season, with a 4.07 ERA. He also had 53 strike-outs between the Yankees and Blue Jays Double-A affiliates. Both players were signed simply to add depth the organization, but I hope they both have solid seasons.
Photo courtesy of MotownSports.com
West Michigan Whitecaps alum Gustavo Nunez has returned to the Detroit Tigers in strange turn of events. The 24 year-old short stop was taken by the Pittsburg Pirates in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December of 2011. He was then claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondback in October, and is now back in the Tigers organization as the D-Backs have outrighted his contract to the Toledo Mud Hens. He spent the 2012 season on the disabled list for the Pirates, recovering from surgery to his right ankle. As part of re-hab, he did play twelve games between the Gulf Coast League Pirates, Single-A Bradenton Marauders, and the Double-A Altoona Curve, hitting a combined .273. Nunez had a solid year with the Whitecaps in 2009. Playing in 112 games, he hit .315, with 16 doubles, 10 triples, and five home runs. The Tigers needed some depth at middle infield in the system, so I’m glad to see him back, and hope he has a great year in Toledo.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Good new for me, as one of my favorite Tigers of the late 80′s has been named the new pitching coach for the Whitecaps. Mike Henneman, former Detroit Tiger and MLB All-Star will begin his tenure in West Michigan starting the 2013 season. This will be his first professional coaching job, but he does have plenty of experience coaching young players. Since his retirement in 1995, Henneman founded a select youth baseball team in McKinney, Texas, to make sure his kids received quality instruction and competition. His team grew into an organization of teams and eventually evolved into the McKinney Marshals Youth Baseball Organization. This includes 15 select youth teams as well as a Texas Collegiate League team. Henneman serves as the co-owner, president, and roving pitching instructor of the organization, but also built a 75-acre baseball complex with 15 baseball/softball fields, two pro-sized fields including locker rooms, press boxes and an 2,500 seating capacity. A training academy, pro shop, and concession stand are also present. That’s pretty impressive, and it must be nice to be able to play baseball year-round down there.
In his time with the Tigers, Henneman held the all-time saves record with 154 until is was broke in 2006. Coming up to the Tigers in 1987, he was named The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year and finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, after pitching to a an 11-3 record with seven saves and a 2.98 ERA. He led all Detroit relief pitchers in both wins and ERA in 1987-’88, he led the AL in win-loss percentage in 1987, and in 1989 he was elected to the All-Star team. During his decade in the majors, he earned a 57-42 record, with 193 saves and a 3.21 ERA. He also played in Texas and Houston, but seems happy to be back in the Tigers organization, and part of the Whitecaps.
“I’m so excited to be coming on board with the Tigers organization”, Henneman stated to MiLB.com. “To me, it’s like home-I came up with the Tigers; my career started here. I’m fortunate to be back with them. With these minor league guys, it’s all about learning their personalities and working with them in a way that works best for them, without forcing anything down their throats, because that will run them off. These guys in Class A ball have the skills and they know what they want, so it’s just a matter of teaching them how to be successful. I’ve got a bit of a wacky personality, so if we’re talking about something serious, I think I can make the point in a way that these guys will listen. We’re going to have a lot of fun next season at Fifth Third Ballpark.”
Sounds good to me! Just one more reason to get really excited about baseball next April. The Whitecaps staff is all set now, with Henneman, Scott Dwyer returning as hitting coach, and new manager Larry Parrish.
Photo courtesy of the Detroit News
The Detroit Tigers have traded former West Michigan Whitecaps second baseman turned outfielder, Justin Henry to the Boston Red Sox in a deal also involving the New York Mets. They, in turn, received second baseman Jeff Kobernus and LHP reliever Kyle Lobstein. While with the Whitecaps in 2008, Henry hit .295 with 24 doubles, and 27 stolen bases. He was also a Detroit organizational All-Star in 2011. I never really understood why the Tigers would move him to the outfield where they have an abundance of prospects, from the infield, in which they have few. They seem to have gotten a pretty decent infield prospect in Kobernus, though, who spent last season with Double-A Harrisburg (Nationals), stealing 42 bases and hitting .282. He was picked by Boston in the Rule 5 draft, then immediately traded for Henry. The Tigers think he might contend for a utility role in spring training, along with former ‘Caps Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago. Lefty pitcher Lobstein is expected to be in the Tigers’ bullpen next season. Last season he went 8-7 with a .407 ERA and 129 strikeouts for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay). Both Rule 5 picks, Kobernus and Lobstein must remain on Detroit’s 25-man roster all season in 2013 or be offered back at half of their claiming price.
I will miss Justin Henry, though, as he was my favorite player off the 2008 team. As some of my readers know (who am I kidding?), I tend to favor the second baseman, being one myself. I always thought Henry would make it to Comerica Park. I did have something tingling in the back of my mind, though, something about Justin Henry and the old Tiger Stadium…then it hit me! The ball player should not be confused with the actor Justin Henry, though, who made it to Tiger Stadium in the Disney TV movie Tiger Town, staring him and Roy Scheider (JAWS). I really don’t remember this movie from when I was a kid, but picked it up a couple of years ago, and loved it. It is a sad story, though, about a young boy whose father died, but told him that anything is possible as long as he believed. Taking this advise to heart, he wished that his favorite player, an aging Scheider, would play like his old self. It worked!!! Due to the belief in his idol, the Tigers make a historic play-off run. The film also included great Ernie Harwell and Sparky Anderson playing themselves. I highly recommend this movie to any baseball fan, not just us Tiger fans. Oh, Justin Henry was also in some movie called Kramer vs. Kramer, where he almost won an award, or something. Just can’t compete with Tiger Town, though…
Top photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Movie photos courtesy of Walt Disney/Disney Channel
We had a lot of fun moments this last year, and here are the best of them. It’s always hard to narrow it down to just nine, but the top few were really special and it’s fun to look back and think of the smiles on the kids faces in most of these. It’s also hard to find an order, or to really think that one’s childs’ moment meant more than an other. Read and enjoy, and I honestly hope that everyone had as much fun this past season as we did.
#9-Our 4th up North
With the kids participating in the Sault Area Little League and me coaching, we were able to be in the local Independence Day Parade. The kids had fun being seen by their friends, but really didn’t like the fact that they were throwing candy to the crowd instead of eating it. Riding on the float was fun, but it was literally a pain in the a$$ for me, as I tried to keep out of the public eye, and make sure no kids jumped off. It was good to have Trevor back in baseball and this was Brian’s first year. Lily played in the Sault Girls Softball League, but was able to march anyway because she was helping me coach Brian’s team.
#8-Back in Buffalo
Seeing the Buffalo Bisons is a great Minor League Baseball experience. I saw my first game there back in the ’90′s as my first minor league game. It was really good to be back and that my dad could experience this with me. Coca-Cola Field is a great place to watch a game and one of the best we’ve ever been to. Another first for me, was meeting felling bloggers Danny and Quinn from nybisons. They had a party night going on, too, with live music and I did drink a beer or two. I highly recommend hitting a game in Buffalo if anyone is in that area.
#7-Lily goes 6 for 6
Nothing like starting the season out on a high note. In Lily’s first game of the season, she went 6-6 in helping her team on to victory. Although she never repeated this feat, she did have multiple hit games though out the season. It was a brutal summer for these girls, as the temp was in the 90′s many times for their games. They played during the heat of the day, too, as the boys played in the evening so the heat wasn’t as bad for them. Lily had a great season, though, and this first game is something she can really be proud of herself for, as we’re proud of her! She played just about every position, but like her brother really liked playing catcher.
#6-My Loony children
In July we headed down to Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons, to see them take on he Whitecaps. This was the kids’ first trip to Midland and they were really impressed. Dow Diamond is a really nice stadium, and the playground there was a big hit. They did a lot of playing and were happy to meet Louie the Loon, the Great Lakes mascot. They also had a camel mascot, but I’m not sure what that was all about. The kids had so much fun I promised to take them again next season, no matter who the Loons are playing.
With Trevor donning the tools and working behind the plate this season, it’s no surprise that he took a liking to the Whitecaps catcher Pat Leyland. Throw in the fact that Leyland’s dad manages the Detroit Tigers, and you have a winning combination. On Sundays at the Whitecaps games, fans are invited onto the field for autographs and to play catch. We really had to seek out Leyland, though, as he was preparing his pitcher for the game. He was nice enough to take the time for a quick picture, and this really made Trevor’s day. This is how we build baseball fans, from childhood moments like this.
#4-Star Wars Night
This is one of the highlights of our summer every year. This season we decided to check out Star Wars Night at the Traverse City Beach Bums instead of the Whitecaps. They didn’t have as many of the characters around the ballpark, but the kids really had a good time anyway. They really like the Beach Bums games, as the atmosphere is really laid back. They like the playground there, too, and it’s not as crowded as some of the other ballparks we go to. They got to meet some of their movie favorites, though, like Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Thank goodness they didn’t have any from the prequels crap. I’m sure this event will be on next years list, too.
#3-The Crash Dash
Our first ballgame of the season was a memorable one. Brian was able to participate in the ‘Crash Dash’, where he raced the ‘Caps mascot Crash around the bases. Brian won, of course, because of this blazing speed, and that Crash usually gets distracted by something on third base. It was cool to see us up on the video board, too. Brian was smiling away, as he loves to win races, and Crash is his favorite mascot. I would love to see him do this next season if he can.
#2-The road to Cooperstown
The National Baseball Hall of Fame was one of the top things on my baseball bucket list (don’t worry, that prime 9 will be posted next month…). Although I admit it was a little disappointing, we still were able to see some breathtaking memorabilia from baseball’s past. Seeing some of the greats enshrined in the Hall is an experience that every baseball fan should take in. This was also something my dad really needed to see and I’m glad I was able to see this with him. We also had a chance to check out Doubleday Field, although there were no games going on that day.
#1-Rookie of the Year
This season Brian made his organized baseball debut…and took one more step toward destiny. He seems to like baseball more than any other sport so far and is really showing flashes of talent. I’m glad they lowered the starting age to four, as he was really ready to play. The problem is that he loves to hit live pitching, so hitting off a tee isn’t the biggest thrill for him, but he still does it well. The biggest thing he has to learn is team work and being a good team-mate. Being the youngest child, he’s spoiled rotten, and he has to get over himself on the field. Lily helped me coach his team and she did a great job with all of the kids, and I think it was positive for Brian, too. Trevor helped out when he could, but was busy with his own team (I was an assistant for Trevor’s team). Seeing your child take the field for the first time is so special, and if I was doing this list a few years ago, then Lily and Trevor would be #1 also.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Tom Brookens patrolled third base at Tiger Stadium for Detroit from 1979 to 1988, and was part of the awesome World Series Championship team of 1984. Now, he’s back, but standing outside the lines as the Tigers new third base coach. He, Gene Lamont, and Rafeal Belliard have done the ‘ol coaching shuffle, with the latter taking over Brookens’ first base coaching job, and Lamont being ‘promoted’ to bench coach. After this season ended, management stated that they would be making adjustments to the coaching staff, and this will hopefully solve the ‘third base coach’ problem. Tigers fans have not been pleased with Lamonts’ performance the last few seasons. The most obvious blunder was sending a not-so-speedy Prince Fielder to his doom in a close game of the World Series. He’s been defended by manager Jim Leyland, though, as he called it “an aggressive mistake”. Leyland said the move was not based on performance, but I’m not sure what other criteria this decision would be based on. It’s also been stated that Lamont wanted the change, due to his bad knees and in-ability to dodge foul balls, so maybe that’s it. Brookens been coaching in the Detroit system since 2005. He helped out as hitting coach with the West Michigan Whitecaps for the first half of the season in 2006, before managing short-season Oneonta the rest of the way. He took over as skipper for the ‘Caps in 2007, leading them to a 83-57 record and a Midwest League Championship. He was great with the fans during his time there, and was really nice to the kids when giving autographs. Hopefully this is one more step toward managing in the Majors.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Up here in Michigan, the snow has finally fallen, and it didn’t take long to cover the landscape frosty white. It was a record high 65 degrees this month, but things have changed back to normal unfortunately. The kids have been playing in the snow non-stop, and I’ve had to bundle them up before school to keep them warm every day this week. Down in Comstock Park, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, Fifth-Third Ballpark is bundling up as well. The thermal blankets were put onto the field today, to protect the grass from snow and ice thrown at us the next few months. For me, April 4th can’t come soon enough. Maybe I can just go into hibernation after Christmas…
Photo courtesy of West Michigan Whitecaps
It’s that time of year again, and no, not Thanksgiving or Black Friday. It’s about that time the Major League teams needed to get their 40-man roster in order. The Detroit Tigers used this time to release former West Michigan Whitecap utility guy Ryan Raburn. This move was probably celebrated by most Tiger fans, who viewed Raburn as a player favored by manager Jim Leyland, and probably got too many second chances to prove himself over younger more deserving players. Though never one of my favorites, Raburn did show up every day and try his best, so I wish him the best of luck. The positive news is that the Tigers added three more Whitecaps alumni in pitchers Bruce Rondon and Melvin Mercedes, and shortstop Dixon Machado. Rondon played in West Michigan in 2011, going 2-2 with 19 saves. He boasted a 2.03 ERA and 61 strike-outs. He also played in the Futures Game in KC this past summer, impressing fans with his 102 mph fastball. Management has been vocal about giving him a chance to compete for the closing job next season.
Mercedes has been up and down the organizational latter, and has played for the Whitecaps in each of the last four seasons. In 2009, he went 0-1 in just three games played. 2010 saw him go 1-2 with a 5.03 ERA. He played only two games for the ‘Caps in 2011, with no decisions. This past season, he was 0-3 with six saves, and a 2.80 ERA. He’s shown some improvement, but needs to be more consistent to be considered to make the opening day roster. He needs to play either Double or Triple-A, and have a solid year.
Machado also played for the Whitecaps in 2011. He hit .235 with 101 hits, 28 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. He had a rough season this past summer in Lakeland, but hopefully can get his bat going and move up the ladder. The Tigers are in need of a young short-stop in the near future, and he could be the guy to replace Peralta, or whomever Detroit decides to put up the middle at Comerica. I like his speed, though, and the Tigers sure could use solid defense and speed on the base path. It will be fun to track these guys in 2013, and hopefully they might see some action in the big leagues.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Fifth-Third Ballpark will be getting a bit of a face-lift this fall, getting ready for play in 2013. In this project, the West Michigan Whitecaps will be rewarding their loyal fans with new premium seats behind home plate. The old bleacher seats are being removed, and new seats will be inserted soon. We usually don’t sit in this area, but it’s nice to know that they keep improving the ballpark every year. I can’t wait for April of next year and our first trip to see some baseball.