January 2011

Whitecaps Update 1/11/11

capslogo.jpgWinter Banquet and HOF: The Whitecaps 2011 Winter Banquet will be held on Wednesday, January 19th this year, and will be headlined by Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. Also speaking at the event, is new ‘Caps skipper Ernie Young and alumni Will Rhymes and Brennan Boesch. This event will also feature the 2011 Whitecaps Hall of Fame ceremony which will induct current Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, catcher Ramon Hernandez, and groundskeeper Heather Nabozny. Heather took good care of Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids before becoming the first female head groundskeeper in the Majors with the Tigers.

Alumni Moves: Former Whitecap center fielder Cameron Maybin was shipped from the Florida Marlins to the San Diego Padres for Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Maybin was on the Marlins opening day roster in 2009 and 2010. Maybin was sent to Florida from Detroit in the deal for Miguel Cabrera and was part of West Michigan’s 2006 Midwest League championship team. The Padres look for his range in center to be a great asset playing at Petco Park. Also on the move is pitcher Alfredo Figaro. The Tigers sold his contract to the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League. In eight appearances for the Tigers, he was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA. Figaro was 10-6 with a 4.14 ERA in 23 starts for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2010.

IMG_1150.jpgTiger Fridays:
Tigers Fridays are back at Fifth Third Ballpark for this season. Former Tigers Johnny Grubb, Steve Kemp, Frank Lary, Mickey Tettleton, Dick Tracewski, Jason Thompson, and Richie Hebner will be making appearances. The dates are June 3 & 17, July 1, 22, & 29, and August 12 & 26. The team hasn’t released the dates each former Tiger will be attending, though. I hope I have a chance to make it down to meet Tettleton. He’s one of my favorite players of all time.

Non-Roster Invite: Outfielder Avisail Garcia in one of the 18 non-roster players the Tigers have invited to spring training in Lakeland, FL. Garcia has spent the last two seasons with the ‘Caps and is ranked as the Tigers ninth-best prospect by Baseball America. In 2010 he batted .281 with four home runs, 63 doubles, and 20 stolen bases. In 2009 he was a .264 hitter in 81 games in West Michigan. He’ll be at Spring Training with former ‘Caps outfielders Andy Dirks, Ben Guez, Casper Wells, Clete Thomas, and Brennan Boesch.

Fifth Third Burger on TV…Again: Last year the famous West Michigan Whitecaps Fifth Third Burger was featured on Man v. Food. This year, the giant hamburger will be featured on the Food Network’s series ‘Unwrapped’ with host Marc Summers. The show will air at 9:00 p.m. on January 22 in an episode called ‘Game Day Goodies’. I plan on tackling this monsterous burger this season, but I’ll have three hungary kids to help polish it off. In two seasons, the ‘Caps have served 3,253 Fifth Third Burgers to fans, and 761 have attempted the Challenge to eat the whole thing by themselves. A total of 483 people have won the challenge, earning a T-shirt and their pic on the ‘wall of champs’.

A Look Ahead: This should be a fun year for us at the Whitecaps games. I’m trying to get my work schedules manipulated so the kids and I can make it to Opening Day  and hopefully Star Wars day again in July. Brian will be making his debut at Fifth Third Ballpark this season, also. Below is a pic of him sporting his new hat he got for his third birthday on the 11th. I’ve also added a ‘Caps game to my baseball trip, as we’re flying back into Michigan via Grand Rapids. Why not stay and catch one more game?

briancaps.jpgPhotos property of M.I.B.

My ‘Minor Trips Newletter’ Arrives….Yeah!

I’m always happy to recieve my ‘Minor Trips’ Newsletter, and the January 2011 version does not disappoint. What is ‘Minor Trips’ you ask? Well, it’s a two part publication put together by baseball fans who share my passion for Minor League Baseball. The first part, the newsletter, is packed full of baseball stories, letter from fans, and ballpark reviews, book reviews, contests, and more. The second part is a guide to all of the Minor League and Independant Pro teams in the country. It lists every team by state, along with their home schedule and directions. Really, it’s like my Bible. It’s an easy way to help me plan my baseball trips. The creators are very commited to this printed publication, despite the fact that we live in the computer age where info is only a key stroke away (without the internet, how could I reach out to the 2-3 people who actually read my blogs?). Since the editors actually ENCOURAGE readers to reproduce their work with no rights reserseved, I will be sharing an article from the current newsletter that I really enjoyed.

Reflections Of A Minor League Rookie Fan by Bob Kuntz

I’m heading back to my hometown of Akron, where I havn’t lived for forty years. My destination is the minor league ballpark that no one even imagined when I was growing up. The park was built years ago, but this is my first visit. On a sweltering Sunday afternoon in June, my dad and I are going to our first game.

Downtown, we turn down a street filled with childhood memories. To my left if the big department store where I bought my Cub Scout uniform, rode the clacking wooden escalators, and admired the animated Christmas decorations. We park on the street, right next to the stadium, for free.

We walk down the street. More childhood memories flash through my mind. The ballpark sits where Scott’s 5 & 10 used to be. I remember exploring the store as a child, buying gum and toy soldiers. Now it’s gone. In it’s place, a modern brick stadium rises modestly above the street, surrounded by landscaped corners and strips of shady trees and brightly colored flowers.

We pass through the turnstile. Our first order of business, in this heat, is buying frozen lemonades. Our seats are in the sun, three rows behind the dugout, right at the edge of the field.

I have never sat this close to the field in my life. There’s a great view of the city skyline, tall buildings on the edge of downtown. The advertising signs on the home run fence highlight local businesses and spark memories of a distant Akron when Goodyear and Firestone were city giants. A slight breeze cools us for a moment.

The park is smaller than major league stadiums. But not the diamond. It’s a magic green oasis with baselines and home plate.

 On this day of tripical heat and humidity, the stands are more empty than not (attendance is 2,810). But those who are here are fans. They root, cheer, and clap.

I don’t know the players, but I wonder about their stories.

I love sitting this close to the field. The first baseman snags a grounder a few steps behind the bag and I see the subtle wag of his hand as he waves off the pitcher and covers the base. I hear the sharp crack of a grounder smacked toward third. The fielder gloves the ball and throws. For a moment, the ball seems suspended in mid-air on it’s way to first base.

My dad tells me about the old League Stadium where, as kids, he and my Uncle Bill watched the Akron Yankees play. He doesn’t remember why the two of them were let in without paying, only that they were. The family who lived beside the ballpark put lawn chairs on the garage roof to watch the game.

Families are sitting all around us-grandparents, kids, teens and moms and dads, slurping their giant drinks and munching on nachos. The whole place is more relaxed than major league parks. It’s not an impersonal big city, but a friendly small town.

The runs, the Aero’s offense shines, catching a runner off the bag for a put out and slamming the door shut on a steal of second. But, alas, the final score: 8-5 Mets.

During the game, kids too young for T-Ball gather in front of us, right next to the dugout. When the first baseman snags in a foul ball, they wave their hands and shouth, “Here! Throw it here!” He rolls the ball across the dugout roof, one of them grabs it and races to his parents waving the ball in the air.

A batter sends a foul ball soaring out of the stadium. A little boy watches it on it’s high slow journey until it crests the brick work. He shouts to his parents, “That ball went over the house!”

Hearing him, I realize I’m in the place where parents explain the infield fly rule, where dreams of turning double plays and hitting grand slams are born. This is the place where kids fall in love with baseball, and, after the game, get to run the bases. And a big kid like me…I’ll be back.

I hope that piece was as enjoyable for everyone who reads it as it was for me. The newsletters are filled with great stuff like that. To subscribe, just send $15 to the following adress:

Minor Trips

P.O. Box 360105

Strongsville, OH 44136

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