This season the Midwest League Summer All-Star Classic was held at Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Illinois, home of the Kane County Cougars. The stadium should not be confused with Fifth-Thrid Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI (Whitecaps), or the two different Fifth-Third Fields in Dayon and Toledo, OH (Dragons and MudHens). Anyway, the West Michigan Whitecaps were well represented in the 2012 ‘mid-season’ classic, as outfielder Steven Moya, infielder Eugenio Suarez, and pitchers Tommy Collier and Michael Torrealba attended the event. Designated hitter Dean Green was also selected to the Eastern Division team, but was unable to play due to being on the DL. The Eastern Division decimated the Western squad 18-2, and a few of the ‘Caps contributed to that score. Moya went 1-2 with two runs scored, and drove in three runs on a bases-loaded triple. He walked and scored a run the first inning, as the Easterners went up 5-0. They ended up scoring 13 runs in the first two innings on 20 hits against the Western Division pitchers. Moya seemed happy with his performance.
“They made a pitching change, the bases were loaded and I was just waiting for a fastball”, Moya stated to MLive.com. “The first pitch I saw was a fastball, and I hit my triple. It fest amazing. The guys swung the bats very well tonight, and were swinging at good pitches. It was a good feeling to help my team score that many runs and it was an honor for me to be here for the first time. I have been having fun the whole time.”
Suarez played a little shortstop, and went one for two in the game, including a two-out single in the sixth inning. Relief pitcher Michael Torrealba never entered the game, but Collier did face one batter. He stopped the Western Divisions two-run ‘rally’ with a strke-out to end the inning. He also seemed happy with the game.
“I got in there and did my job,” he also stated to MLive.com. “I did what they asked me to do and that’s all I can do. I thought I was going to have the whole seventh inning, that was the plan, but it ended up being one batter in the sixth. It was fine because they had other guys who they wanted to get out there and get a chance to pitch.”
The hero of the game, however, was Great Lakes Loons first baseman O’Koyea Dickson. He was a late addition to the Eastern squad, replacing the injured Whitecap Green, but made the most of his opportunity. He went 2-3 in the game, including a two-run homer in the first inning. Dickson was named the Midwest League All-Star game’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
We’ll be able to see all of these great players in action in just under two weeks, as the Loons will host the Whitecaps on July 2. It should be a fun time, and the kids have never been to Dow Diamond before, so they’re really looking forward to it!
Whitecaps photo courtesy of Dean Holzworth/MLive.com
Dickson photo courtyes of Jon Garcia/The Saginaw News
Wow, where has the season gone? The West Michigan Whitecaps ended the first half of the 2012 season playing some very good baseball, though. They went 15-5 in the last twenty games, to end up with a winning record of 36-34. They came up just short of landing the wildcard spot for the Midwest League‘s West Division, as they were beat out by the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The ‘Caps did beat BG in Kentucky two out of three games, and did the same thing to South Bend, including a 14 inning win on the last day. No team was going to catch Lansing, who went 47-22 in the first half. West Michigan’s recent play, though, has fans optimistic that they can capture a play-off spot in the second half. The team also tied a record of hitting a home run in eight consecutive games, first set by the 2004 team. They were led offensively by Eugenio Suarez, who hit a team high .311 in the first half. Dean Green and Steven Moya tied for the team lead in homers with nine, and Moya led the ‘Caps with 43 RBI’s. The team leaders on the mound were Wilsen Palacious with seven wins, Marcelo Carreno with 58 strike-outs, and Daniel Bennett with nine saves. The Whitecaps return to action on June 22 to start the second half of the season after the All-Star break.
We haven’t been to a live ballgame since my baseball trip, but the sport is still part of our everyday lives. With two boys in baseball, and a daughter in softball, I spend over ten hours a week at the baseball fields here in town when you add up the practices, games, and time we get out just by ourselves. Add that to a 40 hr. work week, and all the single dad jobs of laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning…and it makes for one busy and tired daddy. On this Father’s Day weekend, I couldn’t be happier to be doing all of those things. Being a father is all about sacrifice, but the rewards for the sacrifices are continuous joy and unconditional love. Being able to coach my kids is one of the biggest joys of my life. This is one of the few things in this world that I actually know, and it feels good to pass on my love and knowledge of the sports. Giving back does feel pretty good, and all the kids on our teams are good kids, and it’s fun coaching all of them. Lily is now in girls softball, so I can’t coach her anymore, but she is actually helping me coach Brian’s T-Ball team. She is great with the younger kids, and has a ‘take charge’ attitude. She is simply amazing. Brian is having a lot of fun in his first year of baseball, too. At four years old, they only play once a week, but it introduces him to the sport (well, he already knows it pretty well…), and gives them a chance to be on a team. Before you think that i’m forcing baseball on my kids, I’m really not. Trevor wanted to play soccer last year, and I supported him and was at every game. This season he’s just trying to re-learn baseball and get his swing back. He’s doing a good job, and has been playing catcher and third base. Both boys actually are wearing yellow this season, so it’s all good. They look pretty good sporting it, too!
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Twice within the last few weeks, Fifth-Thrid Ballpark in Comstock Park, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, has been graced with the presence of the Fox Sports Detroit Girls-Lauren and Allison. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to make the trek south to attend either of these games. The first visit was on May 25, just days after we were there ourselves. Just getting back from vacation, there was just no way to get the time off work again, or come up with the funds for another trip. With this first opportunity missed, I was confident that the girls might make another stop in Grand Rapids. Return they did, on June 7. This time, with just one day notice of their appearance, and the fact that I’m coaching two Little League teams, we were again unable to make to the Whitecaps game! Two opportunities missed, but I’m confident that maybe we can catch up with them sometime this summer, or even this winter at a hockey game. Lauren and Allison are scheduled to appear in Midland on my birthday weekend next month, when the Great Lakes Loons host the Lansing LugNuts, so if anyone is looking for a present for me, I have a great suggestion!
Lauren and Allison are great ambassadors for sports here in Michigan. They are active on Twitter and Facebook, and often reply and interact with the fans whenever they can. From all that I’ve read from other fans who’ve met them, it was a very positive experience. Trevor follows the girls on Facebook also (big surprise), and Lily looks up to them as role models. It’s nice that they’ve stepped into my little world of Minor League Baseball, and I’m hoping I won’t miss the next opportunity.
Photos courtesy of Fox Sports Net/Fox Sports Detoit/Fox Sports Detoit Girls
Moving on up: I’ve been so busy catching up on my posts from my baseball trip, I’ve almost forgotten my boys in blue (except for the previous post..) The West Michigan Whitecaps have been playing some very good baseball lately, as they’ve won eight of their last ten game. Their record now stands at 30-31, and in fourth place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. They’re only three games out of second place, and securing a playoff berth. The team went on a five-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Great Lakes Loons in Midland. The Loons did earn a small victory, however, as their mascot Lou E. Loon beat out our very own Crash the River Rascal in MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania. Crash made it through the first two rounds, but was somehow ousted by Lou E. We’ll be in Midland watching the ‘Caps next month, and we’ll let them know we think Crash is the best!
Weekly MWL Award Winners: Two Whitecaps were won the weekly Midwest League Awards on June 6. Infielder Eugenio Suarez won the Player of the Week, while Tommy Collier was named Pitcher of the Week. Suarez hit safely in all seven games last week and had multiple hits in six of those, including two four-hit outings. He went 18-28, batting .643, hitting four doubles, eleven runs scored, five stolen bases, with a .857 slugging percentage. Suarez is now hitting .318 for the season with two homers and 30 RBI. On the mound, Collier pitched a nine inning shutout and complete game against the Lake County Captians. That led to a ‘Caps 1-0 win, on the back of his seven strikeouts. He only allowed four hits and issued one walk. Collier is now 3-4 on the season with a 2.60 ERA and leads West Michigan in quality starts with seven.
Whitecaps All-Stars: Fiver players from this season Whitecaps roster were named to the 2012 Midwest League All-Star Game. Outfielder Steven Moya and DH Dean Green will be starting for the Eastern Division, while infielder Eugenio Suarez was selected as a reserve player, and pitchers Tommy Collier and Michael Torrealba will be making the trip to Kane County. Moya is hitting .299 with five home runs and 28 RBI. He started the season red-hot, hitting .377 before being placed on the DL. Green is batting .304 with nine homers and 34 RBI. His nine home runs leads the Whitecaps this season.
Pics: The pictures shown are from the ‘Caps recent home stand with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com. Last nights’ game also featured the return of Tiger Fridays, and former catcher and 1984 World Champion Lance Parrish was on hand to sign autographs.
Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: Well, my ex was actually nice enough to drive my kids down state so they could join us for our last game of the trip. I was so happy to be reunited with my babies again, you have no idea!!!! My mom was able to join us, too, for this game, and due to medical reasons this is her first game in some time. It was Sunday, so that meant family day, and the kids could get in free with their Crash’s Kids Club passes. We were also able to get on the field to get some autographs and pics with some of the players and mascots. Brian loves to see Crash and Frankie, and the players are great with all of the fans, especially the kids. It was still extremely hot, but I had the foresight to get us seats under the over-hang and out of the sun. The kids still spent some time on the playground, though. The Whitecaps fell behind 4-0, but battled back on home runs by Dean Green and Steven Moya. Kyle Ryan pitched for the ‘Caps, and did a solid job. This game was so much fun, and it’s just one of those days that you’re so thankful for. This was the perfect finale for our 2012 baseball trip. We have more games on tap for this season, but will start looking into potential trips for next year. Final: Whitecaps 5, Silver Hawks 4.
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Ahh…back in our home state!!! It was a long drive back, and we were dog tired, but not tired enough to miss a baseball game. On our way back home, we stopped in at my dads’ alma mater, Central Michigan, to see them take on their arch-rivals, the Western Michigan Broncos. We’ve only been to a hand-full of college ballparks, but Central’s Theunissen Stadium is the best one we’ve been at, and probably one of the nicer college stadiums in Michigan. This was CMU‘s final regular season game, so plenty of students and family in attendance to cheer on the home team. Before the game, some of the former baseball alumni and coaches were honored, including Coach Theunissen, who the stadium was named after. He threw out the first pitch to his grandson Nate Theunissen, who is now the Chippewas all-time hits leader. The game itself was a good one, with the Chips edging the Broncos 3-2. It was a hot day that drained us a bit, but the game went by pretty quick. I was excited, though, because I was about to be reunited with three most important people in my life… Final: CMU 3, WMU 2.
Coca-Cola Field–Buffalo, NY: After 19 short years, I finally returned to the site of my first Minor League baseball game-Buffalo, New York. Then known as Pilot Field, the improved Coca-Cola Field is not only the nicest park we were at on our trip, but one of the best I’ve ever been to. Buffalo is a big time city, and the Bisons give you a bit of the ‘Major League’ feel to it. Parking is rough, but the site-lines in the stadium were great. The gates opened at 5:00 for a pre-game party, and a chance to watch some batting practice. We were treated with a free concert on one of the dugouts, which was very entertaining. We watched the Gwinnett Braves take some batting practice and enjoyed the music. Out in right field, I was able to catch up with fellow bloggers Danny and Quinn from nybisons. They were doing an impressive job of shagging any baseball within a half-mile of the stadium. Getting these two to slow down for a bit to chat was a challenge, and I wish I had their energy. Both young men were very polite and even visited us in our seats later in the game to talk baseball. The game itself was a good one, and the Buffalo won a close one thanks to two monster home runs by Valentino Pascucci. We sat in the upper deck for this one, and had an awesome view of the action. I’m sure there is no bad seat at this ballpark. The staff and the fans all seemed very friendly, and helped make this game another great experience. We ate some great food, but no beer this time because we had a long drive back to Michigan after the game. Two more games to go in our home state… Final: Bisons 5, Braves 3.
University at Buffalo Bulls vs. Bowling Green State Falcons
Amherst Audubon Field–Amherst, NY: Trying to squeeze as much baseball into our trip as possible, we decided to take in some college baseball at the University at Buffalo. We had some extra time before the Buffalo Bisons game, and I personally enjoy the college game. UB has a nice campus, and we explored a bit and checked things out at their book store/gift shop. I was actually disappointed with Amherst Audubon Field, which looks a lot more like a high school field than one used for Division I baseball. I know baseball isn’t a big draw up north, and other sports like football and basketball bring in the revenue, but you would think they’d put something into a decent baseball stadium. We still had a fun time, and there were some scouts there looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’ type player, and they’re always fun to talk to. The weather was beautiful also, and to some good baseball free of charge is simply a plus. Other than us and the scouts, the rest of the crowd was primarily just friends and family of the players. It’s still a high level of baseball and well worth our time. Final: Buffalo 3, Bowling Green 6.
Pierce Arrow Museum
Buffalo, NY: Other than baseball, my other love is cars. I’m a guy, and guys just like classic cars. This is actually the third car museum we visited on this trip, and it’s located just a few blocks away from Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. After the game at UB, we decided to check out some automotive mastery. The Pierce Arrow cars are really beautiful, and the museum had some other memorabilia like old gas pumps and signs. They’re in the process of moving into a bigger facility, but it was a great way to waste some time until the next ballgame. The best car museum we went to on this trip was in Norwich, NY, which is just north of Binghamton. When I get a chance, I might post some pics from that one with one of my B-Mets reviews.