Whitecaps Alumni Justin Henry Honored

Former West Michigan Whitecaps second baseman, and current Toledo Mud Hens outfielder Justin Henry has been named the International League’s ‘Batter of the Week’ for August 20-26. Hitting in the lead-off position for the Mud Hens, Henry had 14 hits last week with a .538 batting average. He collected hits in five different games in a Toledo five-game win streak. Henry had three consecutive three-hit games during his hot streak, with four games with at least one run scored. He was second in the IL with a .581 on-base percentage after collecting four walks, and adding a pair of stolen bases. Justin is now third in the IL with 135 hits this season. While with the Whitecaps in 2008, he hit .295 with 24 doubles and one home run. Henry was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the ninth round of the 2007 draft. I’m not sure why the Tigers would turn him into an outfielder, with so many in the system, and not having too many infielders. I’d like to see Justin get the call this weekend, but my gut feeling is that Detroit will go with Avisail Garcia from Erie. All the best to him, though!

Photo property of  Minoring In Baseball

Fox Sports Detroit Girls get Muddy

Fifth-Third FieldToledo, OH: Last Saturday the Fox Sports Detroit Girls blessed Fifth-Third Field in Toledo with their presence (not to be confused with Fifth-Third Field in Dayton, Fifth-Third Ballpark by Grand Rapids, or Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark in Kane Country….my god…). The Girls were on hand to help root on the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate and help support the military, who was being honored all week by the Mud Hens. It’s a pretty fair drive from the Canadian border straight down to Toledo, but if I would have known that the Girls were going to be there, we would have tried to make plans! My window of opportunity for the kids and I too meet them is running out quickly, with the Minor League regular season ending in less than a week. My only hope now is for the baseball Gods to smile upon me, with Lauren and Allison magically appearing at the West Michigan Whitecaps game this Sunday…our last outing of the 2012 campaign. My only other chance for removing the Fox Sports Detroit Girls from my baseball bucket list is if they make it to a Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL hockey) game this winter. The Girls were a lucky charm, too, as the Mud Hens beat the Louiville Bats 5-1.

Photos courtesy of the Fox Sports Detroit Girls/Fox Sports Detroit/Fox Sports Net

One hot summer

It’s been an extremely hot summer for us up north here. We’re not really used to the high 80’s to 90’s we’ve been experiencing the last few months. Along with the humidity, it can be brutal. The kids had a tough time playing in the heat sometimes, especially Lily, who played ball during the heat of the day. It’s starting to cool off, though, and we’re getting the rain that we really do need. This just makes fall look like it’s closer than it is, though, and with school just a couple of weeks away, and Trevor already in having football practice, it just reminds me that the summer is very quickly coming to an end…

Peanuts comic courtesy of the late great Charles M. Schulz

Brantly gets the call to Miami

Rob Brantly at bat for the Whitecaps last season during Military Night

Former West Michigan Whitecaps catcher Robert Brantly has been called up to the Miami Marlins, and is the 99th ‘Caps Alumni to play in a Major League Baseball game. He was drafted in the third round in 2010 by the Detroit Tigers, and played in West Michigan during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He played in 52 in 2010, hitting .255, and was hitting .303 last season in 75 games before being promoted to the Lakeland Flying Tigers. This season, he was batting .254 in 36 games for the Toledo Mud Hens before being traded along with Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn in exchange for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. A trade I wasn’t completely happy with, I might add.  While with his new Triple-A team in New Orleans, Brantly was hitting. .365 in 14 games. So far with the Marlins, he was 0-3 in his first game, and 1-3 in last night’s 5-3 loss to Colorado. As he’s the 99th Whitecaps Alumni in the majors, the organization is holding a contest to see who fans think will be number 100 here: http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120808&content_id=36348184&vkey=pr_t582&fext=.jsp&sid=t582

Brantly with Marlins GM Michael Hill signing his Major League contract.

Top photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Bottom photo courtesy of the Miami Marlins

 

‘The Bird’ is still the Word

My favorite baseball player of all time…Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych

Yesterday would have been the 58th birthday of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych. The age of 58 is considered fairly young, as ‘The Bird’ was taken from us early in a tragic accident in 2009. Also ending early, was Fidrych’s baseball career. For that one magic season, though, in 1976, he showed the world what baseball was really all about. He started the season as a non-roster invitee at spring training, and ended the season leading the American League in wins with a 19-9 record, a 2.34 ERA, and winning the Rookie of the Year award. He also finished second in the Cy Young voting to Jim Palmer. More than all of that, the captured the imagination of a certain child in mid-Michigan…making him a baseball fan for life. I admit, I was caught up in all that Fidrych did on the mound, and it was no wonder opposing GM’s would beg Detroit to alter its rotation to make sure he would pitch in their stadium. They knew it would be a sell out. Fans all over the country couldn’t get enough of antics of talking to the ball and manacuring the mound. He would even congratulate his teammates on a good play, or go give them a pat on the back if they made an error. For years I carried a Fidrych card in my back pocket that I had cut off of the bottom of a Hostess Twinkies box. It’s corners are jagged and it has a crease down the middle, but I still have that card to this day and it is one of my most prized possessions. I was lucky enough to meet him back in 1995 at a baseball card show and he was very thankful for his fans. When my kids were born, I mailed him a coupled of cards and he was nice enough to sign them for Lily and Trevor and send them back. He is actually Lily’s favorite player, as she grew up with stories of his craziness on the mound, but I feel bad she will never be able to meet him. He had made a few appearances at the Whitecaps ’70’s nights, too, and that would have been a fun experience. I do have a DVD of a Monday Night Baseball game during the ’76 season, where he pitched a great game en route to a victory over the New York Yankees. I’m still always in awe that the crowd would not leave until he made a certain call. I think a lot of us kids saw in him what we saw in ourselves, just a kid having fun playing a game, which is the way it should be. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych was larger than life. He was a super hero and a rock star all rolled into one. After all, he was the first athlete ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone…

Photos courtesy of the Detroit Tigers

STAR WARS NIGHT-Episode III: Revenge of Da Bums

Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Southern Illinois Miners

Wuerfel ParkTraverse City, MI: Well, it was that time of the summer again, when I packed up my scruffy lookin’ nerf-herders and headed downstate for our annual ‘Star Wars Night’ trip. This year we decided to check out our favorite characters from a ‘galaxy far, far, away’ at the Traverse City Beach Bums instead of in Grand Rapids at the Whitecaps. The kids were excited, and had fun meeting the characters. There weren’t nearly as many as we’ve seen in the past at the ‘Caps, but we had a good time regardless. They had Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers, an Imperial Officer, and the lovely Princess Leia on hand. I would have liked to have seen Boba Fett and maybe some droids, but maybe next year. It was pretty hot and there was an impending storm, so it could be that limited some of the costumes and attendance. Lucky for us we made it through the game without a drop on us! In the game itself, the Bums were taking on the Southern Illinois Miners. TC was leading up until the 5th inning, when the Miners stormed back to take the lead. Scott Dunn took the loss on the mound for the Bums, giving up two runs, and striking out three in 4 2/3 innings. Final: Miners 5, Beach Bums 1. May the Force be with you…

The Bums were sporting their special Star Wars jerseys

Brian and Lily with Beach Bums mascot Sunburn!

Believe it or not, this is the first ball we’ve gotten at a Beach Bums game, and our first Frontier League ball. Trevor was lucky to get this foul ball.

Pirate’s Cove

A trip to Traverse City wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Pirate’s Cove. It was a beautiful day out, and the kids and I were lucky enough to spend it doing the zip line, bumper boats, go-karting, and the water coaster. I had to fudge Brian’s age a little so he could drive his own kiddie kart, but he did a great job, and is actually a better driver than his mom… Anyway, this was a great day, a day spent with family (we met Papa and Nana at the ballgame) and fun, and one you feel very lucky to have had. I feel lucky to be able to do this for my kids, and hope we can take in at least one more game before school starts.

Promotion courtesy of the Traverse City Beach Bums

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Vintage Base Ball, not Baseball

Petoskey Mossbacks vs. Regular Base Ball Club of Mt. Clemens

Swift Field-Village of Bay View, MI: This is something I’ve wanted to see for a while now, but trying to find out when and where these games are taking place can be a challenge. The kids and I travelled to Petoskey over the weekend to see one of the games of the Kilwins Fudge Bucket Classic tournament, featuring the hometown Mossbacks and the Regular Base Ball Club of Mt. Clemens, also known as the Mt. Clemens Regulars. The tournament does have a website, but it still states the participating teams and schedules are still to be determined, despite the fact the games are all over. Lucky for me, though, one of the participants answered one of my e-mails and let us know when and where the games were. When we arrived at the game, there was a small crowd, and I’m sure that they would have some more fans will just a little advertising. The kids are I thought this was a lot of fun, and there were picnic tables for us to sit at and a park for the kids to play on, too, when they weren’t watching the game. The game was played basically in an open field, with ‘bases’ that I assume were just bags filled with sand or something. The most amazing thing is that in the 1860’s era, there were no baseball gloves, and seeing these guys catch and field bare-handed is quite impressive. A few line-drives smacking off open hands can really bring you into the reality of the game. Make no mistake, these guys know how to swing the ‘timber’, as well, and can run the bases pretty effectively. There were many ‘tallies’ scored during our time watching the game. Going back to the beginning, though, the game starts with both team lined up on the field and the one umpire explaining the rules and so on. The home captain welcome the visiting team and thanked them for coming before the home team introduced themselves. The visiting team captain then thanked the home club for having them, and the visitors were announced. There is just the one umpire who sits at the scorers table, and the game is played on the honor system. The umpire is only called upon if there is a dispute. Although these games are played for fun, they are very competitive and everyone plays hard. These games are so much fun to watch, and I highly recommend them to any baseball, or base ball, fan. The kids got a kick out of the old uniforms and style of play, and were impressed with the players making plays without gloves. I wish I could report the results of the tournament, but we only stayed to watch the first game, and results are not posted on the website or their local newspaper. I guess the one thing that these players have in common with the trail-blazers of the mid 1800’s is that they play this game for fun and pride. No large contracts or scandals here…

The girls dressed in 1860’s garb hand out ‘newspapers’ with information on the team and travel. No programs back in that day and age.

One of the historic homes in the Bay View area. Notice the ‘garage’ looks more equiped for a horse buggy than an automobile.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball