Christmas for me is the perfect time to buy the kids some baseball stuff, and what else would I be asking Santa for? We all made out pretty well last week and have had the chance to play with our stuff. The kids got a new batting tee and a hitting tool, so as soon as the snow is gone, we’ll be putting those to use (if not sooner in the gym). I got a ‘Pride of the Yankees‘ and a coaching DVD from the kids, and they got the third installment of the ‘Sandlot’ series. I also got some Under Armour baseball gear!
Lily got a couple of shirts, a LSSU Softball shirt and an Under Armour softball shirt. She also got a new softball for us to play catch with. She got a new bat just before Christmas, because she needed it for her clinics.
Trevor made out like a bandit. He happy and surprised to get his new Cubs jersey. He also got a couple of t-shirts, a Battle Creek Bombers and Michigan State baseball one. He also got a new ball glove, an Easton that fits him great. Like a good dad, I already had it treated an oiled and ready to go!
Brian’s favorite mascot is the Whitecaps’ Crash the River Rascal, so he got a pillow pet and plush of him. He also got a Crash puzzle we’ve been having fun with. A Scooby-Doo baseball pillow case closed the deal for him, though. No problems getting him to go to sleep, now.
The gift I’m most proud of, is the one I got for my Dad. I found a game work Michigan Battle Cats jacket that he loves. He’s from Battle Creek, and it reminds him of my grandpa, and they used to watch Battle Cat game together many times before he passed. I hope everyone has as much fun over the holidays that we are, and a Happy New Year, too!
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.
Lily has been pretty busy with softball lately. Yes, I know it’s December, but there’s really no off-season for us. Last weekend she participated in a free clinic put on by the Lake Superior State Lakers, where she practiced all aspects of the game. Also, during the week, Lily has some hitting clinics going on. They were very productive, as she was working one-on-one with Lakers head coach Lori Shimasaki. I could really see an improvement in her hitting over the past couple of weeks. Lily had a lot of fun, which is the important thing, and the clinics may start-up again after the first of the year.
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.
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 movieTiger 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.
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.