I don’t say this too often, but the weather was perfect this weekend for some softball in Sault Ste. Marie. It had been just over a month since we’d been to a live ballgame, so when I learned that the Lakers were hosting Cornerstone University for some exhibition games, they became the priority of the weekend. It was a long day for the girls, as they played three games on Saturday. Brian joined me, and we saw bits and pieces of the first and third games, but saw the second game in its entirety. Because the games were exhibitions, I couldn’t find results or box scores for any of them. I know the Lakers won the second game, though, as they hit the ball well and produced some runs. They also played solid defense behind starting pitcher sophomore Jade Stein, who pitched a complete game. Brian and I had fun watching the games, and look forward to seeing the girls back in action at home this spring if the weather cooperates.
For the second season in a row, the West Michigan Whitecaps are left without a manager. Unlike last season, however, this change comes with a promotion. Larry Parrish (pictured), who led the ‘Caps to a 69-70 finish in the Midwest League, has been promoted to helm the Toledo Mud Hens in 2014. This isn’t his first experience with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate, as he managed Toledo in 1994 and from 2003-2010. Under Parrish, the Mud Hens won back to back Governor’s Cup (International League) championships in 2005 and 2006. Parrish has won more games for Toledo than any other manager at 569. It looks like three times a charm for him, as he has some great support from the parent club Tigers, as well as the Hens.
“As a manager, he’s a great teacher, and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” said Toledo’s general manager and team president Joe Napoli in a press release. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite, they will be glad to welcome him back.”
“He’s going to be missed,” stated Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki to MLive.com. “Having LP on board, he was a great guy on and off the field. He was great to work with and the guys really liked and respected him. Even though the record didn’t reflect it, the players gravitated to him and he was a great leader.”
This is a good move by the Tigers’ organization, and a deserved promotion for Parrish, as he’s already in the International League Hall of Fame. We already have a couple of dates circled on the calendar for season to watch the Mud Hens, so we’ll be seeing him again soon. Now…what about the Whitecaps? The Single-A affiliate is once again in need of a skipper, and it will be interesting to see who the Tigers will assign. I’ve written in the past how I think that Brandon Inge would be a good fit in West Michigan. The Tigers’ have basically stated that they’d like him back in the organization once his playing days are done, and Inge always said positive things about the ‘Caps. We’ll see if he retires at the end of the season, though, and if he shows interest in coaching. Jarecki aslo stated the Tigers should name the ‘Caps new manager sometime in early October, so the safer bet may be seeing the promotion of Connecticut Tigers manager Andrew Graham. He has been at the helm of the C-Tigers for the last three seasons, and before that coached the Gulf Coast League Tigers from 2009-2010. He also served as the Tigers minor league catching coordinator during the 2010 season. This season, Graham led Connecticut to a 33-42 finish, good for third place in the New York-Penn League‘s Stedler Division. He is also a Tigers product, getting drafted by Detroit in 2003, and was a catcher in the organization from 2003-2008. A native of Sydney, Australia, Graham also played in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. I’ll be keeping a close eye on who gets the West Michigan job. The Whitecaps have missed the playoffs the last three season, so whoever is chosen I hope they can break that streak in 2014.
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Devon Travis, who has split time between the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lakeland Flying Tigers, has been named the Detroit Tigers Minor League Player of the Year. He hit .351, with 16 home runs, 76 RBI’s, 28 doubles, four triples, and stole 22 bases between the Midwest and Florida State League. The 22-year-old second baseman was a 13th-round pick of Detroit in 2012, then playing collegiate ball for the Florida State Seminoles. Travis was also the MVP of the Midwest League All-Star Game in June, and was named a MWL post-season All-Star. He will suit up with six other Tigers’ prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League in October. It will be fun to track his progress, and see what level he starts out in next season.
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West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)Cooley Law School Stadium–Lansing, MI: Both the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lansing Lugnuts missed the playoffs this season, but ended 2013 with their in-state rivalry. Despite the ‘Caps having a better record this season, the Lugnuts have had their number, and that includes taking 2/3 in the final series. In the first game, the Whitecaps made a gallant come-back attempt, only to lose in a walk-off in the ninth. Jake Stewart and Bennett Pickar hit back-to-back singles, when the Lugnuts brought in Arik Sikula to close the game. Sikula threw a wild pitch and had a passed ball, though, that scored Stewart. Then David Gonzalez hit a triple, scoring the pinch-runner Harold Castro to tie the game. The ‘Caps celebration was short-lived, however, as a walk and two singles gave Lansing the win, and Corey Knebel his only loss of the season. Kevin Patterson hit the winning RBI in the 5-4 win for the Lugnuts. The second game of the series was a complete rout for the Whitecaps, winning the game 13-1. The ‘Caps scored five runs in both the third and fourth innings, one in the sixth, and two in the eighth with 19 total hits. Jared Reaves led the way going 4-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. Raph Rhymes went 3-4 with a double and two runs scored. Connor Harrell and Jake Stewart each contributed with three RBI’s each. On the mound, West Michigan was just as dominant. Calvin Drummond earned the win, going five innings, giving up only three hits, and striking out four. Kramer Chaplin took the loss for Lansing. The final game of the series, and of the season, went to the hometown Lugnuts by the score of 9-4. The Whitecaps had a 4-0 lead at one point, but surrendered nine streight to the ‘Nuts. Jeff Holm, Pickar, Castro, and Jason King each had two hits in the loss. Daniel Klein led the way for Lansing, going 3-4 with two doubles, two RBI’s, and a run scored. Relief pitcher Yorfrank Lopez took the loss, giving up six hits and five runs in just over an inning of work, while Ian Kadish earned the win for Lansing.
Lucky for me, I had a buddy from work attend one of the games and get this photo for me. It will be a long nine or so months before seeing baseball again for sure. We’ll try to get to Lansing next season of the weather cooperates, and we’ll hit a few Whitecaps games for sure, including the Midwest League All-Star game hopefully.
Photo courtesy of B. Faulkner
Wuerfel Park–Traverse City, MI: Here in TC, back on Family Fun Night. It was all about family, too, as my mom (the kids’ Nana) was able to make a rare appearance at the ballpark. The kids always enjoy the game better with their Papa and Nana…probably because they get spoiled. We opted for the lawn seats again, and Brian was happy to have plenty of playground time. After the game though, he was like: “I haven’t even watched much baseball yet! We can’t leave!” Anyway, this will be a short entry, as this was probably our last game of the season, unless we make it down for a playoff game. Not much excited happened, other than relaxing and watching baseball. Lily and Trevor patrolled the foul area a bit, but nothing hit our way. It’s didn’t take as many pictures either, but just wanted to soak it all in until next year.
The game itself was another good one for us. On the mound for the Beach Bums, Jake Sabol held the Cornbelters scoreless in seven innings of work. He struck out five, walking none, and only giving up six hits. The TC offense wasted no time, either, as Ryan Still scored on a sac fly by Jose Vargas in the first inning. The Bums’ bats came alive again in the third, as Vargas doubled, and then scored on a Chase Burch triple. Zach Kometani scored Burch, to put his team up 3-0 at that point. In the fifth inning, Traverse City added to its lead, with Burch and Kometani adding another RBI each, and Burch scoring a run. Another good win by the Beach Bums, and we’ll be following them through their play off run. Final Score: Beach Bums 6, Cornbelters 1.
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Back, again, just north of Grand Rapids for our last Whitecaps game of the season. A very bitter-sweet moment, but so much going on at this game, I’m not sure where to start. First, Brian was happy they had a ‘bounce castle’ set up in the parking lot. We didn’t have much time for him to play, but he still was able to bounce around for a little while before we made our way into the stadium. Upon entry, each of us received a free mini-bat, to commemorate the ‘Caps 20th season of play. Brian has been collecting the bats lately, so more for him. It was super hero night at the ballpark, just like in Battle Creek last month, but the only ones dressed up were the Whitecaps’ on-field staff. Still, some of them has some cool outfits. We were at the ballpark early, so we saw the Captains take some batting practice, and waited for the home team to hit the field for their warm-ups. We went down to field level, where we met former Tigers’ relief pitcher, and current ‘Caps pitching coach, Mike Henneman. He was nice enough to sign a baseball card for Brian (a future hurler, himself!). Before the game got underway, we were also entertained by team Ghostrider: basically monkeys riding around on dogs. They would appear a few time throughout the game, herding goats and riding away. When monkeys act like cowboys, everybody wins! It didn’t take the kids long to get hungry, and Lily, Brian, and their Papa stuck with traditional hot dogs. Trevor and I, however, wanted to try the Baco! We made our way through the concourse, and with a sold-out crowd we were moving slowly. We took a break, though, to check out the Whitecaps 2007 Midwest League Championship trophy that was on display. The team was also celebrating the championship during this game, too. We finally made it to the other side of the ballpark to get our Bacos. Trevor didn’t care for it too much, but I thought it was pretty good. Not worth $6 each, but had to do it. Unfortunately the Whitecaps has some of the slowest concessions ever, so we missed a good chunk of the game waiting in line. We decided to head back to our seats through the lower bowl, which was a good idea because Trevor got a foul ball that bounced our way. We were finally able to sit down and enjoy the rest of the game, which was a good one. The ‘Caps also provided post-game fireworks that the kids really love, too. It was a hectic night all around, and sold-out crowds will do that, but still hard to wrap my head around the fact it will be a minimum of nine months before I’m enjoying baseball at Fifth-Third Ballpark again!
Like I stated, the game between the ‘Caps and the Captains was a good one. West Michigan was down 2-0 in the third, but busted out for three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Connor Harrell and David Gonzales started it off with a pair of singles, then Lake County started walking some batters. The Whitecaps scored two runs on walks, then Jason King hit a sac fly for the third run. In the fourth inning, Jeff Holm hit a solo shot to put the ‘Caps up 4-2. West Michigan concluded the scoring in the eighth inning, when Lance Durham hit his team leading 14th home run, after King singled. On the hill for West Michigan, Edgar De La Rosa pitched a solid game, only giving up the two runs in six innings of work. He struck out four and didn’t walk any of the Lake County hitters. The bullpen finished the job, throwing four shutout innings, with Corey Knebel closing the door in the ninth. Holm lead the offense going 2-4, and Gonzalez went 2-3. Final Score: Whitecaps 6, Captains 2.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Castellanos gets the call: After toiling in the Minors the last few seasons, top Tigers’ prospect Nick Castellanos finally got the call to the big club yesterday. He came into the game to play left field, and went 0-2 at the plate. No worries, though, as none of the Tigers’ bats were working in a 4-0 loss to Cleveland. He was doing fine at the dish in Toledo, however, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI’s for the Triple-A affiliate. Castellanos was drafted by Detroit as a third-baseman in 2010, but was moved to the outfield in 2012.
“I could hit .900 with 100 home runs and I still was not going to play third base in Detroit”, he stated to the AP. But he did look at the move as a positive one and a “very good thing” because “they saw me moving here in the future.” He also stated about the position change: “I was new to everything. I was new to reads off the bat, line drives that stay true and line drives that have topspin down. I was pretty rough with having wall awareness.” He also credits Gene Roof, Detroit’s roving minor league outfield and base running coordinator for taking the time to work with him. “Without him, I wouldn’t be in this locker room.”
Castellanos played for the West Michigan Whitecaps during the 2011 season, when he was just 19 years-old. He hit .312, with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s. Now, at the ripe ol’ age of 21, he’s being brought up to the bigs in the mist of a playoff race.
“I’m extremely fortunate to be able, first of all, to get call up, and second of all to be called up in a situation like this, where we’re playing for something,” he stated. “So I’m just going to take everything in, I’m going to learn as much as I can, and I’m going to enjoy the ride because it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
We wish the best of luck to Castellanos, who’s pictured above with Lily. If he makes it big, that baseball he signed for her will be something to treasure!
Travis named MWL post-season All-Star: Former Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis, who was call up to the Lakeland Flying Tigers in July, has been named to the Midwest League post-season All-Star team for 2013. Only one player for each position is chosen, so it’s an honor to be picked as that one best player. He’s earned it, too, hitting .352, with 17 doubles, six home runs, 42 RBI’s, and 14 stolen bases, in only 77 games. Before being promoted to Class-A Advanced Florida State League, he was leading the MWL with 102 hits, games played, and a .982 fielding percentage. He also participated in the Midwest League All-Star game in June, being named the MVP after hitting a three-run triple while going 2-2. Travis is also the owner of the longest hitting streak in Whitecaps history, by hitting safely in 21 consecutive game from April 21-May 12. I was happy I could watch Travis play before his promotion, and we’ll be following him as he moves up in the system. The only other player from a Michigan based team to be named to the All-Star team was relief pitcher Geoff Brown, with the Great Lakes Loons. The Loons are also the only team to make the playoffs, so we’ll be keeping track of their bid for the championship, also. If they can just hold secure a home game for next weekend….
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball