Category Archives: Minor Leagues

Whitecaps SnOwpening Day

West Michigan Whitecaps vs. South Bend Cubs (Midwest League)

26271459721_828e34229b_zFifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI:  For our last game in Michigan for awhile, mother nature really dumped on us, and it’s hard not to take this personally.  For the Whitecaps home opener, it was a balmy 36 degrees, but honestly at least the sun was out and the game wasn’t cancelled.  We wanted to make sure we were one of the first 1,000 through the gate, so we could claim our replica 2015 Midwest League championship rings.

26245268852_efa26afb62_zUnfortunately, do to the field conditions and cold, they cancelled the on field catch and autograph session.  They never opened the play ground, either, and really cheesed Brian off.  At least we were able to see all three of the ‘Caps mascots one more time, as they entertained the kids until game time.

Brian with Roxy the River Rascal

Brian with Roxy the River Rascal

Brian and I with Frankie the Swimming Pig

Brian and I with Frankie the Swimming Pig

And, finally, Brian with Crash the River Rascal

And, finally, Brian with Crash the River Rascal

The team also had all six of West Michigan’s Midwest League championship trophies on display.  The time finally passed, and while we were basking in the sun, the club had a little presentation of the newest trophy.

26337666795_068f5926a5_z25734786193_8f9e331a28_z26245282022_25139fe837_z26064680710_235428d9eb_zBefore the game, we took a walk over to watch the ‘Caps warm up, and I got a couple of pics of starting pitcher Matt Hall (22) and outfielder Cam Gibson (23), son of Tiger great Kirk Gibson.

26311617146_c777c62c3c_z26311607796_ceace1f58c_zAs you can see, the Whitecaps have added extended netting all the way across the dugout, and this really screws up my world as a baseball fan. Watching and trying to take pictures through this netting simply sucks, in my opinion.  I do understand it’s for safety, but if some fans can’t keep off their iPhones during gameplay, or have small children, they need to pay attention or sit in a less dangerous area.

26064633790_45b3c7d64c_z26271289861_4632a6afc9_zDue to the cold, the game itself seemed to be a little sloppy, although a few of the batters were given an ‘hit’ on a ball that would probably normally be an error.  The Whitecaps could seem to get a big hit with players in scoring position either, with Brett Pirtle scoring their first run on a passed ball.  On the bump, Hall pitched four innings, giving up one run on five hits, while striking out two.  Relief pitcher Toller Boardman gave up three runs for West Michigan to take the loss, however.

25732821424_b908389aa7_z26271281021_8134d034ef_zTrailing 5-1 going into the ninth, the ‘Caps made it a little interesting, score a pair of runs, but it was too little too late. Offensively, Pirtle ended up going 1-3 with a walk and two runs scored.  First baseman Will Allen and left fielder Rashad Brown each went 2-4, with Allen adding an RBI.  I also had to take another walk to find a place for a few more photo not obstructed by the netting.  Final: Whitecaps 3, Cubs 5.

26337529165_9c42ff695a_z26064601490_8e1bbb2ee5_zDespite the cold and the everything, it was still a fun day at the ballpark.  Again, the watching the game through all that netting isn’t as enjoyable, and Brian was bummed all game that they never opened the playground, but still a better time than doing anything anywhere else.  We’ll be pretty busy the next couple of weeks, and can’t wait to be settled and at home in a new ballpark.  I’ll sign off for now with a video of the game:

Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball

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Dive in! Loons unveil new logo and uniforms

24728421270_65a8aab510_zDow Diamond-Midland, MI: On Saturday the Great Lakes Loons kicked off their 10th season with an event to unveil their new logo and uniforms.  The concourse at Dow Diamond was able to be enclosed, and we were able to enjoy the presentation, along with all of the other activities, in relative comfort.  The presentation started with a video that showed some of the highlights of the first nine seasons of Loons baseball.  Then the new logos were revealed, all together, and then they went over each one. My favorite is probably the Loon with the fishing hat. In won’t show each one individually, but you can see them all between the top and lower photo of Brian and I.

24714864210_8c7e766061_zWe also got a good look at all of the new Loons uniforms that the team will be wearing when they take the field this season. Here are the road uniforms:

24397080303_ca8278a61f_zHere are the alternate uniforms, and these are my favorite:

24728399220_c1bf41683f_zAnd finally, the new home uniforms, along with the mascots’ new look, also:

24728392130_589b5b0f93_z24397018583_b048aaffdf_zThe mascots, Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel, did a nice job of getting around and spending some time with the kids and older fans alike.

24984045476_d49d584793_z24984046986_93f2ad6f3d_kAlso on hand for the event, the Loons hired fire-twirling-guys and some guys-juggling-on-stilts-guys. They were a big hit, and the fire guy even did some sword swallowing. Creepy…

24714934060_61f0a03537_z24905813512_1c6c5ac9d8_zAnd what kid doesn’t like to get his face painted? Especially of the American Flag…that’s my boy! And just for the heck of it, a look at a snowy Dow Diamond.

24984045256_d6b9016bc9_z24642739169_3b25b97357_zWe ended the day both taking some cuts in the batting cages. Brian and I were both able to experience this back when I played the fantasy game here, but it’s always fun to get some swings in, especially in winter when it’s -15 outside!

24984040016_6100fa1bf7_z25023805965_560398c4c1_zAnd for the grand finale, if Brian’s baseball career doesn’t take off, he could always make it as an announcer or color commentary…

Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

 

 

 

Ballpark Review: Louisville Slugger Field

24623710006_defb0a449c_zPlanning our baseball trip for this coming summer, we decided to once again make a stop at Louisville Slugger Field in Kentucky. Our last trip there was way back in 2009, a tour that took to South Bend, Indianapolis, Louisville, Fort Wayne, then back to Michigan with Lansing in a nice clean loop. Unfortunately, shortly after that trip the chip that all the photos were saved on became ‘corrupted’ and I lost all but a very few I had already posted way back when I first started M.I.B.  I did, however, find a few photos that my dad took using ‘film’.  This ‘film’, as it’s called, somehow stores pictures in this little plastic thing, and then he has to take it to a store, and actually WAIT to see what they look like. Can you imagine having to wait over an hour to see the pictures you took?  Anyway, here are a few that I was able to find, and Louisville Slugger Field is a great place to watch a ballgame.  I wish I could have found one of the stadium’s façade, as it’s built into an old rain station and is absolutely amazing.  Instead we’ll have to settle for a couple of a very young Trevor before he became taller that his dad.  The ballpark is pretty big, with an area out in left field where concerts and parties can take place, rides for the kids, and a playground down the left field line. I really like that parents can see the game from the playground area, so we don’t miss anything while the kids are letting off a little steam.  I even caught a foul ball there while Trevor was busy playing.  I really liked that the concourse wraps all the way around the stadium, also.  There’s not a bad seat in the house, although the seats are structured at such an angle that the ones higher up do feel like your off the field a little too much, but with a larger Triple-A stadium it’s not unexpected.  The overhanging seats from the sky boxes don’t give off much shade, either, so if you see a day game in the summer time, you’re going to be getting plenty of sun.

24023119493_d1c1620dd5_zI really recommend seeing a game here for anyone in the area, and can’t wait to return this summer.  The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is located just down the street, also, so plenty to do in this area.  This summer, our plan is to see games in Louisville, Nashville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Florence.  This should be a great trip if the weather is nice, and will include the South Atlantic League All-Star game in Lexington.  I actually would have hoped to be transferred to Kentucky by, but things move slowly (if it happens at all…) and if a miracle happens, I’ll already be settled there and ready to go!

A younger Trevor and I at Louisville Slugger Field in 2009

A younger Trevor and I at Louisville Slugger Field in 2009

24023117243_4115dc6626_zPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

UPDATE: This will be my new home field by this spring!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Kelly & Maybin join Whitecaps HOF

This is a switch, we met Don Kelly while with the Tigers, instead of back when he was with the Whitecaps!

This is a switch, we met Don Kelly while with the Tigers, instead of back when he was with the Whitecaps!

Tonight the West Michigan Whitecaps will add two more players to it’s prestigious Hall of Fame, as alumni Don Kelly and Cameron Maybin return to Grand Rapids for the 22nd annual Whitecaps Community Foundation Winter Baseball Banquet. Maybin is returning to the Tigers organization after being traded to the Marlins in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. He was a first-round pick of the Tigers in 2005, playing his first full pro season in West Michigan in 2006, hitting .304 with nine home runs, 69 RBI’s, and 27 stolen bases. Maybin also played in the 2006 MLB All-Star Futures Game, and help lead the ‘Caps to the 2006 Midwest League Championship while being named MWL Prospect of the Year.

Kelly played for the Whitecaps way back in 2002, and was an 8th round pick of Detroit in 2001. He went on to hit .286 with 59 RBI’s, and was also the starting shortstop in the Midwest League All-Star Game that season. Kelly is mostly known for being a super-utility player, and has seen action at every position on the field, including pitching an inning or two. Other ‘Caps alumni scheduled to be at tonight’s banquet are Wynton Bernard, Nick Castellanos, Jeff Ferrell, Montreal Robinson off of the Tigers’ Caravan. Other Tiger players, coaches, and personnel that will be there include Al Alvila, Alan Trammell, Matt Boyd, Tyler Collins, Michael Fulmer, Anthony Gose, Shane Greene, Blaine Hardy, Bryan Holaday, Jose Iglasias, Mark Lowe, Drew VerHagen, Alex Wilson, Wally Joyner, and Omar Vizquel. That’s a lot of baseball guys under one roof, and one day when I win the Powerball I’ll be able to get tickets for the kids and I too attend. The Whitecaps Community Foundation does a lot of good in the Grand Rapids area, though, so it’s nice to know the money is being well spent.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Maybin returns to Tigers

23165167916_0238810b6a_zJust when I start complaining that the Tigers keep trading away some of my favorite prospects and Whitecaps alumni, they do something like this. And totally redeem themselves! Friday night Detroit acquired Cameron Maybin from the Atlanta Braves for relief pitcher Ion Krol and Gabe Speier. With the loss of Rajai Davis to free agency, Maybin fills that gap nicely as he can play for center and left field.  He had the best season of his Major League career in 2015, batting .267, with 10 home runs, 59 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases. Maybin was originally dealt to the Florida/Miami Marlins in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers in 2007, so there’s no way I can complain about how that deal turned out! Speier did pitch in 33 games for West Michigan this season, however, posting a 2.86 ERA while earning four wins, to two losses.  We wish the best to both he and Krol with the Braves organization.

A Whitecaps program that Maybin was nice enough to sign for us in 2006.

A Whitecaps program that Maybin was nice enough to sign for us in 2006.

Maybin played with the Whitecaps during the 2006 season, helping the team win the Midwest League Championship. He hit .304, with 20 doubles, with 69 RBI’s and 27 stolen bases on the season. I wasn’t running the blog back then, and didn’t think to take any pictures of the kids with him (and no camera on my phone, either…), but Maybin was nice enough to sign some items for us. He signed a baseball card each for Lily and Trevor (Brian wasn’t even BORN yet…), and a Whitecaps ball and program. He was really nice to the kids then, and we’ve continued to be fans and track his career. It’s good to have him home, back in Detroit, and I hope he can contribute and help the Tigers return to their winning ways.

23165167596_d66c608334_zPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

Bye, bye, Betancourt

Betancourt and I at the MWL All-Star game in 2014. Now he's with the Brewers.

Betancourt and I at the MWL All-Star game in 2014. Now he’s with the Brewers.

Well, this is like Deja Vu all over again, as the Detroit Tigers organization has traded away one of my favorite prospects and former West Michigan Whitecap Javier Betancourt. I went through this a year ago when the Tigers shipped Devon Travis off to Toronto for Anthony Gose. I know this is a business, and the organization is making deals to better itself and be competitive for the 2016 season, but I’ve seen many of my favorite Whitecaps get traded away over the years. As a fan, it’s simply easier to invest in players that you’ve met and seen play live many times. Also, as a former second-baseman myself, they tend to be my favorites to track up through the system. Players like Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, Brandon Douglas, Betancourt, and most recently Joey Pankake, have patrolled second base at Fifth Third Ballpark, and I’d hope to see do the same at Comerica Park in TV. Sizemore had his chance, but was dealt after the fact, and many don’t even make it that far. Henry has come back to the organization as a scout, so I guess that could be considered a victory, right?

betancourt1As for Betancourt, he’s now with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and in return the Tigers received a much needed closer in RHP Francisco Rodriquez (K-Rod). The Brewers will also receive a player-to-be-named-later, as will the Tigers, possibly, well, that’s not guaranteed, I guess. Detroit signed Betancourt as non-drafted free-agent in 2011. With the Whitecaps in 2014, he hit .269, with 18 doubles and 54 RBIs, and was a Midwest League All-Star as the youngest player in the league. This past season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, he hit .263, with 17 doubles and 48 RBIs. Known for his above-average defense, he was also considered a hard worker by coaches, and a good teammate by his peers. We wish him all the best in Milwaukee, and say ‘hi’ to former Whitecaps Hernan Perez and Corey Knebel for us…

Photos property of Minoring in Baseball

Whitecaps ballpark wins Award

21325906459_c2102af5c5_zAwards just keep coming the way of the West Michigan Whitecaps, this time with their home field getting the nod. Fifth Third Ballpark has received Ballpark Digest’s Best Ballpark Improvements Award for 2015. This is an impressive feat, especially since the ballpark wasn’t selected from just Minor League teams, but stadiums hosting Major League, Independent Pro, and summer college teams, also. Here’s the official page, off of the Ballpark Digest website:

2015 Best Ballpark Improvements: West Michigan Whitecaps

After the fire that devastated a good portion of Fifth Third Ballpark in January of 2014, the Whitecaps used the opportunity to renovate along with the rebuild the last couple of seasons. This is definitely one of my favorite ballparks, and one of my favorite places to be in this world with my family. If you want to see for yourself, check this out:

Google Virtual tour of Fifth Third Ballpark

I can see myself taking the tour quite often this winter, wishing that I was in the stands soaking up the sunshine. However, if we had baseball all year ’round, and our winters weren’t so brutal, we wouldn’t appreciate summer and baseball season as much. Congrats to the Whitecaps for this honor.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

 

Whitecaps win MiLBy Award

The West Michigan Whitecaps are winners again, this time in the annual MiLBy Awards. The ‘Caps organization won the award for Best Blooper based in this video:

Always good press for West Michigan, and makes me miss baseball season even more. Time to start the countdown until April!

Video courtesy of the Whitecaps/MiLB.com

Jimenez and Gerber honored by Tigers

21325734839_de4b417391_zThe Detroit Tigers have named Joe Jimenez as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and outfielder Mike Gerber Player of the Year. Both players laced up their cleats in West Michigan this season, and both were instrumental in the Whitecaps winning the Midwest League Championship. The 20-year-old Jimenez posted a 1.47 ERA in 40 games with the ‘Caps this season, earning five wins and 17 saves. He struck out 71 batters in 43 innings of work, with a 0.79 WHIP. His 97-98 mph fastball and nasty slider made him the ‘Caps ‘go-to’ guy in late innings, especially in the playoffs. Jimenez was the Tigers’ lone representative at the All-Star Futures game this past July in Cincinnati, and will head back to his home of Puerto Rico to play winter ball.

19382532142_e7bd8a82c5_zGerber hit .292 this season in West Michigan, smacking 13 home runs and 76 RBI’s. He also added 31 doubles, 74 runs scored, and swiped 13 bases with a .822 OPS playing in 135 games this season. He also played eight games with the Whitecaps in 2014, hitting an impressive .387 with five RBI’s. Gerber, 22, was drafted by the Tigers in last seasons’ MLB Amateur Draft out of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, in the 15th round. Ranked number 18 on Detroit’s prospect list, he’ll join fellow Whitecaps’ alums Austin Kubitza (last season’s Pitcher of the Year), Montreal Robertson, Dominic Ficociello (recently awarded a MiLB Gold Glove with a .996 fielding %), and Adam Ravenelle in the Arizona Fall League.  JaCoby Jones will also be representing the Tigers as a member of the AFL’s Scottsdale Scorpions. It was fun to watch Jimenez and Gerber play for West Michigan this season, and I’ll enjoy watching them climb the latter up the organization.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

So long, Sand Gnats

21852809652_cfb7d1b148_zWith the conclusion of the 2015 Minor League Baseball season, so comes the end of the franchise of the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League. The Sand Gnats played in one of my favorite ballparks, Historic Grayson Stadium. Having been built in 1927, you can really feel the history and ghosts of baseball past as you enter the gate. Unfortunately, the owners believed that the age of the ballpark and it’s 4,000 capacity was no longer conductive to a Single-A baseball team. When the city of Savannah made the decision not to build a new stadium, the owners made the decision to move the team to Columbia, South Carolina to become the Fireflies. Here are some nice ballpark photos HERE at one of my favorite websites.

21676884158_701763ee5c_zI’m disappointed that the Sand Gnats are leaving, because they are one of the reasons that I love Minor League Baseball. It was ten years ago, the summer of 2005 that revived my love of baseball. I was down training in southern Georgia, and we were able to make it to a few Gnats games, as well as the Jacksonville Suns in northern Florida. I really did fall in love with the stadium for the reasons I stated above. Not only did great players take the field at Grayson in their Minor League days, but the fans there love to tell stories of the Major League teams stopping in for some games on their way north after spring training. I was lucky enough to take in another couple of games back in June of 2009 (about a month before I started this blog) when I was down that way for some more work-related training in Charleston, SC and Savannah. The photos posted are from those games against the River Dogs with a disposable camera, which can explain the very low quality of them. I was also down south there this April, but unfortunately the Gnats were out of town the entire time I was there. I really hope they can get another pro team in Savannah, because it’s definitely one of the more beautiful places I’ve ever visited, and I plan on going there again when I get a chance. Well, so long Sand Gnats, I will miss you when I go back there, for your historic ballpark, awesome logo, and cool mascot (Gnate the Gnat)

21243673163_a7c1ce3cc7_zPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

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