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!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Little Lakers Clinic #1

24507696902_c60b2f9ec7_zLake Superior State University-Sault Ste. Marie, MI: This week Brian was lucky enough to take part in a clinic hosted by the Lake Superior State softball team. Since we don’t have a baseball team up here, the girls are gracious enough to invite the boys to join in, and get taught all aspects of the game.  He had a chance to show off his batting skills in the cage, and really stroked the ball well. He also was given good instruction on his throwing and catching mechanics, which is something he needed. Brian was also given the chance to break in his new catchers gear that he got for his birthday.  He had a lot of fun and was able to learn some new techniques to help out his game.  The players area always really nice to him and he loves spending time with his ‘friends’. The Lakers will be having two more clinics in both February and March that he plans to attend.

23989243423_7387122d49_z24599184456_2742cf2ccf_zPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

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

M.I.B. Prime 9: Our top moments of 2015

With time winding down on 2015, it’s time to look back and reflect on this past year. Due to a personal loss, we didn’t get to take in a ballpark tour this season, but that didn’t stop us from having some great times, and making some unforgettable memories. Every moment spent with my kids and dad are special, and it’s always difficult to narrow a list down and do every event justice.

Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake
Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake

9) Meeting Joey Pankake: Picking the #9 slot is sometimes harder than the #1, as it usually means that one special event is left out. I decided to go with Brian meeting his favorite player in Whitecaps’ second baseman Joey Pankake. We watched him on TV last year when he was playing his college ball with South Carolina, and were excited when the Tigers picked him up in the draft. Every Sunday home game the Whitecaps let the fans on the field to meet the players, so we took advantage of that. Joey was really nice to Brian, as he signed a program for him and got a picture. Times like this is what makes baseball fans.

17148118526_412fc48d08_z8) Back in Jax: While I was down in southern Georgia doing some training for work in April, I was able to take in a couple of Jacksonville Suns games. The Suns have a great venue, and a game here is always a great experience. Back in 2005 when I was down training for 18 weeks, I went to many games, and the Suns were a positive distraction from missing my kids back home. It was good to be back after a decade, and I hope I don’t have to wait that long to catch another game in Jacksonville.

16893076806_42ca3e5288_z7) Baseball in Michigan in March: This is an odd pick, I guess, for different reasons. For us, being able to watch live baseball in the month of March is amazing, and we were definitely lucky to be able to take a game as the Central Michigan Chippewas hosted the Ohio Bobcats. On a more somber note, this game was a chance for my dad and I to get out of town and away from things for an afternoon after my mom passed. She loved baseball and CMU, so this was a good place rehash some good memories of her.

19040155204_22d92329b2_z6) Star Wars Night: Although Star Wars Night usually ranks higher on our list, it shouldn’t take away how much fun we had. This season we were back at Fifth Third Ballpark to watch the Whitecaps and see some of our favorite Star Wars characters (we were in Lansing last season). Most of the main guys were there, except Boba Fett, which is a favorite of Trevor and I. This was our fifth year in a row for a Star Wars event, so I’m glad that we are keeping up the tradition. It will be interesting next season to see if any of the characters from the new movie show up. After all, the 18th is coming up fast…

21486574056_05198e7575_z5) Playoffs in West Michigan: In September I was able to cross one more thing off my baseball bucket list, attending my first ever playoff game. The Whitecaps were hosting the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League finals, and were down in the series 1-0. We were able to witness a late come-from-behind victory as the ‘Caps evened the series. It was one of those exciting, high-fiving-total strangers type of game, and it was amazing! West Michigan went on to win two out of three games in Cedar Rapids to secure the championship, and I feel privileged I could be part of the play off run.

19201290210_c58e17643c_z4) BTTF Night: This was a great night, and ranks so high probably because this was our first ever Back To The Future night event. Brian had an awesome night, and loved that he was able to sit in the Delorian, pretending to be bolted back to 1985. There was a BTTF theme throughout the Great Lakes Loons game, also, with music and games all relating to 1955, 1985, and 2015. Dow Diamond is one of the best ballparks in the minors, also, so just watching the ballgame is very enjoyable. And with a three hour drive before and after the game, was had plenty of time to watch all three BTTF movies during our trip.

IMG_24313) Brian’s Lugnuts Clinic: For a Little Leaguer having the chance to play some ball on a professional field is quite the experience. Brian was a little intimidated at first when he stepped onto the big field, and the fact that we live so far away he didn’t have any friends in the clinic. Once things got going, though, he was able to relax and just play and have fun, which is the important thing.  I hope this was a good experience for him, and that one day he can appreciate being taught the game by professional ballplayers and coaches. If nothing else, the Lugnuts certainly made another fan.

IMG_2559-02) Loons Fantasy Camp: This summer I was also able to live out a fantasy I’ve had since being Brian’s age, and that was playing baseball in a professional stadium. The Great Lakes Loons held a drawing to be able to play in a fantasy game at Dow Diamond, and I was lucky enough to secure a slot. The game was a lot of fun, and I hit the ball well each time up going 1-3. In the field at least I didn’t make any errors and a couple of plays. This was an amazing experience, and having the kids there to cheer me on was just awesome. If any other fans have the opportunity to play in one of these games, I highly recommend it.

17713796284_949ef5be80_z1) Coaching the Cubs: As usual, being able to coach one of my kids in Little League is always number one. Brian and I were members of the Cubs this season, and this was a great team full of great kids. Being able to spend time with him like this is a dream come true, and I love this age level, as I can nurture the kids love of the game while teaching them the basics.  No matter how long Brian decides to play this great sport, I will hold on to these years with all my heart and soul. Merry Christmas everyone, and  God Bless in the new year!

Photos 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