Late last month the Detroit Tigers Caravan pulled to a stop in Cadillac, Michigan. Attending the event was my dad, a fellow baseball fanatic and companion on the annual baseball trip. He was able to earn the right to attend the festivities by being named to citizen of the year after receiving the ‘Spirit of the Community’ award last summer. He was able to meet the players attending the event, and sit at the main table during the Chamber of Commerce ceremony. In the above picture, he’s with Quintin Berry, Drew Smyly, and Andy Dirks. Guests were not allowed to ask for autographs, but meeting the Tigers was a real thrill for him! All three players were great with all the baseball fans that showed up to support them. I’m very happy that my dad was able to be a part of this, and proud for all that he’s accomplished. He was given the award at last year’s Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner, and had no idea he had even been nominated. He was nominated for this due to all his selfless acts around the community, and all he’s done for charity. He’s been an active member of the Kiwanis Club for thirty years, and is a Big Brother to a local high school student. He helps his student with his homework, and takes him fun places like baseball games. As a member of Kiwanis, he works the concession stand at area athletics events to raise money, has helped to renovate the local children’s camp, and build local playgrounds. Instead of being honored to meet the Tigers, the players should have been honored to meet him!Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Although no players were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this season, the West Michigan Whitecaps will be. Holland, Michigan native, and former ‘Caps and Tigers pitcher Andy Van Hekken will be inducted during the Whitecaps Winter Banquet ceremonies on January, 23. Van Hekken pitched in West Michigan during the 2000 season, winning 16 games that is still tied for a team record. He still ranks in the top ten in team records for winning percentage at .727 (8th), ERA with 2.45 (8th), and the strikeouts to walk ratio at 3.41 (10th). Van Hekken made his major league debut for the Tigers in 2002, pitching a complete game shutout victory against the Cleveland Indians. He went 1-3 that season in five appearances, with a 3.00 ERA. He then spent the next two seasons in the Tigers farm system, as well as the systems for the Reds, Braves, Astros, and Royals in the following seasons. His latest stop is in Korea last season, playing for the Nexan Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization. Van Hekken will report back to the Heroes after the Banquet.
The Whitecaps Winter Banquet not only features the HOF induction, but dinner, a live auction, and guest speakers. This year, the guests will include Tigers President/CEO/General Manager Dave Dombrowski, outfielders Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks, and pitcher Drew Smyly. The proceeds from the banquet and auctions go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation, which in turn donates the funds to the YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program and the Detroit Tigers Foundation. The YMCA program, that is funded by the Whitecaps and Fifth Third Bank, provides about 1,900 children the chance to participate in a structured activity that provides guidance in their lives, per year. I would love to make it to this event at some point, but at $80 a ticket, it’s just to rich for my blood when you have three kids to bring along. This is a great event, though, for a great cause.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
The title pretty much says it all. With such a roller coaster ride in the regular season, it’s very gratifying to see the Tigers win the pennant and go back to the World Series. Although the bats were broke out in game 4, it was the starting pitching that really got this team here. The Yankees are not easy opponents, and two of the three games were won in extra innings. Yes I wanted the sweep, I wanted a route, but not because I’m a Yankee hater or anything. I simply respect the fact that they have the talent that can win, no matter what the score or the series. If the Tigers let up one bit, the Yanks might have extended this series. The 8-1 win gave Tiger fans a chance to relax just a little, and enjoy the road to the World Series in this one game. Of course the Tigers couldn’t have done it without a few former Whitecaps that worked their way up the chain to the big team’s roster. In yesterday’s game Avisail Garcia went 2-5 with an RBI, Omar Infante went 2-5 with two runs scored, and Andy Dirks was 3-5. Granted, without Miggy’s monster shot, Jhonny’s two homers, and the ACLS MVP Delmon Young, Detroit wouldn’t be celebrating tonight, but it’s still fun to see the young guys help out. At this point it looks like another showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals is destined…and remember, it’s the Tigers turn.
Last night the Detroit Tigers clinched the American League Central Division title by beating the Kansas City Royals 6-3. This is the Tigers second Central title in a row, and the 14th division title in their history. As the team picked by most experts and fans from the get-go, the Tigs didn’t make it easy on any of us, and floundered for most of the season around or under .500 before making a final push the last two months of the season. Miguel Cabrera had another big day, going 4-5 with a home run. He’s now batting .329 and is definitely one of the favorites for the MVP. Miggy’s 203 hits, 40 doubles, 44 homers, 137 RBI’s have been equaled only three times in history…twice by Lou Gehrig and once by Babe Ruth. That’s pretty good company, I’d say. It would also be unMIBy of me not to mention the former Whitecaps that are on this championship team, like Alex Avila, Omar Infante, Don Kelly, Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, Avisail Garcia, Brayan Villarreal, Louis Marte, and Luke Putkonen. There. Now all is right with the world for the time being… Good luck to the Tigers in the playoffs!
Congrats to outfielder Avisail Garcia, who became the 100th West Michigan Whitecaps alumni to play in Major League Baseball. He was called up to the Detroit Tigers Friday from the Double-A Erie Seawolves. He had a key RBI single in the Tigers 7-4 over the Chicago White Sox. He went 2-4 in last nights 4-2, and is now batting .429. Detroit would sweep the series, tying the ChiSox for first place in the AL Central Division. Garcia is the eight former Whitecap to be called up to a MLB team this season, with Tigers bringing up pitchers Casey Crosby, Luke Putkonen, Jose Ortega, and Thad Weber, as well as infielder Hernan Perez. Former Tigers 2007 Minor League Player of the year Gorkys Hernandez debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, and catcher Rob Brantly debuted with the Marlins after being traded to Miami this month. Speaking with MLive.com about the Whitecaps organization was Toby Harrah, former roving hitting instructor, and now assistant hitting coach with the Tigers. He had nothing but good things to say about the organization and quality of the ballpark, coaches, and front office.
“It’s the best environment in the world for playing,” Harrah stated. “It’s a great atmosphere for young prospects. It’s a big-league ballpark where everything is first class. It’s a great way to introduce kids to playing professional baseball.”
Thirteen ‘Caps alumni were even part of Detroit’s Central Division championship team last season, including Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch, Brandon Inge, Ramon Santiago, Andy Dirks, Ryan Raburn, Scott Sizemore, and Duane Below. The Tigers organization has also used some former West Michigan players for trade, gaining the likes of Miguel Cabrera for Cameron Maybin. Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki also spoke with MLive.com about the teams’ milestone.
“We’re proud of them,” said Jarecki. “A good percentage of players who’ve gone on to the majors started here. They put on a professional uniform for the first time here and they are always going to remember that. For us to know that many of them were in Whitecaps uniforms is something that we’re very proud of and lends a lot of credibility to our organization.”
As for Garcia, he was signed by the Tigers back in 2007, and played in West Michigan in 2009-10 as a teenager. He hit .281 in 2010 with 17 doubles and four home runs. With Boesch struggling this season, the right field position could be open if Garcia can make the best of his playing time, and help the Tigers to the playoffs.
Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press