The Detroit Tigers were a busy bunch at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski traded away a few more West Michigan Whitecaps alumni, trying to build a team to win the World Series in 2015. The price was steep, and we fans had to say goodbye to some solid young ballplayers. Before the meetings even began, the Tigers traded away middle-infielder Domingo Leyba, along with pitcher Robbie Ray, to the Arizona Diamondbacks in three-way deal that brought starting pitcher Shane Greene from the New York Yankees. The 19-year-old prospect hit .397 in 30 games for the Whitecaps this season, after being promoted from Class-A SS Connecticut Tigers when short-stop Willy Adames was traded late last season to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The second trade involving some West Michigan alumni, had another middle-infielder in Eugenio Suarez and starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford shipped to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon. As a rookie, Suarez hit .242 with four home runs, and 23 RBI’s last season in 85 games with Detroit. In 2012 with the Whitecaps, Suarez batted .288 with 34 doubles and 67 RBI’s. His .947 fielding percentage helped him win a Minor League Baseball Gold Glove at short-stop (.971 at short, and his fielding percentage was 1.000 at second base). Crawford was a first round draft pick by Detroit in 2013. He pitched for the ‘Caps this season, going 8-3 with a 2.85 ERA, and was the starting pitcher for the East at the Midwest League All-Star Classic played at Fifth Third Ballpark.
The Tigers also lost former Whitecaps pitcher Alex Burgos in the Triple-A/Double-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The 24-year-old hurler saw action in Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo, but mostly with the Flying Tigers earning a 4.26 ERA. He suited up for the ‘Caps in 2011, pitching to a 6-5 record and a 2.19 ERA. We were able to see him pitch on Star Wars night that season. Two other former ‘Cap pitchers, Edgar De La Rosa and Montreal Robertson were spared in the Major League portion of the draft. We wish the best of luck to all of the players we were lucky enough to watch in West Michigan.
Affiliate: Chicago Cubs
Home Field: Four Winds Field
League: Midwest League (Single-A)
Notable Alumni: Justin Upton, Brandon Webb
Fun Facts: One of the teams we hope to see next summer is the South Bend Cubs. South Bend came into the Midwest League in 1988, as the South Bend Silver Hawks, named after the Studebakers that were once produced in the city. They started out as affiliates of the Chicago White Sox, and became a long time affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks (17 years!). In September, the franchise announced they signed a four year affiliation with the Chicago Cubs, and changed the team name accordingly. The franchise has won the Midwest League Championship on three occasions: 1989, 1993, and 2005. We were able to watch the Silver Hawks back in 2009, before they chanced the stadium name from Coveleski Stadium to Four Wings Field. The franchise has made some great improvements to the ballpark in the last five years we’re looking forward to also. The new logo was just released this afternoon, and I’m sure the boys, as Cubs fans, will be begging for some merchandise.
Lake County Captains vs. South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest League)
Classic Park-Eastlake, OH: All I can say about Classic Park, is that it is truly a classic! We still arrived at the ballpark plenty early, despite a busy day in Cleveland, so we decided to play a little catch in the parking lot until more cars started to arrive. I really like how the parking is set up, with the large parking area across the street, and the have a bridge so fans can walk across the busy highway. I took a photo from the top of the bridge above. There was a line up to get in because it was free hat night, so we waited patiently in line and finally made it into the park. The layout and concourse are very nice, but I was disappointed the gift shop didn’t sell any team pennants, as I collect those and decorate Brian’s room with them. Our seats were right behind the Captains dugout, so we had a great view of the action. The Captains mascot, Skipper, waddled by a few times. I’m really not sure what he is, but he seemed to be pretty entertaining.
The Captains were taking on the Silver Hawks, who the Whitecaps just edged out for Eastern Divisions’ top spot in the first half. The Hawks were still a pretty good team, so the home town boys had their work cut out for them. It was also raining lightly to begin the game, but both teams just played through it like it wasn’t there, and we were right there with them enjoying the action. This ballpark has such a great look and baseball atmosphere, that we really didn’t notice anything but the game going on anyway. Unfortunately for the Lake County fans, the Hawks were off to a 4-0 lead early, and the Captains couldn’t get anything going offensively.
The rain ended up letting up, and it became an extremely beautiful night. Since it was a free hat giveaway, I thoroughly supported the Captains, and took a quick selfie between innings, showing off the new lid.
With the score still a little lopsided, I decided to explore this amazing ballpark a little bit more. The concourse doesn’t go all the way around the outfield, but it’s pretty close, which allowed me to get some decent photos from out there.
In right field, there is a wall dedicated to all of the players who have suited up for the Captains that are now in the majors. I’m sure this includes the franchises time in the South Atlantic League!
Out in center field, the Captain himself was trying to rally his troops! Lake County did finally get one across the plate, when short stop Ivan Castillo scored on an Eric Haase RBI. Center fielder Clint Frazier went 2-4 on the night for the Captains, also. Too bad for Cap that South Bend answered their lone run with three of their own in the ninth.
In all, this was a great baseball experience. A great ballpark with some great fans. The Captains put on a spectacular show, and win or lose, it’s a very satisfying night. Along with all of our other adventures of the day, this was a perfect way to end it. This one’s highly recommended, also, baseball fans. Final: Captains 1, Silver Hawks 8.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
The Arizona Diamond Backs have purchased the contract of hurler Johnny Omahen from the Traverse City Beach Bums. In his first and only season of indepandant league baseball, Omahen went 8-9, with a 3.37 ERA in 21 starts. He also led the Traverse City squad in strike-outs with 78, only gave up two home runs, and his 115 innings pitched were a personal best. The right-hander was the second man in the Bums rotation, just behind Frontier League All-Star Scott Dunn. This will be Omahen’s second stint in affiliated baseball, being drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2011 out of California State University San Marcos. His pro career started with the Gulf Coast League Marlins, then the Jupiter Hammerheads, going 4-1 with an impressive 1.94 ERA in 41.2 innings, while only surrendering one home run. He was released after a rough season with the Greensboro Grasshopper in 2012, where he went 1-5 with a 5.24 ERA. Miami’s loss was the Beach Bums gain, however, and now the Diamond Backs. The Beach Bums COO Jason Wuerfel will miss Omahen in their rotation, but seems to wish him the best.
“While it’s tough to lose a pitcher of Johnny’s caliber,” Wuerfel stated on the Beach Bums website, “we are pleased to see his ability recognized. He’s a first class young man.”
There’s a chance we might see him in the Midwest League this season, with Arizona’s affiliate the South Bend Silver Hawks. If we do, we’ll certainly wish him our best.
Photo courtesy of the Frontier League
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.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: Well, my ex was actually nice enough to drive my kids down state so they could join us for our last game of the trip. I was so happy to be reunited with my babies again, you have no idea!!!! My mom was able to join us, too, for this game, and due to medical reasons this is her first game in some time. It was Sunday, so that meant family day, and the kids could get in free with their Crash’s Kids Club passes. We were also able to get on the field to get some autographs and pics with some of the players and mascots. Brian loves to see Crash and Frankie, and the players are great with all of the fans, especially the kids. It was still extremely hot, but I had the foresight to get us seats under the over-hang and out of the sun. The kids still spent some time on the playground, though. The Whitecaps fell behind 4-0, but battled back on home runs by Dean Green and Steven Moya. Kyle Ryan pitched for the ‘Caps, and did a solid job. This game was so much fun, and it’s just one of those days that you’re so thankful for. This was the perfect finale for our 2012 baseball trip. We have more games on tap for this season, but will start looking into potential trips for next year. Final: Whitecaps 5, Silver Hawks 4.