West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
It was a beautiful day for baseball, so I packed the kids up and took the long trip back down to Grand Rapids to give Brian his first taste of Whitecaps baseball. This was a little new to him, with a bigger crowd, so I decided to get a harness so the little guy couldn’t just run off on us. He did pretty well, but wasn’t real happy that he couldn’t run free when he wanted to. A couple of the pics will show him pouting a bit, but he has happy to watch baseball, as were Lily and Trevor. I was Sunday, so we were able to get onto the field, but opted to play catch rather than stand in line for autographs. The kids liked playing catch with me and their Papa (three kids at a ballgame is tough, so I’m glad my dad was there to help out, too). It was fun to be on the field, but they wanted to play on the playground there, too, until the game started. It was pretty hot by our standards, so we ended up pouring cold water on each other and the kids had some ice cream to cool them off, too. We got seats at the very top row on the isle because I knew we’d be getting up and around a lot with the little guy. I hate it when people are constantly getting up and interrupting the game, so I wanted to show some courtesy. Even though we were higher up, there’s no bad seat in the house, and kept us out of the sun under the over hang. It was Autism Awareness day also, so the ‘Caps wore special jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. The Whitecaps’ bats were as hot as the weather, as they pounded out sixteen hits in the game. The kids were a little too tired to run the bases after the game, but we had a great time and look forward to more game together. Next month is Star Wars night, so that should give us a memorable night. Final score: Whitecaps 10, Kernels 3.
Anyone thinking that being a grounds keeper at a professional ball park is an easy task, think again. After a freak snow storm dumped over three inches on Fifth Third Ball Park on Monday, first year head groundskeeper Adam Ferrell and his crew took action. Actually, more than 20 staff members, including front office personnel, the grounds keepers, and salesman all chipped in to remove the snow. It was a three hour process, with snow ball fights, snowmen, and Christmas music keeping the mood light. Even a Christmas tree was placed on the Whitecaps dugout.
Ferrell told the Grand Rapids Press: “I was a little nervous when I first woke up and it was coming down good, but we got some manpower behind it and everybody chipped in. We removed the snow off the tarp, flipped it over, and let Mother Nature do her thing. It melted by 3 p.m.”
With eleven forign-born players on the West Michigan roster, some were seeing this type of weather for the first time. Outfielder Luis Castillo from Panama and Clemente Mendoza from Venezuela are two of them.
“I was like, oh my God,” Castillo told the Press. “This was the first that I’ve seen this and couldn’t believe it.”
Mendoza chimed in, “It’s really depressing, and nobody from the Latin countries have seen this before. I didn’t think we would be playing baseball, I thought they would cancel the game because of the snow on the field.”
Ferrell, an intern with the Whitecaps in 2008, though, was up to the task. He worked under Heather Nobozny and the Detroit Tigers in 2009, and was head groundskeeper for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League last season. He was named the NWL Sports Turf Manager of the Year for 2010.
The ‘Caps were able to play Monday’s game, but were rained out Tuesday night. They were able to beat the Fort Wayne TicCaps by the score of 7-3, much due to the return of designated hitter Billy Nowlin. Nowlin drove in four runs including a two-run homer to lead the way for West Michigan. After being hit in the head and sustaining a concussion in spring training, he was just activated from the DL on April 14. In his four game so far this season, he’s hitting .400 with two home runs and six RBI’s. Nowlin was a Midwest League All-Star in 2009, and split last season between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie.
“I’m just going to keep going out and playing hard, playing with my team here and see what happens,” Nowlin told the Press. “It’s always nice coming back to a place where you already know the ins and outs and stuff like that. Being familiar with a place is always a good thing.”
Manager Ernie Young seems happy to have Nowlin on the roster as well, “He swung the bat very well tonight. Billy being here is definately a good thing because it solidifies the middle of the order.”
Catcher Rob Brantly also drove in two runs in the game, and Hernan Perez scored three runs. On this hill, Jeff Ferrell picked up his first win of the season.
Photos courtosy of the Grand Rapids Press
Down to Third: After posting a 43-27 record for the first half of the season, the ‘Caps barely stayed above .500, going 38-32 in the second half. They finished 11 games behind the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Clinching the Wild Card, they play the Great Lakes Loons in the first round of the MWL Playoffs.
Post Season All-Stars: LHP Casey Crosby and DH/OF Billy Nowlin were named to the MWL Post-Season All-Star team. Crosby was 10-4 in his first pro season, with a 2.41 ERA in 24 starts. He also fanned 117 batters and only waked 48. Nowlin (.311) and fellow Whitecap Gustavo Nunez (.315) finished second and third in the league for batting averages. Nowlin hit 29 doubles, 13 homers with 77 RBI’s.
Very Offensive: The Whitecaps 2009 team had one of the best offensive seasons in franchise history. They broke records for team batting average (.274), hits (1,316) and doubles (267).
Who Ya Gonna Call?: OF Wilkin Ramirez got his September call up to the Detroit Tigers. He got a small taste of the big leagues back in May, but expects to learn a lot this time around.
“Now that I’m going to be here longer, I can learn even more,” Ramirez stated. “You can learn a lot if you pay attention.”
So far he’s been contributing a a pinch runner and has seen some at bats. He’s got power adn speed, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him with the Tigers in seasons to come.