I have to admit that 2013 was pretty good to us, and I’m probably going to miss it. We had a rocky start to the baseballs season, with some rainouts in Lansing (along with freezing rain, ice, snow, and so on), but after that it was sunny days ahead for us. It was really difficult to narrow a list down to just nine, as far as the fun things that we participated in this year. In reality, the whole trip through North Carolina could be listed (especially Greensboro and Asheville), it was so much fun. We have some fun things planned for 2014, but you’ll see how hard it will be to top our 2013 list. I am very thankful that we had such a fun year, and that my kids, and my dad, and I could spent this time together.
9) Meeting the Fox Sports Detroit Girls: It’s no secret, we love the FSD Girls here! They do a great job of representing our local teams here in Michigan. The kids and I were lucky enough to meet them at a Grand Rapids Griffins game earlier this year. They were very nice to the kids, especially Brian, who they signed a baseball and his hat for. With luck, we might run into them again at a ballgame next season, maybe at the all-star game or something.
8) Double-Header in Midland: Like I stated, our baseball season got off to a rough start. Here in Michigan, we had a horrible spring that was cold, rainy, and snowy. On this day, though, we took advantage of a rain-out to catch at double-header on a Sunday afternoon at Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons. The first game, or games, of the season are always special, and this one was no different. It was still a cold day in early April, with the temperature about 30-40 degrees, but we stayed in the sun and it was pretty nice. The Loons mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel entertained the kids between games. We brought the kids’ Papa along for his birthday, and it was a great way to kick-off our 2013 baseball year.
7) The ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum: I really loved visiting Greenville, South Carolina. The city made such an impression on me that I’m trying to get a transfer down there. Can you imagine a state where you can play catch outside almost ten months out of the year? It’s a very beautiful and historic town, with plenty to do for any sports fan. First, we dropped by Flour Field to watch the Greenville Drive, which was a great time. The next day was a thrill visiting the ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum. The family that runs it is very nice, and knowledgeable about Jackson for sure. It was a fun experience that I highly recommend for anyone in that area.
6) Back in Battle Creek: It’s hard to believe, but we this is the first game we’ve seen in Battle Creek since the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays packed their bags and moved up to Midland. We were down here in 2010, but got rained out, unfortunately. This is where it all began, though, here at C.O. Brown Stadium. The start of the baseball trip, and my love for minor league baseball. This was the kids first game here, too, as well as the opportunity to see the Battle Creek Bombers in the Northwoods League. The day itself was special, because we were able to spend some quality time with family down there. Plenty of family was in attendance to see me throw out the first pitch, too (a beautiful strike, by the way). Lily and Trevor really enjoyed trying out their Twinkie Dogs, as well. It was super hero night, and Brian was able to chase the costumed staff across the field between innings with the other kids. He also participated in an on-field game that he did great at. This was all-around one of the best baseball days anyone could ask for.
5) Star Wars Night: Well, this will probably make the list every year. This year we were back in West Michigan for the Whitecaps game. There were plenty of characters on hand from that galaxy far, far, away to entertain us this year, too. We were able to get pictures with Boba Fett and all the Imperial Stormtroopers, as well as Darth Vader himself. All the kids got lightsabers, and Brian didn’t have any trouble finding other kids to play with. After the game, the lights went out and we enjoyed the fireworks as this special night came to an end.
4) Running the Bases: Being on the field is always fun, and Brian was able to do a lot of that this summer. As mentioned in #6, he was able to run through the outfield and do a race in Battle Creek. Along with that, he ran the bases at the Loons game in Midland, and the Beach Bums game in Traverse City. The kid is a little speed demon, and he had to slow down so not to lap some of the other kids. As a parent, it’s so much fun to watch your kids having such a good time. At least having some baseball experience under his belt, he knows which way to go.
3) Training for Trevor: Despite a shoulder injury that kept him out half of his Little League season, Trevor was able to take part in a couple of baseball clinics. The first one was put on by Major League Baseball Alumni. Former players like Doug Mirabelli, Roger Mason, Dennis Rasmussen, and Rob Ellis were there and did a great job teaching the kids. They were all very patient and helped many of the kids one-on-one. The second clinic was the Beach Bums Baseball Academy in Traverse City. Trevor was able to learn first hand from the Bums’ players and coaches. He was a little limited to what he could do due to his shoulder, but still had a great time. I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid.
2) The Durham Bulls Experience: Seeing the Durham Bulls was on my baseball bucket list for a long time, and now I can finally cross that off. The Bulls really don’t disappoint, either. It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful game to watch. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is an amazing place to watch a baseball game, and seeing the Bulls during the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham was an awesome experience. The Bulls have to be one of the most recognized baseball logos in minor league history due to the movie, and a game here should be on every fan’s bucket list. We even visited the old ballpark where they filmed the movie, and they still use it for local games.
1) Coaching the Boys: Yeah, this one is personal. Being able to coach my kids in baseball is one of the highlights of my life, not just this year. Lily decided to take a year off, and I really missed watching her play. The boys had a fun season, though, even with Trevor’s injury. Brian made some big improvements, and is hitting the ball better than any five-year-old should. The kid has a rocket arm, too. Being at the local ball fields three or four nights a week is something I’m truly grateful for.
McCormick Field–Asheville, NC: I just want to start off by stating that I loved this game. I love McCormick Field, and this should be on every baseball fans bucket list. Another downtown stadium, so parking is a little rough. That, however is the about the only thing you’d have to worry about. The stadium is located on a large hill, or mountain, I guess, which make for some nice scenery. The whole setup of the stadium is nice, with the concourse and gift shop in a nice setting. Part of the concourse is limited by part of the mountain, also. Our seats were great, as we got the dugout suites right next to the home team dugout. This luxury comes with snacks, drinks, and a chicken dinner from Bojangles’. We really felt we were treated like royalty! It was a day game which saw some buses of school kids enjoying the game also. This helped make for a great atmosphere, as well as the loyal regulars of McCormick Field. Another unique aspect, is that one lucky fan gets to deliver the game ball via a zip line. It was fun to watch, and must have been a great experience for that fan! The fact that it was a day game make it a little warm for us, but I can only imagine how awesome a night game would be here. The home team put on a great show, and I also got my first South Atlantic League game ball. This honestly rivals Durham for the best game on the trip. You can also see McCormick Field at the end of the movie Bull Durham, where Crash hits his record breaking home run.
The game itself was a good one for the Tourists. When we saw the Drive a few days before they looked like a pretty solid hitting team, but Asheville hurler T.J. Oaks seemed to keep them of the kilter all day, as he went seven innings and only gave up the one run. The Tourists took the game over with a huge seven run fourth inning. It seemed like they were pounding doubles off the wall left and right. Second baseman Juan Ciriaco seemed to be the player of the game. Not only did he toss me the game ball, but he went 3-5 with an RBI. Rosell Herrera also pitched in, going 2-5 with a pair of RBI’s. Final score: Tourists 8, Drive 1.
Durham Athletic Park-Durham, NC: I’d be crazy not to check out the old stadium in Durham. You know, the one they filmed that movie at? It’s located just a mile or so from the new one, and it still sits in a neighborhood like it does in the movie. It seems like it’s still in use, as the outfield was being mowed when I got there. My luck, too, because the outfield gate was open, allowing me to sneak in a get a few pics, anyway. I was just amazing, though, to think that back in 1988 it was full of Hollywood magic, and Bull Durham would become one of the most loved baseball movies of all time. The first thing I did when returning home, was to watch the movie again (ok, it wasn’t the first thing, but I did watch it). It was cool to see where I had been, and knowing I’d been to Asheville, too, that was featured toward the end of the show. Our day wasn’t done yet, though, as we still needed to head west for some Carolina League action that night. I know what you’re thinking, though. Seeing four ballparks and two games in one day is a little excessive. Even for the Carolina League.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park–Durham, NC: This is one that have been on my bucket list for some time…the Durham Bulls. And what a better time than the 25th anniversary of the hit movie Bull Durham? The new ballpark is located right downtown, so parking can be a nightmare. Throw in all the construction, and it’s a pain if you don’t get to the ballpark early. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park was simply the gem of our trip. It’s an amazing ballpark with no bad seat in the house. It’s easily one of the best minor league parks we’ve ever been to. It was a beautiful sunny day, and luckily we were able to catch some shade. It was a little ironic, too, that we were sitting next to someone from my hometown, Grand Rapids, MI. I enjoyed the game immensely, and the Bulls really do put on a great show for their fans. Triple-A is also a good chance to see the young stars on the rise, and former major leaguers in action as well. If you’re a baseball fan, you need to see a Durham Bulls game. It’s as simple as that.
The game itself saw the Bulls defending their home turf against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Bulls took care of business early, and never looked back. Lead-off hitter Jason Bourgeois led the way offensively, going 3-4 with an RBI. Third-baseman Vince Belome contributed a pair of hits and an RBI, also. Alex Colome earned the win on the mound for the home team, throwing seven complete innings. Our Durham experience lived up to the hype, and couldn’t have gone better (well, maybe it would have been nice to see a player win a steak, and the mascot hit by a pitch). Final score: Bulls 8, Iron Pigs 2.
Empire State Yankees vs. Durham Bulls
Frontier Field-Rochester, NY: While the Red Wings are away, the Yankees will play…in Frontier Field, that is. Due to a new stadium being built, the Scratnon/Wilkes Barre Yankees will be taking on the moniker of ‘Empire State’ for the season, and playing ‘home games’ in places such as Rochester and Syracuse while the home teams are out-of-town. This gave us a great opportunity to catch a game, and see two more teams, that we probably would not have seen otherwise. I found Frontier Field a very nice venue, and our seats could not have been better, front row on the third base side. The kids had a lot of fun watching this game on MiLB.TV, as they could see their daddy and papa quite a bit. The game itself flew by, as the Durham Bulls shut out the Yankees 1-0. Alex Cobb got the win on the mound for Durham, and I was surprised to see him pitching for the Rays when I turned the game on last night versus the Red Sox. We had a lot of fun here, and were excited about the fact we would be coming back in a few days to watch the Red Wings. I went right to bed after the game, though, as the next morning we would get up bright and early to get on the road to Cooperstown…Final: Bulls 1, Yankees 0.
Again, making a list like this was harder than I thought. Narrowing it down to nine, I had to leave some of my favorite off, but I’ll leave my ‘honorable mention’ list for the end. Meanwhile, such movies as Ed and The Slugger’s Wife were fairly easy to cast aside. Here we go:
9) Bang The Drum Slowly: This could be the best movie you’ve never seen. I was able to pick it up for $5.00 and what a good investment. A young Robert DeNiro plays a fatally ill ball player who basically rallies his team around him. The acting is excellent, and the story is original. I was really suprised and impressed when I was able to sit down and watch it. Some of the scenes are a little dated, since it was filmed in the 70’s, but the story itself is just timeless. The ball players are member of the New York Mamoths club, but look ridiculously close to the Yankees. The writing is well done and I have to believe this movie was nominated for some awards at one point in time. You know it has to be pretty good to beat out The Sandlot…which is still one of my favorites, but had to be left off. It’s worth at least checking out if you have a chance.
8) Major League III: Back To The Minors. I know I’m gonna get a lot of flack for this one….I know it can’t compare to the original, but I still find it very entertaining. For some reason I find myself watching it quite a bit, and it’s a tradition to watch during my annual baseball trip. I like it a lot better than the first sequel because of it’s original and not a ‘remake’ of the first one. Also, the fact that it revolves around the Minor Leagues is a plus in my book, too. It doesn’t involve the Indians, but has the Twins as the ‘bad guys’ and the Salt Lake Buzz as the misfit AAA team brought together my rookie coach Gus Cantral (Scott Bakula). There are a few familiar faces, such at Cerano, Tanaka, and ‘Rube’ Baker. There is a lot of good baseball stuff in this movie along with some laughs to go along the way. Not as funny as the first, but I think you’d enjoy it for what it is. Trust me on this one….
7) Bull Durham: Another movie that revolves around the Minors, most of you would have ranked this one a lot higher. As funny as it is, I lose interest at the end when the baseball parts are over and it focuses on the relationship between Kevin Costner and Susan Serandan. It does have some of the funniest one-liners to date. It’s too bad that the original ballpark the Durham Bulls played in isn’t used anymore, but now the Bulls are part of the Triple-A International League instead of the lowly Class A Carolina League. My favorite scenes are when Crash (Costner) tells the batters what pitches Nuke is preparing to throw. The movie also turned the Durham Bulls into one of the most recognized Minor League ball clubs in the country. It’s on my baseball trip ‘to do’ list for sure. With so many ball clubs in North Carilina, you could get a lot of baseball games in a short time. I don’t think I really have to recommend this one, as most either own it or have seen it many times.
6) Everyone’s Hero. This is a sentimental favorite of mine. This is one of the first movies I took my two oldest kids to see at the theater, and my youngest is becoming a big fan of it as well. It’s a good way to expose kids to baseball, history, and Babe Ruth himself. It’s quite a bit off the wall, with a talking baseball and the Babe’s bat ‘Darlin’. The story goes that the evil Cubs owner has Darlin’ stolen to the Babe can’t hit and the Yankees will lose the World Series. The main character, a kid named Yankee Irvine, has his dad blamed for the mishap and fired. Yankee must rescue Darlin, make his way to Chicago, save the World Series for the Yanks, and try to get his dad’s job back. Yeah…that’s a lot of responsibility for a little kid. Of course he makes friends along the way, and learns more about baeball. The main theme of the movie is ‘keep swinging’ and the Babe keeps stating that anythng can happen in baseball. It’s highly recommended for the kids.
5) Field of Dreams. I know for most people, this movie is probably number one. The movie based on the novel ‘Shoeless Joe’ really captured the imagination of baseball lovers everywhere. I enjoyed the novel, but this is one of the few movies that I actually enjoyed more. They did a great job with it, and really got the point accross of the magic of baseball. The scenes with ‘Moonlight’ Graham are my favorite, but lots of memorable moments. I was also lucky enough to visit the movie site in Dyersville, Iowa earlier this year. Unfortunately there was no corn stalks, but it is still a great place to visit. I was able to take some infield, pitch off the mound, and play catch with my dad which is what I’m supposed to do, I guess. I’ll have to take my kid there when they’re a little older and have watched the movie themselves. It’s a timeless classic that I really never get tired of watching.
4) The Bad News Bears (1976). Their are many reasons why I like the original to the remake of 2005. The original has to be one of the funniest baseball movies ever, and the first in sport ‘underdog’ movies. Movies like the Mighty Ducks, Big Green, and Little Giants are all basic remakes substituting hockey, soccer, and football. It doesn’t hurt that I had a mega crush on Tatum O’Neal when I as a little kid, either. How cool would it have been to have a girlfriend who could throw a curve ball? Walter Mathau was great, and this movie works on so many levels. I actually enjoyed the second sequal, Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, and it barely missed the list. If you havn’t seen the original, I highly recommend it. In retrospect, I probably should have named one of my boys Tanner. This kids really makes the movies and provides some of the most memorable moments.
3) The Rookie. I love this movie and have watched it quite a bit. The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to the magic. The fact that Jim Morris really made it to the Majors and fullfilled his dream is actually amazing. The movie is actually based on his autobiography ‘The Oldest Rookie’. I havn’t read the book yet, but hope to when I get a chance. I’m sure the movie embelishes a lot of the story, but it’s well put together and seems to be as realistic as possible while being entertaining. It’s something I can watch over and over again. My favorite scenes involve Morris coaching his team to the district championship, and telling his son over the phone that he’d been called up to the Majors. The Minor League scenes are really fun, too, and seam to bring the feel of that level to the audience. Dennis Quaid does a good job in the movie, also, in bringing Jim Morris to the big screen. The whole concept if the movie is really inspiring and was perfect fit for a family Disney film.
2) The Final Season. This movie didn’t get a lot of press, but I loved it and have watched it many times over the last year. Another film based on true events, it follows a small Iowa high school on their quest for a 20th state championship. Unfortunately, the school is closing and they fired their legendary coach Jim Van Scoyc in hopes the team will fail to make the merger with a larger school more tolerable to the community. It’s directed by the same guy who did the Sandlot, so that should add to some of it’s credibility. I was so inspired by this film I had to go to Norway, Iowa, where the movie took place and visit the museum there. Everyone was very nice, and I was even able to meet coach Van Scoyc. I asked him how much of the movie was accurate, and he replied, “well…there’s a lot of bullsh!t.” Still a great movie and an ever better true story.
1) Major League. This is simply the funniest baseball movie I’ve ever seen. It rivals my beloved Star Wars for how many times I’ve veiwed it. You can hear a lot of the one-liners form this film at almost any ballpark, and it’s probably impedded in our pop culture more than people realize. The cast was perfect, and the characters they portrayed were original and hilarious. I can watch the second one, but not nearly as much as the original. I don’t think I could ever hate the Indians, no matter what after this movie. My favorite scenes include Lou Brown wizzing on Dorn’s contract, Willie Mays Hayes getting cut early, and the Wild Thing arriving at Spring Training. There’s really nothing I don’t like about his movie, and will continue to watch it whenever I feel the need.
My list of honorable mentions include The Sandlot, A League of Thier Own, Mr. Baseball, 61*, For Love of The Game, and Mr. 3000. No, seriously, Mr. 3000. I also liked The Natural…but I simply dont’ find myself watching it all that much. I like to see what everyone thinks and whay your list would be. This is my Prime 9…what’s yours?