Three former West Michigan players cut their teeth on international competition recently. Ben Guez, who played with the ‘Caps in 2009, was invited to play for Team Isreal by former Tiger Brad Ausmus. Guez qualifies because his dad and both grandparents are jewish, though he was born and raised in Houston.
“I said ‘sure, why not,'” Guez stated. “I was going to tame some time off before I got married in October, so I had a full schedule. But it seemed like a good opportunity. It was really cool, to be able to play in something like the WBC and travel around the world and maybe play in San Fransisco was great. I love to play baseball. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and this would have been something different.”
Guez hit .167 for Isreal, who almost qualified before losing a 9-7 heartbreaker to Spain in the championship game. He split time between the Toledo Mud Hens and the Erie Seadogs this past season, going .289 with 24 doubles and 48 RBI’s between the two teams.
Playing for Team Canada are both catcher Chris Robinson and first baseman Jordan Lennerton. Robinson played for the Whitecaps in 2005, while Lennerton played in 2009 and 2010. Canada advanced by outscoring it’s opponents by a combined score of 38-9. Lennerton feels that playing in the minors and representing your country are very different.
“There is definitely a different kids of pressure”, Lennerton stated. “In the minor leagues it’s all about numbers and development. You’re playing for yourself, even though you want to win. The goal for the WBC is to win. It’s all about right now. Whenever you get the chance to play for your country you do it. I would always drop what I’m doing to play.”
Lennerton, a native of British Columbia, had a solid season at Double-A Erie, hitting .269 with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, and 82 RBI’s. I will be difficult for both he and Robinson to crack the Canada line-up next March, though, when the Major Leaguers are added to the roster, though. Good luck to all of these guys, and I hope they get their chance to play.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
As a former second baseman myself, while watching games and following my teams, these are the players I usually keep an eye on. I’ve been following the West Michigan Whitecaps for some years now, and have seen the likes of Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, and Brandon Douglas patrol the infield at Fifth Third Ballpark before moving up through the Tigers farm system. This season Mike Gosse has earned his spot at second base on the Whitecaps roster. Though he did play a significant number of games for the ‘Caps last season, Douglas was the main second baseman.
Gosse is off to a good start this season, however, being named the Whitecaps Player of the Week. In the first nine games he’s hit .323 with five doubles and one triple. He has yet to commit an error and has a .548 slugging percentage with three RBI’s.
This is what he told the Grand Rapids Press about his recent play: “I’m trying to be as unselfish as I can. Trying to move runners over, and trying to get guys in so we can get wins. This early, it’s never about yourself. It’s always about trying to win and I think we’re on a good road right now.”
Whitecaps manager Joe DePastino agrees: “He’s had a lot of big hits for us, and not only hits. When I need a runner moved over or bunted over, he gets the job done. He’s had some timely hitting and driven in some big runs for us.”
The 23-year-old Oklahoma alumni was born in California, but raised in British Columbia, Canada. I’m used to seeing city names like Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, and Red Deer on the hockey rosters I follow, but it’s a rarity on a baseball roster. Not too bad for a kid who grew up watching Hockey Night In Canada and eating Kraft Dinner, eh?
Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press