West Michigan Whitecaps vs Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League Finals)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Last week I was able to scratch one more thing off my baseball bucket list, while cheering on my Whitecaps in the Midwest League finals. The game was during the week, so the kids had to sit this one out due to school, but I was able to take a day off from work and make the trip down to enjoy the day with my dad.
The game was going pretty quick, as both the Kernels Sam Gibbons and the ‘Caps A.J. Ladwig were locked in a pitchers duel. Gibbons kept West Michigan off of the board until the seventh inning. Down 1-0, left fielder Christin Stewart smacked a double that put runners at second and third, with no outs, to really get things going. Designated-hitter Joey Pankake then singled to score two runs and the Whitecaps had a 2-1 lead. Stewart was awarded the run, as the Kernels’ catcher was blocking the plate without the ball. Cedar Rapids manager Jake Mauer was tossed by the home plate ump for arguing the call. Not well-played, Mauer. Things fell apart a bit for the Kernels, as they made two errors and hit a batter, as the ‘Caps chased Gibbons and took a 4-1 lead.
On the mound for West Michigan, Ladwig pitched a great game, giving up his only run in the second inning. He gave up only six scattered hits while striking out two, and issuing no walks in seven innings of work. Johan Belisario came in and carved up the Kernels batters in the eight with his nasty curveball, striking out one, and was credited with the hold. Top Tigers prospect Joe Jimenez pitched a perfect ninth, also, striking out two to earn the save. Great pitching performances all around for West Michigan. Leading the way offensively, Mike Gerber and Stewart each went 2-4 on the night, and Pankake went 1-4 with two RBI’s.
This was a great experience to be able to be at this game. Also fun when your team wins and you can high-five perfect strangers all around you and celebrate as fans. Good time for my dad and I to spend together, too, as baseball always goes best with family. This game tied the series at 1-1, but now as I’m posting this it’s tied at 2-2 with the fifth and final game tonight in Cedar Rapids. Win or lose, this was a fantastic season for the Whitecaps. They were an underdog team all season, and manager Andrew Graham has done a great job. Already looking forward to Minor League Baseball in 2016! Final: Whitecaps 4, Kernels 1.
Here’s a nice little video of the ‘Caps taking a 2-1 lead on a Joey Pankake base hit, where West Michigan scored the second run due to the fact that the Kernels catcher was blocking the plate without the ball:
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
The West Michigan Whitecaps took two of three games from the Cedar Rapids Kernels in their latest home-stand. The Kernels rolled into Comstock Park with pretty impressive record of 18-6, good enough to lead the Midwest League. In game one, the Whitecaps won 7-2. Austin Schotts and Jake Stewart homered twice in ending the Kernels nine game winning streak. Hudson Randell pitched well and kept the Cedar Rapids offense in check. Brennan Smith would earn the win, though, in relief.
In game two, the ‘Caps needed 10 innings to down the Kernels, with Danry Vasquez pounding a single up the middle to score Devon Travis. West Michigan was down twice in the game, but came back to force the extra inning. Jeff Holm went 3-4 on the day, with two RBI’s. Jose Valdez earned the win on the hill, coming in relief of Jordan John.
The Whitecaps had a chance for the sweep, but the Kernels avoided that with the 8-6 win. A tough loss for West Michigan, but the high-powered Cedar Rapids offense finally showed up. Devon Travis went 2-5 with a home run and an RBI. Zach Kirksey also rocked a home run, going 2-4 with two RBI’s. Endrys Bicendo took the loss on the mound for the ‘Caps.
I put this post off, waiting until the outcome of the MVP race, but I did want to congratulate Mike Trout on winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award. He was basically a sure thing after his performance in the 2012 season. Trout was the unanimous pick for the award, as he’s not just the best rookie this season, but some say he’s the best rookie ever. He finished second in the league in batting average with .326, first in steals with 49 and runs with 129, third in on-base-percentage at .399, and third in slugging % at .564. His was pretty good defensively, too, robbing batters of four home runs, and 23 runs altogether. Trout also became the first player to win the MLB Rookie of the Month Award four months in a row. Then you hear him compared to guys like Mickey Mantle and things really start clicking. But with all his stats and steals and defense it still wasn’t enough to edge Triple Crown winning Miguel Cabrera for the MVP Award. It wasn’t all that surprising that Miggy won, I guess what surprised me is that the voting wasn’t a lot closer. So the Angels fans are probably feeling a little jilted, and they have a right to feel so, while the Tigers fans get a little reason to smile after the disastrous World Series. The voting really could have gone either way, though, and fans of both players have a reason to feel their guy is the best. All awards and voting and BS aside, though, nothing can take away the year that Trout had. The guy is 21 yrs-old. I’m sure within the next 20 years he’ll get his due. He’ll give Angels fans and all baseball fans alike some great moments in this sport.
When I saw him play back in 2010, he was a stand-out at the Single-A level at only 18. We sat in the front row right behind the on-deck circle, and he was nice enough to chat with us before the game started. He seemed pretty humble and had a great attitude about being a top draft pick. Then he hit the first pitch out of the ballpark. He had his own little cheering section, and he made sure his fans got a game ball. The whole game experience in Cedar Rapids was amazing, and watching a talent like Trout made it even better, especially the way he conducted himself. There’s nothing but good things for this guy in the future, and he’ll have a lot of fans rooting for him.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
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.
One of the fun things about gearing up for our 2011 travels, is wondering what players we’ll be able to watch who might make it to the big leagues. It takes some players longer to make than others, but some guys just seem to stand out. Last season while in Cedar Rapids, we were lucky enough to watch Mike Trout play, who has been named the top prospect in baseball. His lead-off homer was impressive, but what impressed me more was his attitude. He was nice enough to sign a program for my son who was an Angels fan at the time (he bounces back between the Angels and Cubs..don’t ask). We sat right behind the on deck circle, and our conversation with Mike started when my dad asked him why he had his name and number on his shoes, while his teammates didn’t. He kindly explained that he was their top draft pick and this was part of his deal. He had his own little cheering section which he rewarded with a game ball. It’s nice to see players at this level without the big egos and attitudes. Trout genually seemed gratefull for his fans and to be playing. The next day in DeMoines we saw Hall of Famers Ryne Sandburg again. You really can’t go wrong meeting these guys. We also met some of the Whitecaps players later in the summer, and being a Tigers fan it’s fun to watch these guys progress though the system. So next time you’re travelling by a Minor League ballpark, stop in for a game. Ya just never know who you might see play.
Photos property of M.I.B.
Cedar Rapids Kernels vs. Kane County Cougars: Day three had us up early, and backtracking east through Iowa to Cedar Rapids for a noon start. Day games are usually a lot of fun, and this one didn’t disappiont. Vetrans Memorial Stadium is located basically in a residential area, but still had plenty of parking and decent site lines. Of all the ballparks on our trip, this one simply had the best atmoshpere. The workers were all very friendly and everyone just seemed to be happy it was game day. We had great seats behind home plate just off of the Kernels dugout. My oldest son is an Angels fan, so it was easy for me to get some autogaphs from some prospects like Mike Trout and Michael Wing. Trout is a first round draft pick, but seemed very down to earth and was great with the fans. He also homered in his first at-bat. After getting shut out our first few games, it felt good to get a couple of foul balls here. I got two, but gave one away to a little girl. Yeah, I know, aaawwww. The cool thing if you catch a fly ball here, you recieve an honorary lifetime contract with the Kernels. Now I can finally put Minor League Baseball player on my resume. It’s pictured at the very bottom along with the fouls balls I caught in Cedar Rapids and Peoria. If I could choose any ballpark from our trip to visit again, it would be this one. Final: Kernels 8, Cougars 1. Best: The baseball atmoshpere. You fans know what I’m talking about. Worst: No souvenier cups. It’s a small thing, but I like to take the plastic cups home, wash them out, and drink a beer. It reminds me of the games I’ve been to.
Photos property of MIB