Tennessee Smokies vs. Mississippi Braves (Southern League)
Smokies Stadium-Kodak, TN: This year Brian, Papa, and I decided to kick off the 2019 Minor League season in the Smoky Mountains for opening day. We were staying at the tourist trap this is Gatlinburg, so it wasn’t much of a drive up to the quaint little town of Kodak, Tennessee.
This was our first trip to Smokies Stadium, and it was definitely one I’m glad we were able to come to. The ballpark has some nice sightlines and scenery in the outfield. And, of course, Brian had to get a pic with the Smokies mascot, Homer!
As for the game, it was a back-and-forth thriller. Robel Garcia led the way for the Smokies on offence. He went 3-5 with 2 RBI’s. Jared Young also added an RBI, scored two runs, and went 2-5. On the mound, Wyatt Short earned the victory for Tennessee while Craig Brooks earned the save.
This was a great way to kick off our minor league season, It was a fun game to watch with great company and great weather. Would very much recommend a game here, and we’ll try to get in another game next time we’re in the area.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. South Bend Cubs (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Opening Day for the Minor League season also meant the West Michigan Whitecaps were entering their 25th year as a ball club. With so many games there throughout the years, it seemed only fitting that this is where we should start our 2018 journey as well. We were lucky there was even a game, as the Michigan weather punished us with harsh snow and wind while visiting for ‘Spring’ Break. We dressed warm, staying in the sun, and enjoyed Opening Day like so many other fans across the country.
We were able to get free replica jerseys upon entering the ballpark, and then Brian decided he wanted some autographs and to meet some of the players. The thrill of the day was meeting former World Champion Detroit Tiger, and the current Whitecaps manager, Lance Parrish. He was more than happy to sign Brian’s ball and get a photo with him. Brian was still able to meet some of Lance’s players and get his ball signed by them as well.
The game was a good one for the home team. Jordan Pearce lead the way offensively, going 1-3 with three RBI. Also pitching is was Alexis Garcia and Joey Morgan, each going 2-4 with Garcia adding an RBI.
On the hill, Dane Myers got the start throwing four innings, giving up one run and striking out five. Burris Warner earned the win, only giving up one hit and one run in his three innings of work. Final: Whitecaps 6, Cubs 2.
This was a fun game, and we were actually pretty comfortable until the sun went down. Then that cold Michigan air came creeping in, but we’re a tough group. This was a great way to kick off the Minor League season, especially since we weren’t able to make it up for a game last season. The next few months should be fun, as we have some more games planned and Brian starts Little League.
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. South Bend Cubs (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: For our last game in Michigan for awhile, mother nature really dumped on us, and it’s hard not to take this personally. For the Whitecaps home opener, it was a balmy 36 degrees, but honestly at least the sun was out and the game wasn’t cancelled. We wanted to make sure we were one of the first 1,000 through the gate, so we could claim our replica 2015 Midwest League championship rings.
Unfortunately, do to the field conditions and cold, they cancelled the on field catch and autograph session. They never opened the play ground, either, and really cheesed Brian off. At least we were able to see all three of the ‘Caps mascots one more time, as they entertained the kids until game time.
The team also had all six of West Michigan’s Midwest League championship trophies on display. The time finally passed, and while we were basking in the sun, the club had a little presentation of the newest trophy.
As you can see, the Whitecaps have added extended netting all the way across the dugout, and this really screws up my world as a baseball fan. Watching and trying to take pictures through this netting simply sucks, in my opinion. I do understand it’s for safety, but if some fans can’t keep off their iPhones during gameplay, or have small children, they need to pay attention or sit in a less dangerous area.
Due to the cold, the game itself seemed to be a little sloppy, although a few of the batters were given an ‘hit’ on a ball that would probably normally be an error. The Whitecaps could seem to get a big hit with players in scoring position either, with Brett Pirtle scoring their first run on a passed ball. On the bump, Hall pitched four innings, giving up one run on five hits, while striking out two. Relief pitcher Toller Boardman gave up three runs for West Michigan to take the loss, however.
Trailing 5-1 going into the ninth, the ‘Caps made it a little interesting, score a pair of runs, but it was too little too late. Offensively, Pirtle ended up going 1-3 with a walk and two runs scored. First baseman Will Allen and left fielder Rashad Brown each went 2-4, with Allen adding an RBI. I also had to take another walk to find a place for a few more photo not obstructed by the netting. Final: Whitecaps 3, Cubs 5.
Despite the cold and the everything, it was still a fun day at the ballpark. Again, the watching the game through all that netting isn’t as enjoyable, and Brian was bummed all game that they never opened the playground, but still a better time than doing anything anywhere else. We’ll be pretty busy the next couple of weeks, and can’t wait to be settled and at home in a new ballpark. I’ll sign off for now with a video of the game:
Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Yesterday was the Arizona Fall League‘s all-star game, properly termed the Fall-Star Game. The game is the half-way point of the AFL schedule for some of the best prospects in baseball. The game also featured two of this season’s most successful West Michigan Whitecaps players, and Detroit Tigers prospects. The West beat the East 9-2, but second baseman Devon Travis and relief pitcher Corey Knebel both made appearances. Travis went 1-2 with a triple and an RBI. Knebel pitched only 0.2 of an inning, giving up a home run, a solo shot, and striking out a batter.
Both players are suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox this fall, a team that featured prospects from the Tigers, California Angels, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Washington Nationals. Travis is hitting .233, with two home runs, three doubles, and eight RBI’s. Knebel has a 1.50 ERA in eight games, with two saves, and seven strike outs. Three other former Whitecaps playing for Mesa are pitchers Tommy Collier (2012) and Kenny Faulk (2010), and shortstop Dixon Machado (2011). Collier has a 0.64 in four appearances, with 10 strike outs and giving up only one earned run. Faulk is 1-1, with a frightful 11.37 ERA. He did strike out eight and have one hold. Machado is batting .188 in only nine game, and added four RBI’s for his efforts. Other players in the Tigers system that are playing with the Solar Sox are pitcher Blaine Hardy and outfield Tyler Collins.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Christmas for me is the perfect time to buy the kids some baseball stuff, and what else would I be asking Santa for? We all made out pretty well last week and have had the chance to play with our stuff. The kids got a new batting tee and a hitting tool, so as soon as the snow is gone, we’ll be putting those to use (if not sooner in the gym). I got a ‘Pride of the Yankees‘ and a coaching DVD from the kids, and they got the third installment of the ‘Sandlot’ series. I also got some Under Armour baseball gear!
Lily got a couple of shirts, a LSSU Softball shirt and an Under Armour softball shirt. She also got a new softball for us to play catch with. She got a new bat just before Christmas, because she needed it for her clinics.
Trevor made out like a bandit. He happy and surprised to get his new Cubs jersey. He also got a couple of t-shirts, a Battle Creek Bombers and Michigan State baseball one. He also got a new ball glove, an Easton that fits him great. Like a good dad, I already had it treated an oiled and ready to go!
Brian’s favorite mascot is the Whitecaps’ Crash the River Rascal, so he got a pillow pet and plush of him. He also got a Crash puzzle we’ve been having fun with. A Scooby-Doo baseball pillow case closed the deal for him, though. No problems getting him to go to sleep, now.
The gift I’m most proud of, is the one I got for my Dad. I found a game work Michigan Battle Cats jacket that he loves. He’s from Battle Creek, and it reminds him of my grandpa, and they used to watch Battle Cat game together many times before he passed. I hope everyone has as much fun over the holidays that we are, and a Happy New Year, too!
Playoff Push: It’s hard to believe, but after finishing the first half of the season in last place the Whitecaps are in contention for the final wild card playoff spot in the Midwest League. At his point their majic number is down to three over the Lansing Lugnuts. The ‘Caps helped themselves by racking off 12 straight wins in August, tying a franchise record set July 14-25, 1999. If they can hold on make the playoffs, it would make it six straight years for the ‘Caps and 14 in the 17 yr. history of the team. There current record is 34-29 and are five games up on Lansing.
Quade Takes Over Cubs: Former West Michigan Whitecap’s manager Mike Quade was named interim manager of the Chicago Cubs this month after Lou Piniella stepped down for personal reasons. Qaude managed the Whitecaps to a 77-61 record in 1996, and led the club to it’s first Midwest League Championship back when they were affiliated with the Oakland Athletics. Quade has 17 years and 2, 378 games of experience as a manager at the minor league level and seven years experience at the major league level. He’s in his eighth season with the Cubs, having served as third base and outfield coach.
Guests At Fifth-Third Ballpark: The second half of the season saw some pretty impressive guests visit the Whitecaps. For Tiger Fridays, former players Jack Morris, Mike Henneman, Dick McAuliffe, and Frank Howard were in attendance signing autographs. Also visiting the ‘Caps for soccer night was former Portage Central All-American and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsay Tarplay. She told the Grand Rapids Press: “My older brother played baseball in high school and at Western Michigan, so I grew up watching him. And I played softball for several years, so I’m a big fan of baseball.” Baseball fans are a big fan of you, too, Lindsay. I decided to post the pic of her over the ballplayers simply because she’s kinda cute..
Feeney Sets Record: ‘Caps pitcher Trevor Feeney set a new Whitecaps record Monday night, throwing 179 2/3 innings this season. The mark was formly held by Nate Cornejo who pitched 174 2/3 innings in 1999. If the ‘Caps do sneak into the playoffs, there’s a chance he might being starting game one as well. “I could either pitch five days from now or pitch the playoff opener”, he told the Grand Rapids Press. “It would definately be a big game and a new experience for me. I’ve never pitched in a three-game series before.” West Michigan manager Joe DePastino wouldn’t mind him starting either, and was impessed with him breaking the record. “If we can, he’ll start game one, but it would depend if and when we clinch. There’s a lot of stuff to be determined and what Detroit tells us to do.” The record shows improvement in Feeney, who threw on 151 innings during his first two minor league seasons. So far in 2010 he’s pitched into the seventh inning in 18 of 28 starts.
Quade photo courtesy of the Associated Press
Tarplay photo courtesy of the Kalamazoo Gazette
Feeney photo property of M.I.B.
Peoria Chiefs vs. Clinton LumberKings: We didn’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate the Kernels victory before hitting the road again to Peoria. We made it to O’Brien Field about 30 minutes before game time, which is good enough to get our merchandise, grab a brew, and get ready for more baseball. It was Monday, and unfortunately not much of a crowd. We missed the big crowds over the weekend with Star Wars night and a Little League ceremony. Still, half price tickets should be drawing the people in anyway. O’Brien Field is nicely fit into downtown Peoria, and the Chiefs share their home with the NCAA Bradlay Braves. It was a beautiful night for baseball, but a quik game tied at 1-1 in the ninth. The Chiefs sent up a pinch hitter with two outs who hit a walk-off homer with the bases loaded for the win. Pretty exciting at the end. Final: Chiefs 4, Lumber Kings 1. Worst: The scoreboard. One half never worked, the other half only part of the time. Best: Half priced seats every Monday.
Photos property of MIB
Iowa Cubs vs. Omaha Royals: Our only game on day two took us to Des Moines for some AAA Pacific Coast League action. The game started at 1:00 p.m., and the day was hot and sunny. About the third inning, though, all that changed. A huge storm cloud decided to nest over the field and give us some rain. Not too much, enough to get you a little damp, but not enough to call the game. If you think that a little rain is enough to chase me from a ballgame, though, you’re wrong. We stayed as long as the game was on, and that was the 8th inning. It finally decided to pour on us. Oh, well, 8 innings is still pretty good. I didn’t get a chance to explore Principal Park as much as I would have liked, but our seats were good and there really didn’t seem that there was a bad seat in the house. There was a lot of fans packed in for a Sunday game, but a lot left after the rain started. Our lunch consisted of a beer, a Chicago Dog, and some popcorn. I did like the park, though, and would recommend a game here if you’re in the area. Final: Royals 5, Cubs 4. Best: The scoreboard reading ‘Out of Towners’ and ‘Local Boys’. Worst: Lots of people. If you don’t mind large crowds, this shouldn’t bother you.
Photos property of MIB