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
Brian has had a few more games in this season, and is really adapting well from tee ball to hitting off of the pitching machine. He’s getting hits on a regular basis, and has made some nice plays in the field. Most important of all, he’s having fun and learning a lot. We give the kids an opportunity to play every position, so he’s seen the ball come off the bat at about every angle.
The posted photos are from two different games, all taken by his sister Lily, who has become his official photographer. His brother Trevor has also been helping out with the team, especially with the catchers. It’s always good to have us all together, and they can easily be bribed with Dairy Queen after the games. I feel very blessed to be able to coach Brian and the Cubs this season.
Also getting it done in the field:
Things move slowing here with our Little League, but the kids finally were able to get a couple of games in. Their first game was rained out, but we scrimmaged the Angels the next night to make up for it. The scrimmage went well, and we got all the kids through the batting order twice. Brian did well, and made a great play at first base. Last week we got our first ‘real’ game in, as the Cubs took on the Tigers. Brian got his first taste of playing catcher, as well as some other infield and outfield positions. We try to give the kids a chance to play a different position every inning, so they can experience each one. He also ripped a double in his only at bat, and made a nice play at the hot corner. No game this week, but looking forward to some good practices and next week’s game.
Last night Brian’s age group of Sault Area Little Leaguers participated in Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit, & Run competition. Of course it was a typical Michigan day here in late May, with the temps barely above 40, and that ‘brisk’ wind pouring off Lake Superior, blowing the kids’ hats every which way. The kids up here are tough, though, and they all did a great job. Brian didn’t win any of the categories, but he made a strong showing at each one. He’s playing for the Cubs this season, and really looks good sporting the blue and red! Our first game is next week, but the competition sponsored by MLB was a good experience for the team.
And who didn’t pull up a little grass while ‘patiently’ waiting our turn?
Affiliate: Chicago Cubs
Home Field: Four Winds Field
League: Midwest League (Single-A)
Notable Alumni: Justin Upton, Brandon Webb
Fun Facts: One of the teams we hope to see next summer is the South Bend Cubs. South Bend came into the Midwest League in 1988, as the South Bend Silver Hawks, named after the Studebakers that were once produced in the city. They started out as affiliates of the Chicago White Sox, and became a long time affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks (17 years!). In September, the franchise announced they signed a four year affiliation with the Chicago Cubs, and changed the team name accordingly. The franchise has won the Midwest League Championship on three occasions: 1989, 1993, and 2005. We were able to watch the Silver Hawks back in 2009, before they chanced the stadium name from Coveleski Stadium to Four Wings Field. The franchise has made some great improvements to the ballpark in the last five years we’re looking forward to also. The new logo was just released this afternoon, and I’m sure the boys, as Cubs fans, will be begging for some merchandise.
Even though we haven’t been to as many games this season as we’ve liked, it doesn’t mean that baseball is not a big part of our lives. Between the both boys in Little League, I’m up at the ball fields five nights a week. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being able to coach my kids in baseball is one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done. I’m very happy to be spending this time with them, and helping them learn the great sport of baseball. Lily isn’t playing softball anymore, but she does help me coach Brian’s tee-ball team. She’s been there, and knows how I do things by now, and I enjoy being able to spend that time with her, also. This is also the 75th anniversary of Little League Baseball, and it’s already turning out to be a special year. The biggest change the kids are enjoying this year are the team names instead of sponsor names. Trevor, especially, is getting a kick out of this!
Trevor is playing for the CUBS: