The day after fire decimated a portion of Fifth Third Ballpark, it’s time to step back and see what was really lost. The Belfor Restoration company arrived at the ballpark early this morning, to begin removing debris from the burnt areas, and determining just what might be salvageable out of the mess. The Whitecaps’ co-owner Lew Chamberlin also arrived at the ballpark today to take in the damaged areas and reflect on what might be lost. After 20 years of baseball, many signed items, artwork, and personal mementos were damaged or lost.
“I can’t say it’s a life’s work, because there’s a lot more to life than just one profession or achievement or items”, Chamberlin stated to MLive. com. “Nonetheless, everything that’s in here represents a lot of my life, and in that case, it’s sad. But, you know what? We’re just going to do it all over again and build new memories.”
Chamberlin’s office is located behind home plate at the ballpark, but still sustained some water and smoke damage. Some items that are in jeopardy are autographed baseballs from players and coaches, original programs and schedules, signed baseball cards, as well as some original artwork featuring the Whitecaps that became program covers. Chamberlin is also fearful that some very personal items that his son made may be lost. According to Whitecaps’ vice president Jim Janecki, memorabilia that is confirmed to be destroyed includes photos from Opening Day in 1994, and autographed Matt Walbeck jersey, and a signed picture of former manager Tom Brookens and Ryne Sandberg (Peoria Chiefs).
It’s a shame that those items are gone, I love baseball history and memorabilia, and this loss really seems pointless. Again, though, at least no one was hurt in the blaze, and that’s the important thing. We’ll be keeping updates on the progress on the re-building of Fifth Third Ballpark the next few months until opening day. We’ll be down that way for a Griffins game soon, and for the Whitecaps game on April 12.
Photos courtesy of MLive.com
Tragedy hit West Michigan this morning, with the Whitecaps’ Fifth Third Ballpark caught on fire. First I want to say that we are very thankful that no injuries occurred due to the fire, and that the Whitecaps staff members and dozens of brave firefighters are all safe. According to reports by WOODTV8 by the Plainfield Township Fire Dept., the fire was started by a heater in one of the suites on the first base side. Once it spread to the attic area, it ended up destroying approximately 40% of the stadium, including the clubhouse and 11 suites. Early reports also indicate that in that area of the ballpark the sprinkler system may not have been active or charged. At this time, nothing is known as an absolute cause of anything, though. Fifth Third Field, built in 1994, is just 95 days away from the ‘Caps opening day. It is also the venue for the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game on June 17.
The Detroit Tigers were notified of the event also, and seem to be supportive of their Single-A affiliate’s predicament. In a statement on Twitter, the Tigers’ organization said, “The [Whitecaps] are and extension of our baseball family. We certainly hope for the best for all parties involved. The Tigers look forward to attending the annual baseball banquet later this month as part of the annual Tigers Winter Caravan”. Some of the form ‘Caps were stunned by the news and pictures of their old ballpark, also.
In a statement to MLive.com, Detroit infielder Don Kelly stated, “The team means a lot to the Grand Rapids area. You hate to see stuff like that happen to a great organization.”
Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila started his pro career in West Michigan, and told MLive.com, “Just saw some of the pictures. Pretty crazy. I’m glad no one was hurt. That is one of the best Minor League Baseball stadiums. Always a packed house and a great atmosphere.”
This was a nightmare of a day for the Whitecaps co-founder, chief financial officer, and director of accounting Denny Baxter. While his wife is battling cancer, he was called away to help deal with the situation. Baxter seems positive, however, that the organization and community will band together, and the Whitecaps will be ready to play baseball in April.
“We’re going to survive this and come out of this. I’d like to believe, if we rebuild it, they will come,” Baxter stated. “April 8, plan to be here, we will be. We’ll be back, business as usual. We’ll just have some construction plans and design work, but we have a great staff and we’re up to that challenge. The community will show that support to us. We’re gonna play baseball–we’re very determined about that. We’re strong in our resolve. We’re going to play on Opening Day, we’re still going to have an All-Star Game. I’m absolutely confident about that.”
If any baseball organization can bounce back from this, I believe the Whitecaps can. We plan to make our first game of the season on April 12, and are really looking forward to seeing how much they’ve accomplished by then. All the best to the Whitecaps, and, again, we’re just grateful no one was hurt.
I kind of went off the beaten path the Logo of the Month on this one. It is such a cool logo, though, I just had to feature it. Tickets for the 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic that will take place just north of Grand Rapids, go on sale on March 4th, with the game itself scheduled for June 17th. This will be a great way to kick off our baseball trip for sure. Grand Rapids boasts the name ‘Beer City, USA’, after winning an online poll for two years in a row. Fifth Third Ballpark also host the annual Michigan Brewer’s Guilds Winter Beer Fest in February, with many local breweries at the event. This is the third time in history that the Whitecaps have hosted the All-Star Classic, the other years being 1995 and 2003. Last season, Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis won the Most Valuable Player award. Deik Scram also won that award in 2007 for his all-star game performance. Four current Detroit Tigers’ players have represented the Whitecaps in the past, including Ramon Santiago (2000), Don Kelly (2002), Hernan Perez (2011). and Bruce Rondon (2011). Miguel Cabrera participated during the 2001 season, representing the Kane County Cougars. Other notable MWL alumni to play in the all-star game are Mike Trout in 2010 (Cedar Rapids), Clayton Kershaw in 2007 (Great Lakes), Prince Fielder in 2003 (Beloit), and Wil Myers in 2010 (Burlington).
Next seasons’ Baseball Trip will be a little later this time, in June instead of May. One of the reasons for the change, is that we wanted to hit the Midwest League All-Star game on June 17th in West Michigan. This should be a great experience as I’ve never been to an all-star game before. This will be the hardest game to get tickets for, so I really need to be on the ball when they go on sale. The next day takes us south to Columbus, OH to check out our first Clippers game. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the stadium and franchise, so it should be a game to remember. The day after is a double-header for us. We start out with the Toledo Mud Hens for a day game. We saw the Hens back in 2007, and look forward to another great time at Fifth-Third Field. After we see the Hens, we head east to see the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and our first New York-Penn League game. Travelling in the early spring usually prevents us from making these games, since they start their season in mid-June. We stay busy the next morning, hitting the big city of Cleveland to check out the Baseball Heritage Museum. I don’t know much about this, so if anyone has been there any info would be appreciated. Next we enjoy more Midwest League action visiting the Lake County Captains in Eastlake, just east of Cleveland. Lake County and Bowling Green are the only two MWL teams I haven’t visited yet, as they transferred from the South Atlantic League a few years ago.
The next stop on our journey should be interesting, visiting Canton, OH, and just south of that the Temperance Tavern and Cy Young Museum. Again, I don’t have much info on this, so if anyone has visited there I’d appreciate your input. That’s just one stop on our way to Washington, PA to see the Wild Things in Frontier League action. Washington is an independent team, but it look like they have a nice stadium. The town was just awarded a pro softball franchise called the Revolution, too, so that’s something else to look into. The next morning, we travel north to see the Detroit Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, the Erie Seawolves. This is another team I’ve wanted to see for some time, and look forward to checking out some of the Tigers’ prospects. Another double-header for us, we go a little farther east to check out our second New York-Penn League team in the Jamestown Jammers. And..our trip concludes with the newly dubbed Akron RubberDucks. This should be a fun adventure if the weather holds, and it should be better in June. If anyone has been to this region and can recommend any other points of interest or eating establishments, I’d love to hear about them.
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Back, again, just north of Grand Rapids for our last Whitecaps game of the season. A very bitter-sweet moment, but so much going on at this game, I’m not sure where to start. First, Brian was happy they had a ‘bounce castle’ set up in the parking lot. We didn’t have much time for him to play, but he still was able to bounce around for a little while before we made our way into the stadium. Upon entry, each of us received a free mini-bat, to commemorate the ‘Caps 20th season of play. Brian has been collecting the bats lately, so more for him. It was super hero night at the ballpark, just like in Battle Creek last month, but the only ones dressed up were the Whitecaps’ on-field staff. Still, some of them has some cool outfits. We were at the ballpark early, so we saw the Captains take some batting practice, and waited for the home team to hit the field for their warm-ups. We went down to field level, where we met former Tigers’ relief pitcher, and current ‘Caps pitching coach, Mike Henneman. He was nice enough to sign a baseball card for Brian (a future hurler, himself!). Before the game got underway, we were also entertained by team Ghostrider: basically monkeys riding around on dogs. They would appear a few time throughout the game, herding goats and riding away. When monkeys act like cowboys, everybody wins! It didn’t take the kids long to get hungry, and Lily, Brian, and their Papa stuck with traditional hot dogs. Trevor and I, however, wanted to try the Baco! We made our way through the concourse, and with a sold-out crowd we were moving slowly. We took a break, though, to check out the Whitecaps 2007 Midwest League Championship trophy that was on display. The team was also celebrating the championship during this game, too. We finally made it to the other side of the ballpark to get our Bacos. Trevor didn’t care for it too much, but I thought it was pretty good. Not worth $6 each, but had to do it. Unfortunately the Whitecaps has some of the slowest concessions ever, so we missed a good chunk of the game waiting in line. We decided to head back to our seats through the lower bowl, which was a good idea because Trevor got a foul ball that bounced our way. We were finally able to sit down and enjoy the rest of the game, which was a good one. The ‘Caps also provided post-game fireworks that the kids really love, too. It was a hectic night all around, and sold-out crowds will do that, but still hard to wrap my head around the fact it will be a minimum of nine months before I’m enjoying baseball at Fifth-Third Ballpark again!
Like I stated, the game between the ‘Caps and the Captains was a good one. West Michigan was down 2-0 in the third, but busted out for three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Connor Harrell and David Gonzales started it off with a pair of singles, then Lake County started walking some batters. The Whitecaps scored two runs on walks, then Jason King hit a sac fly for the third run. In the fourth inning, Jeff Holm hit a solo shot to put the ‘Caps up 4-2. West Michigan concluded the scoring in the eighth inning, when Lance Durham hit his team leading 14th home run, after King singled. On the hill for West Michigan, Edgar De La Rosa pitched a solid game, only giving up the two runs in six innings of work. He struck out four and didn’t walk any of the Lake County hitters. The bullpen finished the job, throwing four shutout innings, with Corey Knebel closing the door in the ninth. Holm lead the offense going 2-4, and Gonzalez went 2-3. Final Score: Whitecaps 6, Captains 2.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Next season, Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, will be hosting the Midwest League All-Star Game. The announcement was actually made during the seventh inning stretch at last Saturday night’s game that we attended. Next season’s classic will also be the 50th All-Star Game for the MWL, and will take place on Tuesday, June 17. This will be the third time West Michigan has hosted the event, with the first time being in 1995, and again in 2003.
“This is a bid deal for us”, Whitecaps President Scott Lane stated to MLive.com. “Not only are we hosting the Midwest League’s premier event, but we’re hosting it in it’s 50th year. We intend to put on a grand show for the fans, executives and players of the 16 teams in the league. We will showcase not only Fifth Third Ballpark during the two-day event, but West Michigan as well.”
All I can say, is that I have to make this game. I’ll be waiting to jump on some tickets when they go on sale for sure. Attending an All-Star Game is definitely on my baseball bucket list, and where better than at my home-team Whitecaps!
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Midland, MI-July 2-3: The first two game of the series were played at Dow Diamond. In game one, ‘Cap second baseman Harold Castro’s ninth inning home run broke West Michigan’s losing streak with a 4-3 win. He was 2-4 in the game, while Zach Kirksey was 2-3. For the Loons, Aaron Miller hit a home run of his own in the sixth inning, to tie the game at three. He was 2-4 on the night, also, while third baseman Leo Rodriguez went 3-4. On the mound, Angel Nesbitt earned the win to improve to 3-1, while Corey Knebel got the save. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss for the Loons. Great Lakes would take conrol the next night, however, pounding the Whitecaps 8-0. Shortstop Corey Seager went 2-3 with four RBI’s to lead the Loons offensively. Rodriguez and Miller each went 2-4, also. The Whitecaps only managed four hits during the game, with 16-yr-old Julio Urias getting the win. He pitched six shut-out innings while striking out eight. Endrys Briceno took the loss for the ‘Caps, giving up four earned runs in three innings of work.
Comstock Park, MI-July 4-5: Both teams would re-unite at Fifth-Third Ballpark on Independence Day! The Whitecaps continued their defensive woes, however, and fell to the Loons 7-5. They committed two errors and one miscue that led to two Loons’ runs. Three of the Loons runs were unearned in the game. Left-fielder Robbie Garvey had a nice game for Great Lakes, though, going 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. For the Whitecaps, Jason King went 2-2, with two runs scored, and RBI, and two walks. On the mound for West Michigan, Chad Smith started the game, but Yorfrand Lopez took the loss, giving up three runs in just over three innings. Geoff Brown earned the win for the Loons, pitching five innings giving up one earned run and striking out five. In the final game of the series, the Loons would take a 2-0 lead early, but watched the ‘Caps roll off seven in a row. Zach Kirskey lead the offensive charge for the ‘Caps, going 1-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBI’s. Helping out was Danry Vasquez, going 2-3 with a double and two RBI’s, and Jason King who went 2-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and an RBI. Malcolm Holland delivered a solid game for Great Lakes, going 2-3 with an RBI and two walks. For the ‘Caps, Charlie Gillies won his first game of the season in the 7-2 win. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss, giving up six runs in two innings. It was a good series for both teams, especially West Michigan, who has been struggling as of late. The Loons are in first place of the Midwest League East.
Bottom photos courtesy of Emily Jones/MLive.com
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: It’s that time of year again, when myself and the little nerf-hearders head down to Star Wars Night. This year, we were back at the Fifth-Third Ballpark, with the Whitecaps as our host. Despite the weather report calling for rain, it all held off and it was a beautiful night. The kids were able to meet all of their favorite Star Wars characters, and some of the guys in the suits were pretty darn funny. They kept the sold out crowd entertained until the game started, and were more than happy to pose for pictures for the kids. This was one of the best Star Wars nights we’ve been too so far. We tried for some Whitecaps autographs, but got very few as the players didn’t walk by the fans due to the Star Wars guys.
As for the game itself, it was another dismal one for the Whitecaps. They’ve had a tough time offensively ever since Devon Travis was promoted. DH Lance Durham did go 2-4 on the day, however, but short stop David Gonzalez was the only one able to strum up an RBI. Chad Smith took the loss on the hill for West Michigan, giving up only two earned runs, though, and striking out three. Corey Knebel came in for the ninth inning, and stayed perfect so far since joining the ‘Caps. Final score: Whitecaps 1, Hot Rods 3.
We also got this picture taken by MI Unlimited Photography:
Here’s a video the Whitecaps released on their YouTube channel featuring Lily and Trevor:
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: As much as I loved my time in North Carolina, it was good to be back in Michigan, and have the home field advantage. It felt comfortable to be back in my own ballpark, and to see the Whitecaps play for the first time this season. After riding in airplanes most of the day, it was nice to be in the fresh air and wandering around Fifth-Third Ballpark. We were also one of the lucky ones to get an Avisail Garcia bobble head at the gate. It was good to see the best mascot in the minors, Crash the River Rascal, hamming it up on the concourse with the kids. I wandered down and watched the Whitecaps warm up, and got some good pics of the team. I was excited to see guys like Devin Travis and Danry Vasquez in action. It was also cool to see new pitching coach Mike Henneman, who was one of my favorite Tigers when I was younger. Henneman seemed to be joking around with his staff a little, and keeping his pitchers loose. It was good to see some familiar faces and be back home, and this will go down as one of the best baseball trips ever.
The game did not go our way, and the Whitecaps home field advantage did them little good as the Hot Rods shut them right down. Starting pitcher Charlie Gillies took the loss, but had no run support. He gave up three runs and struck out three, in just over five innings of work. Both second baseman Jared Reaves and third baseman Mario Martinez went 2-4, but could not help get a run across the plate. Win or lose, however, there’s still no place that I’d rather be. Final score: Whitecaps 0, Hot Rods 4.
Most kids like to spend the day at the ballpark. Some games are better than others, though, and this weekend for young Alex Alder it was one of the best. After his ticket was scanned and he walked through the turnstile at Fifth Third Ballpark, Alex was named as the West Michigan Whitecaps‘ eight millionth fan! Most kids would also be happy to walk away from a game with a foul ball, but look what Alex was awarded:
Men’s or Ladies Seiko watch from Talsma Jewelers
• $100 gift card from Bob Evans
• Eight – 9-hole rounds of golf from Maple Hill Golf
• Tree tops midweek round of golf for two
• Whitecaps 4Topps table package with $88 gift card
• Tigers Tickets
• Whitecaps jersey & other apparel
• Rock the Rapids Concert Tickets
• Giant stuffed animal
The Whitecaps had promotions going on all weekend, too, and all season to celebrate the 20th year of baseball in the Grand Rapids area.
Photos courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/Facebook