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.
On Friday Kalamazoo Baseball introduced their new team name and logo. The new team entering the Northwoods League will be dubbed the Kalamazoo Growlers. The team will play in 2014 at Homer Stryker Field, who last hosted the Kalamazoo Kings of the Frontier League. The manager for the new team will be Joe Carbone, who is the second most winning coach in the Mid American Conference history at Ohio University. He is a two-time MAC Coach of the Year, and was the Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 1997. The Growlers have also two players from Western Michigan University lined up for next season, also, in catcher Brent Sunde and outfielder Jared Kujawa. Although I spent my childhood watching minor league hockey in Kalamazoo with the K-Wings, I look forward to seeing the Growlers play ball. Kalamazoo also has a great history of baseball, as the first College World Series was played there, also. They’ll have a good rivalry with the Battle Creek Bombers just to the east. I still think that if these two communities would have worked together, there could still be an affiliated minor league program located just between the two cities.
Kalamazoo, Michigan will finally be getting a new baseball team for the first time since 2011. The team will be competing in the Northwoods League, which is a summer college wooden bat league. This is the same league that the neighboring Battle Creek Bombers play in. Home games will be played at Homer Stryker Field, same as the prior tenant the Kalamazoo Kings of the Frontier League (same as the Traverse City Beach Bums). The Kings suspended operations after the 2011 season, and never were able to get the team running again. Fans in the Kalamazoo area have submitted their ideas for a team name, and the finalists are: Cabbies, Clutch, Growlers, Kangaroos (K-Roos), and Krakens. My pick would be the Kalamazoo Kangaroos, but the franchise will announce the winner at an Opening Night Event on November 15th. This free event will feature the un-veiling of the new team name and logo, along with the manager and coaches. Fans will also be able to receive free ballpark food and nonalcoholic beverages, participate in a free raffle, and their will be free kids games as well. Fans will also be able to interact with the team owners and front office staff. I’ll definitely be following this team, and hope to be able to attend a game next season. I’m pretty familiar the the city also, as I grew up on minor league hockey watching the Kalamazoo Wings of the old International Hockey League when I lived in that area.
Photo courtesy of Kalamazoo Baseball/Northwoods League
In a surprise move, the Traverse City Beach Bums have traded their mainstay first baseman, Chase Burch. The Bums sent Burch to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association for a player to be named later and considerations. Although he’s been a member of the Bums for the last four seasons, Burch’s career began in the AA in 2009. As a member of the Pensacola Pelicans, he hit .341 with nine home runs, and 66 RBI’s. He joined the TC team in 2010, hitting 19 home runs and 88 RBI’s. This season, Burch led the team in home runs with 15, and banged in 66 RBI’s. In the Frontier League playoffs, he hit an astounding .438 with four home runs, and six RBI’s. He is Traverse City’s all-time leader in games played with 370, at-bats with 1, 319, runs scored at 243, home runs with 66, and RBI’s with 285. Best of luck to him with his new team. Burch definitely gave the fans in Traverse City much to cheer about in his time there.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Beach Bums Baseball Academy
Wuerfel Park–Traverse City, MI: As Trevor’s Little League season came to an early end this summer due to shoulder problems, we weren’t sure if he was going to participate in this baseball academy hosted by the Traverse City Beach Bums. As his x-rays were examined, he was cleared to play, but we also found out that he wasn’t dealing with a sprained shoulder, but a broken clavicle. The bad news is that even though it’s looked to have healed, it also still causes him extreme pain. Trevor is a trooper, though, and gave the camp a go. The gates opened early, and the players came and got the kids promptly at ten a.m. After some stretching and warming up, the kids were separated into five stations. Trevor’s first station was hitting. They did soft-toss with tennis balls in the outfield. He never got under one to get it over the fence, but had a few nice line-drives. His next station was in the outfield, working on pop-ups and fly balls. The Beach Bums really had some fun and unique drills to help the kids adjust to catching a ball on the fly. This is one of the biggest weaknesses of kids this age, so I’m glad they taught them some of these manuevers. The kids’ next stop was the bullpen, for some pitching drills. By this point, Trevor’s shoulder was causing some major discomfort, so he sat this one out. I don’t think he feels like he’s pitching material anyway, as he prefers to be behind the plate. After the pitching portion of the academy was complete, his group headed in for some base-running. They did some good drills that taught them how to run through the bag at first, and round it if the ball got through the infield. The kids really liked sliding on the artificial turf, too. He ended his day doing some infield drills. The Beach Bums did a great job of encouraging the kids, even when they made an error. They reminded them that the pros make mistakes, too, and not to get discouraged.
Overall, this was a very good experience for Trevor. I think he learned a lot and had some fun. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t make it for the second day due to the pain in his shoulder. I really recommend the Beach Bums Baseball Academy, however, for anyone living in the area. There seemed to be kids from all over the northern part of the state attending. I thank the Bums for their work with the kids, I want to personally thank Jason Wuerfel for giving Trevor this opportunity! We will be back next year, and with Brian old enough to join in the fun.
The Traverse City Beach Bums sent six players to the Frontier League All-Star Game in Washington, PA. Scott Dunn was named the starting pitcher for the East squad, and with good reason. He recently set the record by becoming the first pitcher in the history of the FL to start 10-0 on the season, and has a 1.98 ERA. He pitched the first inning of the All-Star Game, using only six pitches to retire the three batters without giving up a hit. Taylor Wrenn was the starting short-stop for the East. Hitting .302 with 11 doubles, three triples, five home runs, and 28 RBI’s, he was an easy choice. Wrenn went 0-3 at the plate in the game, however. Catcher Marcus Nidiffer made his second straight appearance in the ASG, last night. He came in to pinch-hit in the seventh inning, going 0-1. For the season, Nidiffer is batting .252 with 18 RBI’s. Big Chase Burch made his presence felt this week, also. He was the runner-up in the home run derby, and was 0-0 in the game, with a run scored after a base on balls, and getting hit by a pitch. Burch is hitting .305 this season, with nine home runs, and 42 RBI’s. He is also among the leaders in runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, base on balls, sacrifices and hits. Pitcher Jake Sabol is 6-4 so far this season, with a 2.36 ERA. He pitched a scoreless eigth inning for the East, with one strike out. Relief pitcher Nick Capito entered the ASG with a 2-0 record and a miniscule 0.76 ERA. He has struck out 37 batters this season, keeping them to a .117 batting average against him. He did his job last night, facing one lefty hitter in the ninth, and striking him out. Unfortunately for the Bums and the East, the West won this game by the score of 4-2. Congratulations to all of the Beach Bums All-Stars for 2013, though. We look forward to seeing them play again this season.
The Traverse City Beach Bums are the best team in the Frontier League. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, but with a record of 64-32 at the end of the regular season, they are statistically the best. Now comes the hard part…winning the playoffs. They start their quest on Wednsday taking on the Souther Illinois Miners, and will then hopefully take on the winners of the Gateway Grizzlies/Florence Freedom series. It was probably no suprise, either, that the Beach Bums were named the Frontier League Organization of the Year. Contributing to the Bums win/loss record, was the fact that they led the league in overall attendance with 160, 581, and average attendance with 3, 491 per game. The roster also includes the winner of the Morgan Burkhart Award, given to the Frontier League’s MVP in Jose Vargas. He has broken many of Traverse City‘s offensive records this season, and was one home run short of setting a league record of 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s. Vargas ended the season with 29 dingers, and 100 RBI’s right on the nose. He also hit .290 for the season. The team also includes four post-season Frontier League All-Stars. Chase Burch was named as the All-Star first baseman after hitting .304 with 17 home runs and 76 RBI’s. Ryan Still was named as the All-Star second baseman, after hitting .301 with 110 walks. This set the league record for bases on ball in a season. Vargas is the league’s All-Star third baseman, for putting up his great numbers, and in the outfield, Jeff Flagg is defiantly an All-Star. He hit with power all season, knocking 20 over the wall with 83 RBI’s. Bums manager Gregg Langbehn seemed pretty proud of his team and what they accomplished so far.
“The Beach Bums are honored to be represented in several postseason categories,” Langbehn stated the the Bums website. “Like we have said all along, when you surround yourself with good people, the right people and quality players, good things will come of it. Burch, Still and Flagg all are deserving of being on the post-season All-Star team. Their contribution have been significant to this squad. Jose (Vargas) is well deserving of the FL MVP. Without question he earned that award.”
Something good also happened for Langbehn, too, as he was given the Roger Hanners Award given to the Frontier League Manager of the Year. His team’s 62 wins this season ranks fifth in the FL history books.
“As a whole, we are proud and honored to receive these awards,” Langbehn said. “It would not happen without the support, hard work, and determination of every person associated with the Beach Bums and all of our families. These are all organizational awards.”
Photo courtesy of the Traverse City Beach Bums