Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Iowa Wild (American Hockey League)
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: I hope this post finds that everyone had a safe and very Merry Christmas! To celebrate our holiday, we headed downstate to visit family, and to keep busy, took in a hockey game. There are really only two seasons in our eyes, baseball in summer, and hockey in winter, so we spend many nights at the rink when the ballparks are covered in snow. On this night, Brian and I went with Papa to see the Griffins host the Wild at the Van. Our first Griffs game of the season, and it was a good one. They wasted no time, as Andy Meile tickled the twine just 14 seconds into the game. The Wild tied the game shortly after, but not long after that Landon Ferraro re-established the lead for Grand Rapids. Teemu Pulkkinen scored with 43 seconds left in the period to give the Griffins at 3-1 lead going into the first intermission.
The second period was a good one for the home team. Mitch Callahan scored a power-play goal just 2:35 into the period to put the Griffins up by three. Grand Rapids kept pouring it on, as Tomas Nosek scored a highlight-reel goal, and Marek Tvrdon scored his first AHL goal shortly after. The scoring didn’t stop there, as defenseman Nathan Paetch scored on a laser from the left circle, and Nosek tapped in his second of the night to put an end to the second period. Brian and I tried to catch up with the mascots Griff and Finn, but they didn’t get out with the fans during the game or intermissions.
The third period wasn’t as excited, but still held some very good stories. First, with the Wild getting beat up, they decided to finally pull their starting goalie, and replace him with David DeSandler. With the other netminder called back up to Minnesota, the Wild needed a back-up, and signed the west Michigan native to a one-day tryout. DeSandler did a fine job, too, only giving up one goal and making six saves in his one period of work. The only goal he gave up was to former Lake Superior State Laker Colin Campbell at the 5:53 mark. In net for the Griffs, Thomas McCollum, who was sent down from the Detroit Red Wings earlier in the day. He was stellar on the night, stopping 32 out of 34 shots for Grand Rapids.
Fight! Fight! Dropping the gloves!!!
This was a fun night with family, and we hope to make it down to another game this season. As the last post of 2014, it was a great year and we really look forward to the challenges that 2015 will bring us. I’m still hoping to get transferred to a warmer, more baseball friendly environment, so keeping my fingers crossed, and see where the new year takes us! Final: Griffins 9, Wild 2.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Grand Rapids Griffins vs. San Antonio Rampage
Van Andel Arena-Grand Rapids, MI: After a fun afternoon at the West Michigan Whitecaps’ Open House, and a great meal at Enza’s Pizza, we made out way to the Van Andel Arena for an evening of AHL hockey featuring the home town Griffins taking on San Antonio. The Griffins won the Calder Cup last season, and were out to their best start ever in 2013, but injuries to parent club the Detroit Red Wings have depleted the roster here in GR. The Griffins still have a lot of fight in them, though, and it was fun to finally make it down to a game this season. The kids really like Van Andel Arena, also, as it’s the biggest one they’ve had a chance to visit so far. They also had a free hockey figure promotion, and we all know how much kids love getting free stuff. Brian finally got to meet one of the Griffins’ mascots, so he was all his glory at that point.
The game itself was a rough one for the hometown Griffins, as they got spanked 3-0 by San Antonio. They really just didn’t look like a typical Grand Rapids team, and made too many mistakes. The only stand out player was Petr Mrazek in net, who made 22 saves on the night, but was hung out to dry on the three Rampage goals. Head coach, and Sault Ste. Marie native, Jeff Blashill should have this team back to their winning ways by next weekend, though. The games are always a little more fun with a win like they did for us last season, but we still had a great time together. I’m not sure if we’ll make it down to another game this season, but if not we surely wish the Griffins luck on another championship run. Looking over the Whitecaps schedule, I was hoping to find a baseball/hockey double-header we could go to, but their games just don’t match up. All together, another day with the kids and my dad that I’m extremely thankful for.
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
The West Michigan Whitecaps and their fans got an early Christmas present this year. Upon watching the newly released Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, some fans and staff noticed the baseball footage in the film is none other than of their Whitecaps. During the film, sports reporter Champ Kind (actor David Koechner), plays a montage of home runs to boost the ratings. The montage happens to be a mash of West Michigan players’ homers, with Champ using his catchphrase ‘Whammy!’. And you’re probably wondering how a Single-A Minor League Baseball team can make into a movie such as this, as did I. According to MLive.com, a Detroit-based filmmaker working for a Los Angeles film company came to Fifth-Third Ballpark to film what is called ‘B-roll’. The ‘Caps signed an agreement, the film was shot, but no one knew how the film would be used. Now we know. Unfortunately, the Whitecaps’ name isn’t used, but baseball fans will recognize the uniforms. Koechner is familiar with Grand Rapids, also, as he was in town last month for a comedy show. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this movie, but even more so now. Stay classy, West Michigan…
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps/Anchorman 2
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
This is just a quick post, as we’re getting ready to head south to the Grand Rapids area for Star Wars Night at the Whitecaps game tomorrow night. The fans in West Michigan have been pretty busy, as the ‘Caps have had plenty of promotions on the current home stand. On Wednesday, the 1998 Midwest Championship team was honored and the ‘Caps wore throwback jerseys of the ’90’s. Last night was special, not only because it was ’70’s night, but of the visitors to Fifth Third Ballpark. First, Benjamin Hill of MiLB.com was on hand doing his baseball thing. He gets involved in all aspects of the team, including the concessions, promotions, and between inning games. Ben is simply my hero, and you can check out all of his hi-jinks at Ben’s Biz Blog. Also attending last night game, were member of the AHL Champion Grand Rapids Griffins and the Calder Cup trophy. Area fans had the opportunity to get photos with coach Jeff Blashill, players, and the Cup. I really would’ve loved to have been at last night game to meet Ben and the Griffins. Tonight is also a special night, as Detroit Tiger legend Lou Whitaker will be there to sign autographs for fans. Being a second baseman, I idolized ‘Sweet’ Lou growing up here in Michigan. My Little League obligations have kept me in town, though, but we’ll be at Star Wars night tomorrow!
Photo courtesy of West Michigan Whitecaps
I’m taking a small break from minor league baseball to focus on some minor league hockey. Why would I do this, you ask? Easy, when my own Grand Rapids Griffins captured the Calder Cup last night with a 5-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch. The Calder Cup is awarded to the playoff champion of the American Hockey League, which is comparable to Triple-A in baseball. The Griffins won the series four game to two over the favored Syracuse team. Grand Rapids won the first three games of the series, but the Crunch battled back to win two and bring the series back home. It would have been nice to have won it on home ice at Van Andel Arena, but a championship is special no matter where it’s won. Griffin captain Jeff Hoggan accepted the Cup at center ice, and Tomas Tatar was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the series most valuable player, scoring 16 goals and 21 points in 24 games. In net, Petr Mrazek made 24 saves for the win. First year head coach Jeff Blashill made a fine showing also, and is a native of our little town of Sault Ste. Marie here in the U.P. This is the first championship in the 17 year history of the Griffins, and 27 years of pro hockey in Grand Rapids.
To celebrate, more than 4,000 fans were in attendance at Van Andel Arena this evening to see the Griffins and the Calder Cup. The team was also able to thank their fans. We knew this would be a special season when we saw them play in February, and they looked very solid. I would love to see the Whitecaps pick up on this, and have the Griffins honored at one of their games. They could even have a championship puck give away or something, or have the Calder Cup on display. Anyway, this is very good for my hometown of Grand Rapids. Congrats to the Griffins, and also to Syracuse on a great season.