50th Midwest League All-Star Classic

East Division vs. West Division

classic1Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: We started off this seasons’ baseball trip with a bang this year, right here in Michigan with the 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic. The doors opened at 4:00, so when we arrived we were able to watch some of the West players during batting practice. We were really lucky it turned out to be such a beautiful day, too, as the forecast called for some rain, and thankfully we never got a drop.

classic2classic3There were plenty of things going on to keep fans entertained during the three hours until the first pitch, also. Joining the hometown mascots Crash, Franky, and Roxy, were Big Lug (Lansing), Johnny (Fort Wayne), Lou E. Loon (Great Lakes), and Fang (Wisconsin). The mascots did a great job all night and throughout the game. Crash and Lou E. Loon really stood out from the others, though, in entertaining the crowd.

classic4classic5classic6classic7classic8Fans were also lucky enough to get down on the field and get some autographs from the all-stars. They didn’t give us a whole lot of time, but I was able to get most of the East team to sign a baseball for the kids. It was fun talking to the players, also, even the ones from opposing teams we don’t get to see that often. All the players were great with the fans, and seemed very happy to be participating in the game.


Me with the Whitecaps Javier Betancourt
Me with the Whitecaps Javier Betancourt

Another pre-game activity was the ‘Lost Art of Bunting’ contest. Players from each team had a chance to try bunting the ball onto select targets down the first and third base side. This year’s winner was Mallex Smith, and outfielder for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

classic11Also on hand to sign some autographs was Detroit Tigers’ legend Willie Horton. Being a World Champion for the Tigers in 1968, he was someone my parents watched back in the 60’s and 70’s. We made sure he signed a ball for both of them, and I tried to get Horton in a photo with my dad, but there was some bad lighting. Still better than nothing, though. There was a long line for autographs, but it moved pretty quickly. Almost comical, though, as you couldn’t have him personalize an autograph or get an actual picture with him.

classic12classic13Now, on to the game itself…which was a blowout. You’d think an all-star game would be pretty competitive, but the West shut down the hitters from the East almost the entire game. In fact, the East was no-hit for 7 2/3 innings, before South Bend’s Marty Herum wrecked it. The Whitecaps’ starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford took the loss for the East, giving up one run in two innings of work. The ‘Caps Buck Farmer came in and pitched a scoreless fifth inning. He struck out one, walked one, and hit one batter. He leads the Midwest League with 87 strikeouts. Wynton Bernard played left field the entire game, going 0-3 with a walk, and leaving two runners on. Second baseman Javier Betancourt came into the game in the fifth inning. Although he was tied for the league lead in hits, he went 0-2 with a line-drive out and a ground-out. West Michigan pitchers Austin Kubitza, Chad Green, and reliever Joe Mantiply did not make an appearance.

classic14classic15classic16classic17classic18classic19classic20classic21classic22classic23The MVP award went to Hershel ‘Boog’ Powell of the Beloit Snappers. Boog went 1-3 with two walks, two stolen bases, and a two-run double. Even though the games wasn’t a close one, it was still an exciting experience for any baseball fan. And, hey, at least I caught a game ball! Final score: East 0, West 7.

classic24Here’s a video from my YouTube channel:

All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball


Midwest League All-Star Rosters Announced

Kicking off our annual baseball trip this season will be the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game in Comstock Park, MI in less than two weeks. This will be the first All-Star game of any kind that we have attended, and it will possibly be the highlight game of the trip. The gates to Fifth Third Ballpark will be opening at 4:00 p.m., and we’ll be able to see both teams take batting practice and be able to take part in an on-field autograph session. Also in attendance, joining the Whitecap’s own Crash the River Rascal, will be Big Lug (Lansing), Lou E. Loon (Great Lakes), Fang (Wisconsin), and Johnny (Fort Wayne). There will also being jugglers, stilt walkers, and face painters on the concourse before the game. Sounds like a great place to be a kid, and it’s almost guaranteed we’ll be seeing some great baseball. The Midwest League has announced the rosters for the event, also.

rainy7The West Michigan Whitecaps lead the way with five (or six?) players selected. Infielder Javier Betancourt (.272, 68 hits) and outfielder Wynton Bernard (.298, 14 doubles) were picked as the position players representing the ‘Caps. On the mound, pitchers Buck Farmer (5-4, 2.81 ERA), Austin Kubitza (5-0, 2.02 ERA), and Joe Mantiply (4-1, 2.00) will represent West Michigan. Jonathan Crawford (2-1, 2.27 ERA) is listed on the ‘Cap website, but has yet to be added to the official roster. That’s a very good group for the home-town fans to root for.

starwarsday14The Lansing Lugnuts will be sending four players north on I-96. Starting for the Eastern Division will be first baseman Matt Dean (.297, 3 triples, 2 home runs) and third baseman Mitch Nay (.267, 31 RBI’s). Outfielder Derrick Loveless (.287) will come off the bench, as will pitcher Griffin Murphy (2-2, 1.73). Not a bad group to represent the Lugnuts this year.

Lou E. Loon!!!
Lou E. Loon!!!

Three members of the Great Lakes Loons will also be all-star bound. Starting for the Eastern Division will catcher Kyle Farmer (.308, 15 2B, 33 RBI’s) and outfielder Joey Curletta (.314, 72 hits, 95 total bases). On the hill will Mark Pope, with a 1-0 record and miniscule 0.41 ERA. What the Loons lack in quantity, that definitely make up for in quality. All three players are having great seasons in the Midwest League this year!

You can see the full Eastern Division roster HERE, and the Western Division roster HERE.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Loons roster revealed

loons14The Los Angeles Dodgers have announced the players they will be placing at the Single-A Great Lakes Loons this season. The 2014 Loons roster has plenty of prospects listed by Baseball America and MLB.com, and plenty of top draft picks by L.A. in the last few years. Pitchers Zachary Bird and Victor Arano, catcher Kyle Farmer, outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo, and infielders Justin Chigbogu and Jesmuel Valentin are sure to impress fans at Dow Diamond this summer. Some other notable additions, such as outfielders Alex Santana and Joey Curletta, and pitchers Jacob Rhame and Brandon Martinez are young prospects who could contribute to the Loons this season also.

Great Lakes also has 12 players returning that have played in Midland in the past. Pitchers Bird (’13), Brandon Martinez (’12-’13), James Campbell (’12), and Jonathan Martinez (’13), catcher Webster Rivas (’13), infielders Paul Hoenecke (’13), Brandon Twinkwon (’13), and Delvis Morales (’12), and outfielder Malcolm Holland (’13). This seasons’ Loons roster also features some baseball legacy, as three players are sons of former Major Leaguers. Dillion Moyer is the son of former pitcher Jamie Moyer, Jesmuel Valentin’s father is former Dodger infielder Jose Valentin, and Greg Harris(Jr.)  is the son of big league hurler Greg Harris.

This season’s squad will be led by 13-year major league catcher Bill Haselman, who managed the Inland Lakes Empire to the California League championship last season. This seems like a very experienced team for Single-A, and Hasleman has a good chance of success this season in the Midwest League. We don’t have any concrete plans to see the Loons this season yet, but I’m sure we will. There’s a chance we’ll see them play on April 13th, but a lot has to do with the weather and how the Whitecaps’ game goes. I guarantee we’ll be at Dow Diamond at some point this summer, though!

Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons

Lance to Erie; Brookens to retire

Lance Parrish signs some cards for the kids while managing the Loons in 2007
Lance Parrish signs some cards for the kids while managing the Loons in 2007

Parrish to mange Erie: Lance Parrish is back in the Detroit Tigers organization. In what seems to be the final game of the Tigers’ minor league manager roulette, the former catcher will take the reigns of the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. Parrish’s last managerial job was with the Great Lakes Loons back in 2007. He led them to a 57-82 record, despite having Clayton Kershaw in the rotation. From 1999-2001, he served as the Tigers’ bullpen and third base coach under managers Larry Parrish (now with the Mud Hens) and Phil Garner. He was also the bullpen coach from 2003-06 under Alan Trammel. He really didn’t think he’d have another chance at a job in baseball until Al Avila gave him a call last week.

“What can I bring to this job? I can just bring me,” Parrish told the Detroit News. “My desire is to be the very best at my job and try to help the players out the best I can.
I’ve always felt I develop a good rapport with the players, whether in the minors or the majors.”

As a player, Parrish played most of his career in Detroit, helping the team win the 1984 World Series, was a six-time All-Star, and won three gold gloves behind the plate. Although he regretted leaving Detroit to play for Philly, among other teams, he always wanted a job back in Detroit.

“I always consider myself a Detroit Tiger,” Parrish said. “Even when I went to Philly, I didn’t want to go to Philly. After I was gone a year or two, I was hoping some time or way the Tigers would get me back.”

We had the opportunity to meet Parrish back when he was with the Loons, and he was nice enough to sign some baseball cards for the kids. We wish him the best with the SeaWolves this season, and look forward to seeing him back on the field while we’re in Erie this June.

Brookens led the Whitecaps to the 2007 MWL Title, and still had time to sign a card for Lily!
Brookens led the Whitecaps to the 2007 MWL Title, and still had time to sign a card for Lily!

Brookens retires: Someone who didn’t seem to be interested in the Erie job was Tom Brookens, who told the Detroit Free Press yesterday that he was retired. He was not asked to join new Tiger manager Brad Ausmus’ staff after spending the last four years under Jim Leyland as first and third base coach.

“I talked with a couple of teams,” Brookens told the Press. “There was basically minor league positions available, and that was it.”

He did talk to the Tigers about different jobs in the organization, but decided that if he couldn’t work in the major leagues, it was time to spend time at home with family. As a player, Brookens was also part of the 1984 Championship team with Parrish and Trammel. He played in Detroit from 1979-1988. He also managed in the Tiger system, as skipper for the Oneonta Tigers from 2005-06, Whitecaps in 2007 (leading them to the Midwest League championship), and Erie from 2008-09. We wish him all the best in his retirement. We were also lucky enough to meet him during his time in West Michigan, and he was great to the fans, and to my kids!

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

What if… We had one Single-A Champion?

Whatif1The off-season is a time to reflect in the season past, and at the same time look to the future. With sports in general, fans have always conversed on the ‘what if?’ factor, and I’ve been contemplating an idea for months now, ever since last season’s baseball trip. First, let me state that my two favorite Minor League’s are the Midwest League and the South Atlantic League. The MWL has three teams here in Michigan, and is where my hometown team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, reside. We also attend some Great Lakes Loons games over in Midland, and that is a  great venue, also. In fact, I’ve been to every stadium in the MWL except two, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. We’ll get back to those teams momentarily, as they’re important. As for the SALly league, through work training down in Charleston and southern Georgia, I’ve was able to attend a few games of the Savannah Sand Gnats and the Charleston Riverdogs. During my baseball trip to North and South Carolina last year, I was able to visit another five SAL towns. Through my experience, these leagues have a lot in common. Between the two, we can see some of the best logos,  nicknames, and mascots in all of sports. Both have teams in some great towns, with stadiums ranging from state-of-the-art, to simple and classic. Some of the best baseball fans we’ve had the luxury of interacting with attend games of these great leagues. Oh, the MWL and the SALly league have one more thing in common: they are the only two Single-A league. Now, I know there is short season and advanced ‘A’ league, but these two are just plain ol’ Single-A. The only two. These two league also have a link, so let us back up to two teams mentioned earlier, the Lake County Captains and the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Captains organization played in the South Atlantic League from 1991-2009, hosting their All-Star Game in 2006. The franchise started out in Columbus, Georgia, as the Columbus Indians (1991) and RedStixx. The franchise moved up to Eastlake, Ohio in 2003 and became the Captains. Lake County joined the Midwest League in 2010 with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The Hot Rods were previously the Columbus Catfish up until 2009, and the two northern most teams jumped to the MWL to alleviate travel expenses.

baseballsSo, now that the link between the two has been established the fun can begin. We can ask ourselves ‘what if the teams from these leagues played each other?’, and if so, ‘in what capacity?’. Due to the aforementioned travel expenses, any interleague play between the two is illogical, so we’ll just scrap that right away. It could be possible to have a Single-A All-Star Game, pitting the MWL against the SAL, but I don’t care for that, either. It may work at the Triple-A level, but I don’t like it for this one. What I would purpose is to have a simple championship series between the two leagues. For the Triple-A National Championship, they have a pre-determined neutral site to hold the event, and the winners of the International and Pacific Coast League play a one game winner-take-all. This could work at the Single-A level, also, and would ensure the fans of every team to have the opportunity to witness the championship game, and be exposed to the other Single-A league. Another route would be to have a three game series, with game one and games two and/or three at each of the participating teams’ stadiums. Last season, the Quad Cities River Bandits won the Midwest, while the Sand Gnats reigned supreme in the SAL. What an amazing series this would make, and not for just the prospects involved. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting both Modern Woodman Park with its breath taking sight lines in right field, and Historic Grayson Stadium, where you can feel the ghosts of baseball past when you enter the gates. What if the Loons would wind up playing the Greensboro Grasshoppers at some point? It would be awesome to cover the games from both ends with my buddies from Hoppers Fan, with both teams having phenomenal venues and fantastic community support. On a personal note, what if my transfer down south is granted next year, and the ‘Caps end up opposing the Greenville Drive. Where would my loyalties lie between my birth city and my adopted home? Although the possibilities my be endless, the one fact that stands out is this would be a win-win situations for all baseball fans involved, as well as the teams from both historic leagues. It would also be fun to see a game like this featured on MiLB.tv or the MLB Network.  This is still nothing but  a pipe dream, but it’s fun to imagine who the first team might be to win the ‘Minoring In Baseball Cup’…

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Haselman to manage Loons next season

haselmanThe Los Angeles Dodgers have named former Major League catcher Bill Haselman as the new manager of the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. Haselman spent last season as manager of the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers (California Angels), leading them the California League Championship. He has also managed the Single-A Bakersfield Blaze (Texas Rangers) in 2010. Haselman spent 13 seasons in the bigs, hitting .259 with 47 home runs and 210 RBI’s with the Rangers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Tigers. Playing with Detroit in 1999, he batted .273 with four home runs, and 14 RBI’s in 48 appearances.

Haselman will replace Razor Shines, who the Dodgers promoted to manage the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. In his one year stint with Great Lakes, he took the club to the Midwest League Playoffs with a 40-29 showing in the second half (67-72 overall). Along with Haselman, Bill Simas will return as the Loons pitching coach, while Johnny Washington will take over as their hitting coach. The Loons will kick off the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3 at Fort Wayne. We’re still waiting for the Tigers to name a manager for the West Michigan Whitecaps, too. Larry Parrish was promoted to Toledo earlier this year, and the ‘Caps are still waiting to see who will be taking the helm next spring.

Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons

M.I.B. Prime 9: Our top moments of 2013

I have to admit that 2013 was pretty good to us, and I’m probably going to miss it. We had a rocky start to the baseballs season, with some rainouts in Lansing (along with freezing rain, ice, snow, and so on), but after that it was sunny days ahead for us. It was really difficult to narrow a list down to just nine, as far as the fun things that we participated in this year. In reality, the whole trip through North Carolina could be listed (especially Greensboro and Asheville), it was so much fun. We have some fun things planned for 2014, but you’ll see how hard it will be to top our 2013 list. I am very thankful that we had such a fun year, and that my kids, and my dad, and I could spent this time together.

9) Meeting the Fox Sports Detroit Girls: It’s no secret, we love the FSD Girls here! They do a great job of representing our local teams here in Michigan. The kids and I were lucky enough to meet them at a Grand Rapids Griffins game earlier this year. They were very nice to the kids, especially Brian, who they signed a baseball and his hat for. With luck, we might run into them again at a ballgame next season, maybe at the all-star game or something.

fsdgriffs18) Double-Header in Midland: Like I stated, our baseball season got off to a rough start. Here in Michigan, we had a horrible spring that was cold, rainy, and snowy. On this day, though, we took advantage of a rain-out to catch at double-header on a Sunday afternoon at Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons. The first game, or games, of the season are always special, and this one was no different. It was still a cold day in early April, with the temperature about 30-40 degrees, but we stayed in the sun and it was pretty nice. The Loons mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel entertained the kids between games. We brought the kids’ Papa along for his birthday, and it was a great way to kick-off our 2013 baseball year.

first47) The ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum: I really loved visiting Greenville, South Carolina. The city made such an impression on me that I’m trying to get a transfer down there. Can you imagine a state where you can play catch outside almost ten months out of the year? It’s a very beautiful and historic town, with plenty to do for any sports fan. First, we dropped by Flour Field to watch the Greenville Drive, which was a great time. The next day was a thrill visiting the ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum. The family that runs it is very nice, and knowledgeable about Jackson for sure. It was a fun experience that I highly recommend for anyone in that area.

joe16) Back in Battle Creek: It’s hard to believe, but we this is the first game we’ve seen in Battle Creek since the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays packed their bags and moved up to Midland. We were down here in 2010, but got rained out, unfortunately. This is where it all began, though, here at C.O. Brown Stadium. The start of the baseball trip, and my love for minor league baseball. This was the kids first game here, too, as well as the opportunity to see the Battle Creek Bombers in the Northwoods League. The day itself was special, because we were able to spend some quality time with family down there. Plenty of family was in attendance to see me throw out the first pitch, too (a beautiful strike, by the way). Lily and Trevor really enjoyed trying out their Twinkie Dogs, as well. It was super hero night, and Brian was able to chase the costumed staff across the field between innings with the other kids. He also participated in an on-field game that he did great at. This was all-around one of the best baseball days anyone could ask for.

bccollage5) Star Wars Night: Well, this will probably make the list every year. This year we were back in West Michigan for the Whitecaps game. There were plenty of characters on hand from that galaxy far, far, away to entertain us this year, too. We were able to get pictures with Boba Fett and all the Imperial Stormtroopers, as well as Darth Vader himself. All the kids got lightsabers, and Brian didn’t have any trouble finding other kids to play with. After the game, the lights went out and we enjoyed the fireworks as this special night came to an end.

starwars44) Running the Bases: Being on the field is always fun, and Brian was able to do a lot of that this summer. As mentioned in #6, he was able to run through the outfield and do a race in Battle Creek. Along with that, he ran the bases at the Loons game in Midland, and the Beach Bums game in Traverse City. The kid is a little speed demon, and he had to slow down so not to lap some of the other kids. As a parent, it’s so much fun to watch your kids having such a good time. At least having some baseball experience under his belt, he knows which way to go.

BrianCollage13) Training for Trevor: Despite a shoulder injury that kept him out half of his Little League season, Trevor was able to take part in a couple of baseball clinics. The first one was put on by Major League Baseball Alumni. Former players like Doug Mirabelli, Roger Mason, Dennis Rasmussen, and Rob Ellis were there and did a great job teaching the kids. They were all very patient and helped many of the kids one-on-one. The second clinic was the Beach Bums Baseball Academy in Traverse City. Trevor was able to learn first hand from the Bums’ players and coaches. He was a little limited to what he could do due to his shoulder, but still had a great time. I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid.

cliniccollage2) The Durham Bulls Experience: Seeing the Durham Bulls was on my baseball bucket list for a long time, and now I can finally cross that off. The Bulls really don’t disappoint, either. It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful game to watch. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is an amazing place to watch a baseball game, and seeing the Bulls during the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham was an awesome experience. The Bulls have to be one of the most recognized baseball logos in minor league history due to the movie, and a game here should be on every fan’s bucket list. We even visited the old ballpark where they filmed the movie, and they still use it for local games.

bulls11) Coaching the Boys: Yeah, this one is personal. Being able to coach my kids in baseball is one of the highlights of my life, not just this year. Lily decided to take a year off, and I really missed watching her play. The boys had a fun season, though, even with Trevor’s injury. Brian made some big improvements, and is hitting the ball better than any five-year-old should. The kid has a rocket arm, too. Being at the local ball fields three or four nights a week is something I’m truly grateful for.

llboysPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball