It’s that time of year, again, to look back at all the fun things in terms of baseball that we accomplished. For the second year in a row, we missed out on a baseball trip, so the list won’t be all that diverse when it comes to location. That’s not a terrible thing, however, as we moved to Kentucky this year and reaped the benefits of living in an area with plenty of college, independent, minor league, and major league baseball nearby. If the list was to 10, it would have included my birthday, where I was able to spend a fun day with my boys at the Louisville Slugger Museum and a Bats game, but we did other fun stuff that made the cut. So, without further ‘ado’ let’s get to it…
9) Star Wars Night: Star Wars will always be a hit, and this year we went to the event at our new home field in Louisville. The Bats host a decent night of space adventure fun, and the game itself was a walk-off win. Even Boba Fett was there, who we missed last year, so it capped off a great night.
8) Our first Reds game: Our first Cincinnati Reds game was a great experience. We took a boat from Newport across the river to avoid traffic and parking, and that avoided a lot of my stress of visiting a Major League game. We got great seats off of Seat Geek, so we were able to get a great view of the game, and Brian got a game ball from Eugenio Suarez. It was a hot day, but worth it to take in the Great American Ballpark in all it’s glory. It’s an amazing place to watch a game, and although the Reds had a rough season, the games are always fun!
7) Whitecaps Opening Day: Opening Days are always fun, even if there is snow on the ground, and the temps are more suited for hockey. We wanted to get a Whitecaps game in before the move, and give my dad a fun birthday present at the same time. Despite the cold, we had a great time together, and every trip we make back to Michigan during the season, we will always try to work in a Whitecaps game. In a strange way, the weather was a fitting ‘goodbye’ for us.
6) Our first Cards game: Sometimes you go someplace that just feels like ‘home’. That’s exactly what happened to us when we entered Jim Patterson Stadium for the first time in early March. Before Minor League opening day, and while down doing some house hunting, we couldn’t resist taking in a ball game. This is a great venue, and the Louisville Cardinals have a good baseball program, so this was a fun game for sure. It’s hard to believe the games are free with the ACC being such a competitive conference, so no surprise they pull in some good crowds. With my love for college baseball growing with every game, Cardinal baseball will be a staple in our lives for years to come.
5) Y’All Star Game: We lucked out, as the Frontier League All Star, or Y’All Star, Game was held in Florence, KY this season. We’re pretty familiar with the independent Frontier League, spending some time at some of the Beach Bums games in Traverse City. We were able to cheer on some of our Bums, as well as players from the home town Florence Freedom. The game hosted mascots from the Reds and other Frontier League teams, as well as Jake the Diamond Dog, and Myron Noodelman who was absolutely hilarious. In all, just an enjoyable night of baseball, and we’ll definitely make it back to Florence for a Freedom game next summer.
4) Loons Uniform and Logo Unveiling: It’s not too often you are able to enjoy a baseball event in February, but that’s just what we did when the Great Lakes Loons hosted an event to showcase the teams new logo and uniforms. Along with seeing the new logos, the mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel entertained us. Brian was able to get his face painted and took the mic to try his hand at announcing. We ended the day by taking some cuts in the batting cages under Dow Diamond. Not a bad way to spend a winter day. I also wanted to add, that the Loons took their new look all the way to the 2016 Midwest League Championship!
3) Rose Number Retirement: Everyone has an opinion on Pete Rose, and whether you love him, or hate him, he is without a doubt one of the best hitters in the history of this great game! I met my best friend in Newport, and we had a great time at the ballgame, and seeing Reds legends like Rose and Johnny Bench in the pre-game ceremony. Like him or not, I did get to witness some history. 14 forever!
2) The San Diego Chicken!: Just like the afore mentioned Bench, I grew up watching the San Diego Chicken on the TV show The Baseball Bunch. He is far and above other mascots, and the skits he puts on are flawless and amazing. The Chicken has a magical presence that keep both children and adults tuned in to his every move. He was nice enough to meet with all his fans, also, and definitely made another one in Brian. This was an amazing night at the Bats game with the Chicken.
1) Mariners win the Championship!: Brian has really prospered from the move, but nothing more than what he’s been able to accomplish on the ballfield. He was lucky enough to join the Mariners a handful of games into the season when we moved down. The league down here is very different, and a lot more competitive. Brian fit right in, however, and had a great season at the plate. He was blessed with good coaches who pushed him hard but also let the kids have some fun. Being part of this team was a great experience and I’m glad he was able to be a part of it. The championship game was probably harder on me, but the kids were able to hang on for the win.
Looking ahead to 2017: I’m really looking forward to next season, and the adventures that baseball will take us on. We’ll have a full season with the Cardinals and Bats to look forward to, and the ACC Baseball championship here at Slugger Field, also. Brian will be playing ball again so we’ll keep tracking his success as he moves up a level next season. I’m looking forward to visiting new ballparks, especially some others here in Kentucky such as Lexington and Bowling Green. I wouldn’t mind hitting the road, either, for trips to Evanston, IN or Nashville, TN that aren’t all that far away, either. Until then, I wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas!
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Louisville Bats vs. Indianapolis Indians (International League)
Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY: Where did the summer go? It’s definitely a sad sort of day, the last day of the Minor League regular season, which means the end of 2016 baseball for the Bats. We were blessed with a beautiful day, however, so Trevor and I decided to take a walk down by the river before the game started. To our surprise, WLKY was doing a live broadcast down that way covering some Labor Day events, and we ‘just happened’ to walk behind the reporter and got on the news! Here’s the footage courtesy of Channel 32 WLKY’s YouTube (look for us at the 1:21 and 1:22 mark):
When Trevor and I were done being TV stars, we made our way into the ballpark for the last time in 2016. We had great seats, as we settled in with our $1 hot dogs and drinks on another 90 degree day.
On the mound was Keury Mella who was making his Triple-A debut with the Bats. He pitched a solid seven innings, only giving up three hits, one earned run, while giving up one walk, and striking out six to earn the win. Relief pitcher Kevin Shackelford came in to get the save.
Louisville was lead offensively by Seth Mejias-Brean, who got the Bats on the board in the 4th with an RBI base hit. He also added and RBI on the eighth inning with a triple. The go-ahead run came in the seventh, off of a Tony Renda base hit. FINAL: Bats 4, Indians 1.
Again, it’s sad that this was our last Bats game of the season, but we will still have some baseball in our future. Brian is still playing Fall Ball, and the Louisville Cardinals will probably play some exhibition games in the coming month or so, also. We might even make it back up to the Reds, but that’s still up in the air. This was a fun day with my son, and feel blessed and lucky for it!
Louisville Bats vs. Indianapolis Indians (International League)
Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY: The second part of our birthday adventure took us to the Bats game, as they hosted the rival Indians. Hey, if it’s my birthday, then why is Brian the one who gets to meet Buddy Bat and ride the merry-go-round??!
The Bats have been playing good ball lately, and this was another solid game for the home team. Louisville was lead offensively by Hernan Iribarren, who went 2-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Also having a good day at the dish was Donald Lutz, who contributed and RBI going 2-4. Jermaine Curtis and Jesse Winkler each went 1-3 with an RBI and run scored, respectively.
On the bump, Robert Stephenson each the victory for the Bats. He pitched six innings, only giving up two hits, while striking out four and walking five. J.J. Hoover ended up earning the save. FINAL: Bats 6, Indians 4.
A fun game, despite the heat, and an all around good birthday. I always feel very blessed and lucky to be able to have these experiences with my kids. It was a long day for all of us, especially in the sun, but we all had a great time. We hope to be back at Louisville Slugger Field next month when the famous Chicken will be here entertaining the crowd! Until then, here’s a little game video:
Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Louisville Bats vs Durham Bulls (International League)
Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY: Well, it only took us a few days in town to hit our first Bats game. Trevor has been here before, back in 2009, but this was Brian’s first experience here. Due to the weather, though, the pre-game kids clinic was postponed, so I’ll have to wait until June to see Brian take the field here. He had fun playing on the playground, however, and the
caro carous caris merry-go-round. Trevor and I took a selfie with the MiLB app, and reminisced about our game here seven years ago.
We sat over by the Durham Bulls bullpen, or Bull-pen, and had a great view of the game. Brian was hoping to meet mascot Buddy Bat, but he was busy on field pretty much the whole game, and never made it into the crowd. One of the ballpark staff members mentioned that he’s more active in the crowd during weekday games.
We did get to see Jake the Diamond Dog, however, as his doghouse was right in front of us. He brought flowers to a fan in the front row, brought some water to the umpires, and served as a batboy, er, batdog, for an inning.
As for the game, I don’t think we were much luck for the home team, as they had a six game winning streak snapped. Right-handed pitcher A.J. Morris started the game for the Bats, throwing three scoreless innings, striking out one batter and allowing only two hits. Relief pitcher Tim Melville took the loss, giving up two runs on two hits, including a home run.
At the plate, DH Jesse Winkler lead Louisville’s limited offense going 1-4 with an RBI. No Bats player had more than one hit in the game, but Hernan Iribbaren was 1-2 with two walks. FINAL: Bats 1, Bulls 3.
The started a little about the fifth or sixth inning, but nothing that could ruin our evening at the ballpark. It was a fun game with the boys, and I look forward to so many more here as they keeping growing. We’ll try to drag Lily to a game or two if we can also! With the rain, I forgot to take a quick video, but I will for next game.
Planning our baseball trip for this coming summer, we decided to once again make a stop at Louisville Slugger Field in Kentucky. Our last trip there was way back in 2009, a tour that took to South Bend, Indianapolis, Louisville, Fort Wayne, then back to Michigan with Lansing in a nice clean loop. Unfortunately, shortly after that trip the chip that all the photos were saved on became ‘corrupted’ and I lost all but a very few I had already posted way back when I first started M.I.B. I did, however, find a few photos that my dad took using ‘film’. This ‘film’, as it’s called, somehow stores pictures in this little plastic thing, and then he has to take it to a store, and actually WAIT to see what they look like. Can you imagine having to wait over an hour to see the pictures you took? Anyway, here are a few that I was able to find, and Louisville Slugger Field is a great place to watch a ballgame. I wish I could have found one of the stadium’s façade, as it’s built into an old rain station and is absolutely amazing. Instead we’ll have to settle for a couple of a very young Trevor before he became taller that his dad. The ballpark is pretty big, with an area out in left field where concerts and parties can take place, rides for the kids, and a playground down the left field line. I really like that parents can see the game from the playground area, so we don’t miss anything while the kids are letting off a little steam. I even caught a foul ball there while Trevor was busy playing. I really liked that the concourse wraps all the way around the stadium, also. There’s not a bad seat in the house, although the seats are structured at such an angle that the ones higher up do feel like your off the field a little too much, but with a larger Triple-A stadium it’s not unexpected. The overhanging seats from the sky boxes don’t give off much shade, either, so if you see a day game in the summer time, you’re going to be getting plenty of sun.
I really recommend seeing a game here for anyone in the area, and can’t wait to return this summer. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is located just down the street, also, so plenty to do in this area. This summer, our plan is to see games in Louisville, Nashville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Florence. This should be a great trip if the weather is nice, and will include the South Atlantic League All-Star game in Lexington. I actually would have hoped to be transferred to Kentucky by, but things move slowly (if it happens at all…) and if a miracle happens, I’ll already be settled there and ready to go!
UPDATE: This will be my new home field by this spring!!!!!!!!!!!
Toledo Mud Hens vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (International League)
Fifth Third Field-Toledo, OH: Well, it’s been about seven years since our last trip to Toledo to see the Mud Hens, so it was about time we made it back to Mudville. We stayed in Findlay, so it was a fairly brief drive into Toledo. With any downtown stadium, parking can be tough, but we got there early enough to make it into the lot across the street. The weather was perfect, even though it had rained the night before. I was hoping for maybe a double-header, but the Hens finished five innings the night before to make it a complete game. We had plenty of time to get a beer and a dog for lunch, and get some shopping in. I was hoping to get Brian a Muddy mascot, but they didn’t have any for some reason. He was happy I picked him up a Ghostbusters night t-shirt, though, as he loves that movie. There was a pretty decent crowd, and, as many mid-week day games go, catered to kids and seniors. I really do love seeing kids at ball games, but when they’re brought in for groups, the counselors really need to set some rules for them. The kids next to us were in and out of their seats every inning, which can be distracting, and inconvenient for my elderly father. Before the game we also got to see Tigers’ prospect Robbie Ray getting some extra work in. He didn’t pitch on this day, but always cool to see a top prospect. The mascot Muddy also paraded some kids from a youth group around the field.
As the Mud Hens are a Tigers affiliate, I was pretty familiar with most of the players, and had seen many of them in West Michigan. The RailRiders even had former Whitecap Scott Sizemore on their roster, who was one of my favorite players from the ‘Caps 2007 Midwest League championship team. Others we’ve seen before included first baseman Jordon Lennerton, second baseman Brandon Douglas, third baseman Wade Gaynor, catcher James McCann, and Duane Below who was on the mound for Toledo. The game got off to a good start, with the Hens scoring twice in the first inning on Tyler Collins sacrifice fly, and a home run by Trevor Crowe. Gaynor hit an RBI double in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead.
With the Mud Hens doing well, I took the opportunity to explore the ballpark a little bit more. I love the full wrap-around concourses, and used it to get some nice shots, including a panoramic of the stadium.
The ‘Roost’ is a set of seats connected to a neighboring building, with a great view of the game. We couldn’t buy these unfortunately, because they are always saved for a group outing. The usher, or ‘guard’, at the stairs to the Roost let me sneak up there and take a few pics, even though he made it clear he wasn’t supposed to.
We were also able to see the RailRiders ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte for a few innings. He took the loss for Scranton/WB, though. I remember watching him throw back in 2009 when he was playing for the Charleston River Dogs.
The Hens gave up three runs in the sixth inning, but got those three right back. Both teams ended up trading runs in the eighth inning, also. Ezequiel Carrera went 1-4 on the day with two runs scored and a stolen base, while Gaynor ended up 2-3. Below earned the win, pitching 6.2 innings, giving up the three runs, with one strike out and Kevin Whelan earned the save. Carrera also made a wicked catch in the outfield. In all, this was just a great day watching a great game, and I got a game ball to top it all off. I really love Fifth Third Field, and need to make it there much more often. Final: Mud Hens 7, RailRiders 4.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Columbus Clippers vs. Buffalo Bisons (International League)
Huntington Park-Columbus, OH: For our official first game of our 2014 baseball trip, we travelled south into Ohio. I’m dedicating this season’s trip to my favorite baseball movie Major League, due to its 25th anniversary, and the fact we’re visiting so many Cleveland Indians affiliates! Columbus is a great sports city, and we actually spent the day there checking out Ohio State, the Jack Nicklaus museum, and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ arena. We arrived at Huntington Park early, so we were one of the first few fans through the gates to explore at little. The home of the Clippers is really a nice Triple-A stadium that has many positive aspects. There doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house, and even has a group of seats attached to a building next to it in left field. The main concession stand was an island, so you don’t always have to miss part of the game when getting a snack or a beer. The ballpark also had many bits of baseball history, and history of the sport in Columbus, which I always find interesting. The Clippers have two mascots, Lou Seal and Krash (a parrot). Neither were active in the crowd, only on the field before the game. We were also joined by my best friend Darryl who lives near Dayton, so it was a pretty special game for us.
Unfortunately, we only got four innings in before the rain started. It really wasn’t all that bad at first, but then came down in buckets with thunder and lightning to boot. The storm really didn’t last that long, but the lightning stuck around long enough for them to postpone the game. The Clippers were up on the Buffalo Bisons 3-1 when the game was called, but ended up losing 5-3 when it was resumed the next day. Fans said the big prospect in the Clippers is Jesus Aguilar, and he went 1-3 in the game. Left fielder Tim Fedroff led the way for Columbus, going 2-4 with a double and RBI. On the mound, Travis Banwart started the game, but Nick Hagadone took over when it was resumed the next day, taking the loss. Even though we only got four innings in, we had fun in Columbus and the Clippers are a must see for baseball fans. Postponed: Clippers 3, Bisons 1 (3-5 Final).
All photos and video property of Minoring in Baseball
It doesn’t happen too often, when we watch a player in Single-A West Michigan one season gets the call up to the Detroit Tigers the next. In fact I believe Alex Avila is the last one who got that quick call up. This season it’s relief pitcher Corey Knebel, who just made the move to the bigs on Thursday. The Tigers drafted Knebel just last June 39th overall out of the University of Texas, where the right-hander was a highly successful closer for the Longhorns for three seasons. After the draft, he was sent to West Michigan, where he earned a 2-1 record, a 0.87 ERA, 15 saves, 41 strikeouts, and just three earned runs in 31 games. Knebel was assigned to the Erie Seawolves to begin the season, and he has been just as successful there, going 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA, one save, and 23 strikeouts. He was promoted to the Toledo Mud Hens just a week ago, giving up no runs and striking out four in just four innings of work. When asked if he thought he’d be moving up to the Tigers this soon:
“No idea,” Knebel stated to the Detroit News. “I just tried to do what I’ve been doing. My college coach taught me to fear no man, fear no hitter. That’s just what I kind of live by. I go out there and I think I’m better.”
The 6’3″ hurler certainly has the stuff to back that up. His fast ball hits up to 95 mph, and he has a nasty curve/slider combo that has made minor league batters look just silly. The Tigers look to be using Knebel to help out the depleted bullpen that has been overworked this past week. He was available to pitch in last nights’ game against the Rangers, but got no further that some warm-up pitches in the ninth inning. Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus looks to be giving him a chance to get adjusted, and looking for the right time to get him into a game.
“We’ve seen him pitch,” Ausmus said. “He has a really good curve, his makeup is supposed to be really good. He pitched in a big-time program in Texas. It’s not the major leagues, but generally those guys that come out of big programs are a little bit more stable, they get to the major leagues a little faster. But we’ll be learning about him on the go a little bit here, this staff, Jeff Jones, and myself.”
Knebel is not the first 2013 Tigers’ draft pick to get the call up (second in MLB), but he’s the first one from the last two drafts. Although he was a closer at Texas, the Tigers considered him for a starting job when assigned to the minors. It’s good for him that management realized how effective he is in the late innings. As a starter, who knows when he would have been able to earn a shot in Detroit’s rotation.
“I do love the ‘pen,” Knebel stated. “I love coming out of the bullpen. I love hearing my name called. My heart gets going. As a starter, you’re more relaxed. I don’t think I’m a relaxed person.”
To make room for Knebel, the Tigers optioned pitcher Robbie Ray back down to Toledo. We’ll definitely be watching the Tigers’ games closely for #49 to take the mound for his debut. We wont be as excited as his family that scattered to fly to Detroit from Austin, but we’re still looking forward to it.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Affiliate: Detroit Tigers
League: International League (Triple-A)
Home Field: Fifth Third Field
Fun Facts: The third game on our trip this coming season, will be a return to Toledo. We last took in a Mud Hens game back in 2007, so we’re very much ready to enjoy more baseball at Fifth Third Field. The Mud Hens have one of the best known minor league logos in history, mostly due to actor Jamie Farr wearing their hat during the run of the TV show M*A*S*H. They are also one of the oldest franchises, as pro baseball has been played in Toledo since 1883. The real era of baseball began in 1896, however, with the Toledo Swamp Angels who played in the Interstate League. The team played a Bay View Park, which was located near marshland which was inhabited by American Coots, also known as ‘mud hens’. The local press soon dubbed the team the Mud Hens, and the name has basically stuck though out the last 100 plus years. Toledo was also known for possibly hosting the first African-American to play in the major leagues. On May 1, 1884, Moses Fleetwood Walker suited up for the Toledo Blue Stockings, who were a member of the major league American Association at the time. The Mud Hens played in the minor league American Association for many years (1902-1962), and then until the league folded after the 1997 season. The Mud Hens then joined the International League, playing in it’s West Division. They have won the Governor’s Cup (IL Champions) on three occasions in 1967, 2005, and 2006. The team has two mascots, Muddy the male Mud Hen, and Muddona, the female.
Notable Alumni: Casey Stengel, Freddie Lindstrom, Hack Wilson, Kirby Puckett, Jim Thorpe, Frank Viola, Travis Fryman, Billy Beane , Curtis Granderson, Lance Parrish
The Detroit Tigers have signed left-handed pitcher Duane Below to a minor league contract, with a non-roster invite to major league training camp. The former Tiger is expected to compete for a spot in the bullpen for next season. Below played eight seasons in the Detroit organization, before being claimed off waivers early last season by the Miami Marlins. He then took his talents to Korea in July, playing for the Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization. In 43 games for Detroit, he posted a 4.27 ERA. He flopped between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season before making the moves to Miami and Korea. He went 5-5 with a 3.04 ERA in 17 starts between the two farm clubs. A member of the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2007, he went 13-5, with a 2.97 ERA, and 160 strike outs. Below is a hometown boy from Britton, Michigan, and played college ball for Lake Michigan Community College. I wish him all the best in his return to Detroit, and hope he can crack the opening day roster next season.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball