Yesterday Minor League Baseball and Rawling Sporting Goods released the names of the nine players chosen to receive Gold Gloves for defensive excellence at their position. Three out of the nine happen to be Detroit Tigers prospects and former West Michigan Whitecaps. The 2013 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners were chosen from all the qualifying players from the ten domestic-based, full season Minor Leagues. Each player will receive his own Rawlings Gold Glove Award, modeled after the iconic award given to MLB’s top defensive players. Taking home the award at first base is Jordan Lennerton, who played with the Toledo Mud Hens in 2013. He posted an impressive .996 fielding percentage, with 1, 167 put outs, and five errors. Lennerton played two seasons in West Michigan, hitting .282 with 71 RBI’s, and a .996 fielding percentage in 2009. In 2010, he hit .290 with a .993 fielding percentage. Covering the hot-corner is Wade Gaynor. He had a .967 fielding percentage, with 95 put-outs, 227 assists, and 11 errors playing third base for the Erie Sea Wolves. We were lucky enough to meet Wade (pictured above) back in 2010 when he was with the Whitecaps. He hit .286 with 39 doubles, 80 RBI’s, and a .927 fielding percentage that year. Earning the honor in left field is Jason Krizan, who just played for the Whitecaps the last two seasons, where he hit .242 with 59 RBI’s, and a .980 fielding percentage combined. This season with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, he had a .995 fielding percentage, 175 put-outs, and only one error in the outfield. Congratulations to all three players. It was fun watching them in West Michigan, and I’ve been enjoying tracking their progress through the Tigers’ system.
“I know what an honor it is for a player to receive a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, having been involved in presenting them to the winners the last two years,” stated President and CEO of Minor League Baseball, Pat O’Conner. “The players really appreciate and understand how prestigious the accolade is and I want to thank Rawlings Sporting Goods for their continued support of Minor League Baseball.”
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For the second season in a row, the West Michigan Whitecaps are left without a manager. Unlike last season, however, this change comes with a promotion. Larry Parrish (pictured), who led the ‘Caps to a 69-70 finish in the Midwest League, has been promoted to helm the Toledo Mud Hens in 2014. This isn’t his first experience with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate, as he managed Toledo in 1994 and from 2003-2010. Under Parrish, the Mud Hens won back to back Governor’s Cup (International League) championships in 2005 and 2006. Parrish has won more games for Toledo than any other manager at 569. It looks like three times a charm for him, as he has some great support from the parent club Tigers, as well as the Hens.
“As a manager, he’s a great teacher, and I know we’ll see improvement in player development,” said Toledo’s general manager and team president Joe Napoli in a press release. “For our fans, he’s always been a favorite, they will be glad to welcome him back.”
“He’s going to be missed,” stated Whitecaps vice president Jim Jarecki to MLive.com. “Having LP on board, he was a great guy on and off the field. He was great to work with and the guys really liked and respected him. Even though the record didn’t reflect it, the players gravitated to him and he was a great leader.”
This is a good move by the Tigers’ organization, and a deserved promotion for Parrish, as he’s already in the International League Hall of Fame. We already have a couple of dates circled on the calendar for season to watch the Mud Hens, so we’ll be seeing him again soon. Now…what about the Whitecaps? The Single-A affiliate is once again in need of a skipper, and it will be interesting to see who the Tigers will assign. I’ve written in the past how I think that Brandon Inge would be a good fit in West Michigan. The Tigers’ have basically stated that they’d like him back in the organization once his playing days are done, and Inge always said positive things about the ‘Caps. We’ll see if he retires at the end of the season, though, and if he shows interest in coaching. Jarecki aslo stated the Tigers should name the ‘Caps new manager sometime in early October, so the safer bet may be seeing the promotion of Connecticut Tigers manager Andrew Graham. He has been at the helm of the C-Tigers for the last three seasons, and before that coached the Gulf Coast League Tigers from 2009-2010. He also served as the Tigers minor league catching coordinator during the 2010 season. This season, Graham led Connecticut to a 33-42 finish, good for third place in the New York-Penn League‘s Stedler Division. He is also a Tigers product, getting drafted by Detroit in 2003, and was a catcher in the organization from 2003-2008. A native of Sydney, Australia, Graham also played in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009. I’ll be keeping a close eye on who gets the West Michigan job. The Whitecaps have missed the playoffs the last three season, so whoever is chosen I hope they can break that streak in 2014.
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For anyone who cares for the prospect ratings, one of the most respected analysts is ESPN’s Keith Law. Also, for anyone who cares about the Detroit Tigers, the only prospect who appears on his top 50 list is outfielder Nick Castellanos. Castellanos has moved up to number 22 on the list, but some feel his value has actually gone down since moving to the outfield. After seeing him play in West Michigan in 2011, his defense at third wasn’t really his strongest tool. He wasn’t horrible, mind you, but a move to the outfield in an organization that sports Miguel Cabrera at the hot corner, can only be a positive move for him. Castellanos started the season ranked at 38, but is having a solid season in his first year at Triple-A with the Toledo, batting .281 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI’s. In June, he pounded out a .361 average with five home runs, but has slumped a tad in July. He has gone 3-6 after the Triple-A All-Star Game, however, a game he missed due to the birth of his first child.
Here’s what Law stated from ESPN: “Castellanos is now a full-time right fielder, which hurts his potential value relative to what it might have been had he stayed at third base, but he’s putting together a solid season as one of the International League’s youngest everyday players, working the count more effectively while already setting a career high in home runs. He might be more above-average regular than superstar after the position switch, which still makes him very valuable and a likely trade target for sellers this month.”
Nick is not exclusive to right field, though, and has played in left for Toledo and Erie last year. If the Tigers do decide to move Castellanos, it should be for a player that will not only improve their chances at a World Series this season, but for years to come. He’s still only 21-year-old, so plenty of time for him to develop and not rush his Major League debut, which some feel will come this September. For the Whitecaps in 2011, Castellanos hit .312 with 36 doubles, seven home runs, and 76 RBI’s. He is currently ranked 15th on the prospect list released by Baseball America, also.
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Durham Bulls Athletic Park–Durham, NC: This is one that have been on my bucket list for some time…the Durham Bulls. And what a better time than the 25th anniversary of the hit movie Bull Durham? The new ballpark is located right downtown, so parking can be a nightmare. Throw in all the construction, and it’s a pain if you don’t get to the ballpark early. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park was simply the gem of our trip. It’s an amazing ballpark with no bad seat in the house. It’s easily one of the best minor league parks we’ve ever been to. It was a beautiful sunny day, and luckily we were able to catch some shade. It was a little ironic, too, that we were sitting next to someone from my hometown, Grand Rapids, MI. I enjoyed the game immensely, and the Bulls really do put on a great show for their fans. Triple-A is also a good chance to see the young stars on the rise, and former major leaguers in action as well. If you’re a baseball fan, you need to see a Durham Bulls game. It’s as simple as that.
The game itself saw the Bulls defending their home turf against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Bulls took care of business early, and never looked back. Lead-off hitter Jason Bourgeois led the way offensively, going 3-4 with an RBI. Third-baseman Vince Belome contributed a pair of hits and an RBI, also. Alex Colome earned the win on the mound for the home team, throwing seven complete innings. Our Durham experience lived up to the hype, and couldn’t have gone better (well, maybe it would have been nice to see a player win a steak, and the mascot hit by a pitch). Final score: Bulls 8, Iron Pigs 2.
Charlotte Knights vs. Pawtucket Red Sox (International League)
Knights Stadium-Fort Mill, SC: Well, it was a beautiful night in Fort Mill, anyway. The stadium is located just south of Charlotte. It was a Saturday game, so there was a really good crowd, and again it was good to see so many kids and families. It was also breast cancer awareness night, so the Knights were wearing their pink jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. The Knights had two mascots on hand, with Homer being the boy dragon, but I didn’t catch the name of the female one. The Charlotte Knights cheerleaders/dance team was also on hand, the lovely KnightinGals. Knights Stadium is nothing spectacular, but is good size for Triple-A. It’s a good walk up the stairs from the front row to the concourse. Some fans are excited by the new stadium being built downtown, but most feel it will bring higher prices for tickets and concessions. The current stadium isn’t that far from Charlotte, and has plenty of parking, so I think an upgrade would be better than a new one. We ended up moving from the front row to the upper deck to get a better view of the action, too. There’s not a bad seat in the house, but we love the upper deck. We met some great baseball fans in Charlotte, and it was a great night for baseball.
The game itself wasn’t much fun for the home town fans, but there seemed to plenty of Red Sox fans cheering the visitors. I guess the Nation really is expanded, because we met plenty of BoSox fans in both North and South Carolina. It was good to see former Whitecap Justin Henry play again, also, for the PawSox. He played in West Michigan back in 2007. Final score: Charlotte 0, PawSox 4.
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It was just another day at the ballpark for this Mud Hens fan. Sit back, have a few beers, throw peanuts at former Tiger Brandon Inge…wait, what? Yes, fans do heckle players at the games, especially at the minor league games where the fans are so close to the action. Last night, however, one fan took things a little too far and began belittling Inge, and even started throwing peanuts at him. Inge, who signed with the Pirates this spring, was playing for the Indianapolis Indians on a rehab assignment against the Mud Hens in Toledo.
“It was just an agitate fan that took it a little too far”, Inge told The Toledo Blade. “That stuff is unfortunate. You can’t avoid it. There’s always going to be a couple of idiots at every game. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can handle it the best you can, and I think we did.”
When the fans assaults became unbearable, Inge’s teammates were quick to defend him. Pirate prospect Jerry Sands and Felix Pie had to be restrained from going after the unruly fan. Sands actually cleared the fence between the stands and dugout, an action that brought a one game suspension from the International League. The fan was escorted out of the ballpark, but still tried throwing beer at the players on their way out (alcohol abuse?). Inge did his best to continue the game, and make it enjoyable for the remaining fans, especially the kids in attendance. He handed out more than a half-dozen baseball to kids.
“Everything was handled very professionally,” Inge stated. “The Mud Hens handled it professionally and I think we handled it as professionally as we could.” Uh, except for Sands, though, Brandon? He did take care of the kids, though: “I know the face of a kid that’s scared. And that man was definitely scaring those kids around the area. I actually saw a couple of kids sitting by themselves, I’m sure their parents were nearby, and I saw them actually get up and move a couple of seats back. They were just like, ‘Wow, we need to move,’. I didn’t want them to feel like that. So I pulled them over and gave them some baseballs. It turned to be, I think, ok.”
None of the Mud Hens players were involved. The Detroit fans have always had a love/hate relationship with Inge, though. Personally I’ve never had a problem with him. He always worked hard and wanted to contribute the best he could. He’s also recently stated he’d like to come back to the Tigers organization when his playing days are done. This is prediction I’ve made many times, however.
“I’d probably, one day, like to stay part of that organization in some way,” Inge stated to the Detroit News. ” One thing I learned through the years in this game is reading people. It’s why I respect Al Kaline so much. He’s still helping the Tigers in so many ways. But what impresses me is that he’s such a great personality reader.” He also stated to the News, “Detroit is home for me. It’s not something you experience for as long as I did and not call it home. In my mind, I’ll always be a Tiger.”
There you have it, folks…. Any way you slice it, though, the fan was in the wrong, and I’m glad he got tossed without anyone getting hurt. Best of luck in your rehab, Brandon.
Photo courtesy of the Detroit News
Larry Parrish may be entering his first season as skipper of the West Michigan Whitecaps, but he has plenty of experience under his belt. On Tuesday the Triple-A International League announced that Parrish will be rewarded for that experience, and success, by being inducted to their 2013 Hall of Fame class. Managing the Toledo Mud Hens, he won the IL Manager of the Year award in 2005, and is the teams’ all time leader in wins with 569. Parrish’s first stint in Toledo started in 1994, leading them to a 56-62 record. After being promoted to become the Detroit Tigers manager in 1998-99, he came back to the Mud Hens from 2003-06, and 2008-10. He guided the Mud Hens to back-to-back Governor’s Cup championships in 2005 and 2006. He has also served as the Atlanta Braves hitting coach in 2011. Parrish played in the majors for 15 seasons with the Rangers, Expos, and Red Sox. The International League Hall of Fame was originally created in 1947, and ran through 1964. It was then re-established in 2008, the leagues 125th anniversary, and went through a three-year transition period where 50 inductees were selected by a committee. Parrish, along with Mack Jones and Don Richmond, represents the third class to be chosen by the HoF’s current standard.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Location: Fort Mill, South Carolina
Home Field: Knights Stadium
League: International League
Affiliation: Chicago White Sox
Summary: This is actually a very cool logo, in my opinion. And during this coming seasons’ baseball trip, our second game on the schedule will be at Knights Stadium when the Knight take on the Pawtucket Red Sox. This will be my first time seeing both teams. We were in Pawtucket a couple of years ago, but the game was rained out. The team represents Charlotte, North Carolina, but the ballpark is located in one of its suburbs, Fort Mill, SC. From what I’ve read, the ballpark isn’t anything special, but a new one is being built as we speak in downtown Charlotte. There has been some opposition to this, and I’m not sure why, but the new stadium looks like it will be amazing. Too bad we’ll miss that one, but I’m sure we’ll have a great time seeing them this year, too. Baseball in Charlotte dates back to 1901, and the Charlotte Hornets (sound familiar?). The modern version of the team dates back to 1976, when famous wrestling promoter Jim Crocket, Jr. bought the team that was in Asheville, and brought them to town to become the Charlotte Orioles. They were then bought by the owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, and named the Knights. They have been in the original South Atlantic League, which became the Southern League, and then landed a Triple-A franchise in the International League. During their affiliation with Baltimore, the likes of Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Curt Schilling played in Charlotte. During their stint with Cleveland, fans were able to watch young versions of Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. The mascot is a Dragon named Homer, and I’ll do my best to get a photo with that guy. Charlotte looks like a great city, and I am really looking forward to our visit. There is so much else to see and do, also, including the Charlotte Motor Speedway and President Polk Memorial. P.S.: I know this is the second LoM this month, but if I’m going to get through all the teams before my trip, I’ll have to double some of them up!