West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)Cooley Law School Stadium–Lansing, MI: Both the West Michigan Whitecaps and the Lansing Lugnuts missed the playoffs this season, but ended 2013 with their in-state rivalry. Despite the ‘Caps having a better record this season, the Lugnuts have had their number, and that includes taking 2/3 in the final series. In the first game, the Whitecaps made a gallant come-back attempt, only to lose in a walk-off in the ninth. Jake Stewart and Bennett Pickar hit back-to-back singles, when the Lugnuts brought in Arik Sikula to close the game. Sikula threw a wild pitch and had a passed ball, though, that scored Stewart. Then David Gonzalez hit a triple, scoring the pinch-runner Harold Castro to tie the game. The ‘Caps celebration was short-lived, however, as a walk and two singles gave Lansing the win, and Corey Knebel his only loss of the season. Kevin Patterson hit the winning RBI in the 5-4 win for the Lugnuts. The second game of the series was a complete rout for the Whitecaps, winning the game 13-1. The ‘Caps scored five runs in both the third and fourth innings, one in the sixth, and two in the eighth with 19 total hits. Jared Reaves led the way going 4-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. Raph Rhymes went 3-4 with a double and two runs scored. Connor Harrell and Jake Stewart each contributed with three RBI’s each. On the mound, West Michigan was just as dominant. Calvin Drummond earned the win, going five innings, giving up only three hits, and striking out four. Kramer Chaplin took the loss for Lansing. The final game of the series, and of the season, went to the hometown Lugnuts by the score of 9-4. The Whitecaps had a 4-0 lead at one point, but surrendered nine streight to the ‘Nuts. Jeff Holm, Pickar, Castro, and Jason King each had two hits in the loss. Daniel Klein led the way for Lansing, going 3-4 with two doubles, two RBI’s, and a run scored. Relief pitcher Yorfrank Lopez took the loss, giving up six hits and five runs in just over an inning of work, while Ian Kadish earned the win for Lansing.
Lucky for me, I had a buddy from work attend one of the games and get this photo for me. It will be a long nine or so months before seeing baseball again for sure. We’ll try to get to Lansing next season of the weather cooperates, and we’ll hit a few Whitecaps games for sure, including the Midwest League All-Star game hopefully.
Photo courtesy of B. Faulkner
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
Midland, MI-July 2-3: The first two game of the series were played at Dow Diamond. In game one, ‘Cap second baseman Harold Castro’s ninth inning home run broke West Michigan’s losing streak with a 4-3 win. He was 2-4 in the game, while Zach Kirksey was 2-3. For the Loons, Aaron Miller hit a home run of his own in the sixth inning, to tie the game at three. He was 2-4 on the night, also, while third baseman Leo Rodriguez went 3-4. On the mound, Angel Nesbitt earned the win to improve to 3-1, while Corey Knebel got the save. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss for the Loons. Great Lakes would take conrol the next night, however, pounding the Whitecaps 8-0. Shortstop Corey Seager went 2-3 with four RBI’s to lead the Loons offensively. Rodriguez and Miller each went 2-4, also. The Whitecaps only managed four hits during the game, with 16-yr-old Julio Urias getting the win. He pitched six shut-out innings while striking out eight. Endrys Briceno took the loss for the ‘Caps, giving up four earned runs in three innings of work.
Comstock Park, MI-July 4-5: Both teams would re-unite at Fifth-Third Ballpark on Independence Day! The Whitecaps continued their defensive woes, however, and fell to the Loons 7-5. They committed two errors and one miscue that led to two Loons’ runs. Three of the Loons runs were unearned in the game. Left-fielder Robbie Garvey had a nice game for Great Lakes, though, going 2-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. For the Whitecaps, Jason King went 2-2, with two runs scored, and RBI, and two walks. On the mound for West Michigan, Chad Smith started the game, but Yorfrand Lopez took the loss, giving up three runs in just over three innings. Geoff Brown earned the win for the Loons, pitching five innings giving up one earned run and striking out five. In the final game of the series, the Loons would take a 2-0 lead early, but watched the ‘Caps roll off seven in a row. Zach Kirskey lead the offensive charge for the ‘Caps, going 1-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBI’s. Helping out was Danry Vasquez, going 2-3 with a double and two RBI’s, and Jason King who went 2-3 with a home run, two runs scored, and an RBI. Malcolm Holland delivered a solid game for Great Lakes, going 2-3 with an RBI and two walks. For the ‘Caps, Charlie Gillies won his first game of the season in the 7-2 win. Arismendy Ozoria took the loss, giving up six runs in two innings. It was a good series for both teams, especially West Michigan, who has been struggling as of late. The Loons are in first place of the Midwest League East.
Bottom photos courtesy of Emily Jones/MLive.com
Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: I’m not talking about the doomsday prophecy, but last weekend was the second-to-last game for the Whitecaps, and most likely our very last game of the 2012 season. It’s always bitter-sweet to see a season come to an end, but we have a lot of great memories to look back on. This was another memorable game for the kids and I, as we were able to get onto the field again and see some of the players and coaches. Brian really wanted to see Crash the river rascal one last time, so that was our priority! We didn’t have much of a chance after that for playing catch or getting many other pics with the players, but I did get one with the kids in front of the dugout. Brian was able to play on the playground and jump around on the ‘bouncy house’, which burns up some of his energy (Lily and Trevor are too big for the playground…where does the time go???). The kids Papa and Nana were able to join us, too, so it was a great day spent with family at the ballpark. I’m really going to miss the sunshine and the green grass, as fall, and soon winter, will be blasting us with the reality that we live up north. I was really glad we were able to make this trip, though, with school starting and two birthdays within ten days of each other, this was definitely a ‘no frills’ trip. Don’t worry…I still fed them and even got them their ice cream!
The game itself was a fun one, as the ‘Caps built and early 5-run lead on the Dragons. That was no easy task, either, considering that Robert Stephenson was on the mound for Dayton, who was the Cincinnati Reds first round draft pick last year and the organizations top pitching prospect. For West Michigan, Zach Maggard hit a two-run double in the second inning, to put the ‘Caps up 3-0. In the third inning, Jason King and Patrick Leyland each had RBI singles to put them up 5-0. Eugenio Suarez gave West Michigan some insurance, with an RBI triple in the sixth inning. The Dragons came back to score a few runs off starter Jeff Ferrell, but he held on for the win. Ferrell is now 4-1 in his last six games. Michael Torrealba pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save. In all, the Whitecaps ended up with 15 hits in the game, with five doubles and one triple. It’s good to see them playing hard, even though they won’t be making the playoffs. I still can’t believe that it will be another six months at least until another baseball game. This was an end to and extremely busy week for us, that saw Trevor turning 10, his first football game, and a couple of trips to the county fair. The kids last hurrah before school starting up. Final: Whitecaps 6, Dragons 4.
Eastlake, OH: The West Michigan Whitecaps had a successful trip to Ohio, taking two of three games from the Lake County Captains. Their only loss of the series was an interesting one, though, as they faced former Major League pitcher Fausto Carmona, er, I mean, Roberto Hernandez. Wait…what? Hernandez is serving a three-week suspention from MLB, and made a rehab start for the Captains in game two of the series with West Michigan. The picher formerly known a Carmona was arrested in January for identity theft in the Dominican Rebublic for assuming the name of a family friend. The Cleveland Indians thought they were signing a 17 yr-old back in 2000, but in reality, Hernandez was 20. Three years later he was pitching for the Captains, going 17-4 with a 2.06 ERA in 2003. Six years later, he had to wait for a new visa to come into the United States. How he was granted a new visa with a fraud conviction, I’ll never know, but money talks I guess, and Major League Baseball slapped him with a whopping three-week suspension. Back on track- he did earn his first professional victory since Sept. 20, 2011 against the ‘Caps, as they were downed 5-4 by Lake County. Hernandez gave up three runs on six hits. West Michigan didn’t show the 31 yr-old much respect out of the gate, though, as they scored two runs in the first inning on an Aaron Westlake home run. Eugelio Suarez singled before him. In the fourth inning, Jason King doubled, and scored on an RBI by Patrick Leyland. In the end, two errors costs the ‘Caps the winning run and the game.
Carmona Hernandez is eligible to join the Indians on August 11.
The Whitecaps dominated the first game of the series 8-1. On the hill for the ‘Caps, Chad Smith was successful in his first start in the Midwest League. In three innings he allowed one hit and struck out three. Along with the bullpen, he held the Captains to only four hits on the night. This was only Smith’s fifth pro start after Tommy John surgery last year. West Michigan was led offensively by Jason King, who ended the game going 3-5 with a home run and three RBI’s. The ‘Caps scored six runs in the seventh inning to break the game wide open. King and Brandon Loy each drove in two runs in the inning. Loy was 2-4 in the game with a pair of doubles. Jason Krizan also doubled in a pair of runs in the inning. The Whitecaps received more solid pitching in a 4-0 victory in the last game of the series. Marcelo Carreno threw six shutout innings and only allowed one hit. Loy helped out with his bat, scoring two with a single in the second. Jeff McVaney would drive him home for a 3-0 lead. In the eighth, McVaney tripled and was hit home on a single by King. Leyland and Krizan each singled to load the bases with no outs when the game was called due to lightning.
Photos courtesy of Maribeth Joeright/The News-Herald
All in the family is a good way to describe a small percentage of the West Michigan Whitecaps roster this season. Four of the new Whitecaps players are related to a former or current Detroit Tiger! First is catcher Patrick Leyland, who is the son of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland. Patrick was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, and played at short-season Connecticut last year. Manning the second base position in West Michigan will be Colin Kaline, who is the grandson of HOFer Al Kaline. Big shoes to fill for Colin, as Al is one of the greatest Tigers ever, winning the World Series in 1968 and being a 15 time All-Star. Colin also played for the Connecticut Tigers last season. Also patrolling the infield will be Marcus Lemon, son of former Tiger Chet Lemon. Chet was a member of the 1984 World Series Champions during his nine-year stint in Detroit. Marcus was actually drafted by the Texas Rangers, but picked up by Detroit as a Minor League free agent in February. Pitching out of the ‘Cap bullpen this season will be Nick Avila. Nick is the cousin of current Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila, and the nephew of Detroit’s Vice President/Assistant General Manager Al Avila. Like I said, all in the family…
Joining the above mentioned on the 2012 ‘Caps roster, are seven of the Tigers ten 2011 draft picks. These are some decent prospects consisting of first baseman Aaron Westlake, shortstop Brandon Loy, and third baseman Jason King. The Whitecaps have some quality players returning from last season, too, who made a late season run and barely missed out on the playoffs. Outfielder Steven Moya and lefty pitcher Kyle Ryan are two of those returning players, and give the Whitecaps a more experienced ballclub this season. While the 2011 Opening Day roster consisted of six teenagers and twelve players under 20, this year club has just one teenager and five 20-yr-olds. The lone youngster is Danry Vasquez, one of the top 30 Detroit prospect despite having only one professional season under his belt.
The Whitecaps have been a pretty busy crew, though, despite only being in town a few days. Yesterday they held and open practice for the public, and took time to meet the fans and sign autographs. Today, a handful of players like Westlake, Loy, and Moya, participated in the Tigers vs. Mud Hens game in Toledo. They open the season tomarrow in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dragons. It was a nice surprise to see these guys in the lineup on TV, and a chance to see them in action before our game next week. I’m hoping that this is an exciting year in West Michigan!
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press