I kind of went off the beaten path the Logo of the Month on this one. It is such a cool logo, though, I just had to feature it. Tickets for the 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic that will take place just north of Grand Rapids, go on sale on March 4th, with the game itself scheduled for June 17th. This will be a great way to kick off our baseball trip for sure. Grand Rapids boasts the name ‘Beer City, USA’, after winning an online poll for two years in a row. Fifth Third Ballpark also host the annual Michigan Brewer’s Guilds Winter Beer Fest in February, with many local breweries at the event. This is the third time in history that the Whitecaps have hosted the All-Star Classic, the other years being 1995 and 2003. Last season, Whitecaps’ second baseman Devon Travis won the Most Valuable Player award. Deik Scram also won that award in 2007 for his all-star game performance. Four current Detroit Tigers’ players have represented the Whitecaps in the past, including Ramon Santiago (2000), Don Kelly (2002), Hernan Perez (2011). and Bruce Rondon (2011). Miguel Cabrera participated during the 2001 season, representing the Kane County Cougars. Other notable MWL alumni to play in the all-star game are Mike Trout in 2010 (Cedar Rapids), Clayton Kershaw in 2007 (Great Lakes), Prince Fielder in 2003 (Beloit), and Wil Myers in 2010 (Burlington).
This season the Midwest League Summer All-Star Classic was held at Fifth-Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Illinois, home of the Kane County Cougars. The stadium should not be confused with Fifth-Thrid Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI (Whitecaps), or the two different Fifth-Third Fields in Dayon and Toledo, OH (Dragons and MudHens). Anyway, the West Michigan Whitecaps were well represented in the 2012 ‘mid-season’ classic, as outfielder Steven Moya, infielder Eugenio Suarez, and pitchers Tommy Collier and Michael Torrealba attended the event. Designated hitter Dean Green was also selected to the Eastern Division team, but was unable to play due to being on the DL. The Eastern Division decimated the Western squad 18-2, and a few of the ‘Caps contributed to that score. Moya went 1-2 with two runs scored, and drove in three runs on a bases-loaded triple. He walked and scored a run the first inning, as the Easterners went up 5-0. They ended up scoring 13 runs in the first two innings on 20 hits against the Western Division pitchers. Moya seemed happy with his performance.
“They made a pitching change, the bases were loaded and I was just waiting for a fastball”, Moya stated to MLive.com. “The first pitch I saw was a fastball, and I hit my triple. It fest amazing. The guys swung the bats very well tonight, and were swinging at good pitches. It was a good feeling to help my team score that many runs and it was an honor for me to be here for the first time. I have been having fun the whole time.”
Suarez played a little shortstop, and went one for two in the game, including a two-out single in the sixth inning. Relief pitcher Michael Torrealba never entered the game, but Collier did face one batter. He stopped the Western Divisions two-run ‘rally’ with a strke-out to end the inning. He also seemed happy with the game.
“I got in there and did my job,” he also stated to MLive.com. “I did what they asked me to do and that’s all I can do. I thought I was going to have the whole seventh inning, that was the plan, but it ended up being one batter in the sixth. It was fine because they had other guys who they wanted to get out there and get a chance to pitch.”
The hero of the game, however, was Great Lakes Loons first baseman O’Koyea Dickson. He was a late addition to the Eastern squad, replacing the injured Whitecap Green, but made the most of his opportunity. He went 2-3 in the game, including a two-run homer in the first inning. Dickson was named the Midwest League All-Star game’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
We’ll be able to see all of these great players in action in just under two weeks, as the Loons will host the Whitecaps on July 2. It should be a fun time, and the kids have never been to Dow Diamond before, so they’re really looking forward to it!
Whitecaps photo courtesy of Dean Holzworth/MLive.com
Dickson photo courtyes of Jon Garcia/The Saginaw News
During the off-season, they are busy at work in West Michigan, getting the new scoreboard and video board ready for game play. Things seem to be coming along nicely, and I can’t wait to get to our first game of the season and check all the changes out. I think I’m really going to like the new manual scoreboard, as it brings baseball tradition to the modern ballpark. The new state of the art video board will satisfy the fans of the modern age, too. With the way things look, everything should be up and running by April.
The only change I wish would be made is the ballpark’s name. The stadium’s name was originally Old Kent Park in 1994, but was changed to Fifth Third Ballpark in 2001 after the merger of Old Kent and Fifth Third banks. The name generally wouldn’t bother me so much, if it wasn’t for the fact that Fifth Third bank has been digging it’s claws into so many Minor League stadiums here in the midwest. Just south in Toledo, the MudHens(International League) play at Fifth Third Field, and in their same state of Ohio, the Dayton Dragons(Midwest League) also play in a Fifth Third Field. Confused yet? To make things more confusing, this season the Kane County Cougars changed the name of their stadium to…you guessed it….Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. So, here’s the break down: West Michigan=Fifth Third Ballpark; Toledo=Fifth Third Field; Dayton=Fifth Third Field; Kane County=Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Where is the originality that we love about the Minors? I’m not niave…I know money talks and make these teams possible, but I’d rather have a stadium named after a local ballplayer, coach, or even a local business or benefactor than another large bank. Then again, I’ll take Tiger Stadium over Comerica Park, too. I would love to see the Whitecaps play in, say a Mickey Stanley Stadium, named after the Tigers legend who’s from Grand Rapids. Anyway, this blog is just more of a rant than anything else. Enjoy the pics, and I’ll have some of my own in April.
Burlington Bees vs. Kane County Cougars: Our trip concluded in Burlington, Iowa, with the Bees. Community Field is the smallest Class A stadium in the country, but it is very intimate and well maintained. They get pretty solid attendance here for such a small community. The team and field are both locally owned, so no plans on this team going anywhere. We had good seats next to the thrid base dugout, but there was the protective netting in front of all of the primary seats. Still very close to the action and players, though. No problem chatting with the guys taking their cuts in the on deck circle. My colon and liver were both glad this was the last beer and cheesey brat of the trip. Luck here, too, to have a foul ball hit right to me on my way to the rest room. The Baseball Gods were good to us on this trip again. Final: Cougars 6, Bees 1. Best: Season tickets for box seat are only $270. Wow, that’s cheap, folks. Worst: No mascot present. The attitude seemed to be that it was a night game during the week, so why go all out. I wanted to see a giant bee, dammit.
Photos property of MIB
Cedar Rapids Kernels vs. Kane County Cougars: Day three had us up early, and backtracking east through Iowa to Cedar Rapids for a noon start. Day games are usually a lot of fun, and this one didn’t disappiont. Vetrans Memorial Stadium is located basically in a residential area, but still had plenty of parking and decent site lines. Of all the ballparks on our trip, this one simply had the best atmoshpere. The workers were all very friendly and everyone just seemed to be happy it was game day. We had great seats behind home plate just off of the Kernels dugout. My oldest son is an Angels fan, so it was easy for me to get some autogaphs from some prospects like Mike Trout and Michael Wing. Trout is a first round draft pick, but seemed very down to earth and was great with the fans. He also homered in his first at-bat. After getting shut out our first few games, it felt good to get a couple of foul balls here. I got two, but gave one away to a little girl. Yeah, I know, aaawwww. The cool thing if you catch a fly ball here, you recieve an honorary lifetime contract with the Kernels. Now I can finally put Minor League Baseball player on my resume. It’s pictured at the very bottom along with the fouls balls I caught in Cedar Rapids and Peoria. If I could choose any ballpark from our trip to visit again, it would be this one. Final: Kernels 8, Cougars 1. Best: The baseball atmoshpere. You fans know what I’m talking about. Worst: No souvenier cups. It’s a small thing, but I like to take the plastic cups home, wash them out, and drink a beer. It reminds me of the games I’ve been to.
Photos property of MIB
Our trip this year started out with a long drive as usual, and our first stop was in Geveva, Illinois to the home of the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League. The Cougars were on the road, as we’ll see later, but while we were in the neiborhood we stopped by Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium to check it out. Lucky for us there was a high school game going on, so we were able to get into the stadium and get our appetite whet for some baseball. The Cougars have a really nice stadium, and I’d like to get back to see them play a game here. It seems like every seat you feel close to the action and a great view. We couldn’t stay too long, though, as we had two games to catch on this day.
Photos property of MIB
Appleton, WI-August 4-5, 2009: It’s already August, and the kids will going back to school soon, and summer will be officially a thing of the past. Wanting to get one more trip in, we headed west through the U.P. to Wisconsin to take in a couple of Timber Rattler games. We watched the T-Rats play the Kane County Cougars on Tuesday night at 7:05, then for a Wednsday matinee at noon before heading home.
Playing in the Midwest League, the T-Rats are enjoying there first season as a Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. This is obviously helping attendance, as the stadium was packed with Brewers fans for both games. Also helping was the fact that Hall of Famer and former Brewer legend Paul Molitor was there signing autographs on Tuesday night. I didn’t even bother to get in line to see him the line was so long. I also enjoy visiting a ballpark for the first time and Fox Cities Stadium didn’t disappoint. Not as big as some of the other Class A ballparks, but really nice and not a bad seat in the house. The lower box seats make you feel like your right on the field. The food was pretty good and the beer was cold, so no complaints there.
The Rattlers lost both games to the Cougars, but both were very competitive. Tuesday night game went to the tenth with Kane County coming out on top 4-2. Wednsday’s game ended 3-1 in favor of the Cougars again. Wisconsin left a lot of base runners in scoring position both games. We saw some good pitching and defense from both teams, too. I have to give props to the Cougars Chris Berroa(pictued) for throwing me a game ball.
Photos property of MIB