West Michigan Whitecaps vs. South Bend Cubs (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Opening Day for the Minor League season also meant the West Michigan Whitecaps were entering their 25th year as a ball club. With so many games there throughout the years, it seemed only fitting that this is where we should start our 2018 journey as well. We were lucky there was even a game, as the Michigan weather punished us with harsh snow and wind while visiting for ‘Spring’ Break. We dressed warm, staying in the sun, and enjoyed Opening Day like so many other fans across the country.
We were able to get free replica jerseys upon entering the ballpark, and then Brian decided he wanted some autographs and to meet some of the players. The thrill of the day was meeting former World Champion Detroit Tiger, and the current Whitecaps manager, Lance Parrish. He was more than happy to sign Brian’s ball and get a photo with him. Brian was still able to meet some of Lance’s players and get his ball signed by them as well.
The game was a good one for the home team. Jordan Pearce lead the way offensively, going 1-3 with three RBI. Also pitching is was Alexis Garcia and Joey Morgan, each going 2-4 with Garcia adding an RBI.
On the hill, Dane Myers got the start throwing four innings, giving up one run and striking out five. Burris Warner earned the win, only giving up one hit and one run in his three innings of work. Final: Whitecaps 6, Cubs 2.
This was a fun game, and we were actually pretty comfortable until the sun went down. Then that cold Michigan air came creeping in, but we’re a tough group. This was a great way to kick off the Minor League season, especially since we weren’t able to make it up for a game last season. The next few months should be fun, as we have some more games planned and Brian starts Little League.
Erie SeaWolves vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels (Eastern League)
Jerry Uht Park-Erie, PA: It’s always fun to see some Detroit Tiger affiliates, and in the SeaWolves I know I would be seeing some players who did some time in West Michigan. Jerry Uht Park is located in downtown Erie, but parking isn’t too bad for its location. We got there plenty early and waited for the gates to open. The team store is right in front of you when you walk in, so we did some shopping and got a t-shirt, pennant, pen, and a C. Wolf plush for Brian. The layout of the ballpark is very unique. Down the third base side, there is an upper level, separated by a walk-way. This is where the press box and suites are located. Behind home plate is pretty open, and down the first base side, there is actually an elevated upper deck. This is fairly rare compared to the other Double-A Eastern League games we’ve been too. The ballpark only holds 4,200, which is small, but it’s intimate, and hard not to fall in love with. I had plenty of time before the game to explore and get some pre-game photos.
We also got to meet the mascot, C. Wolf, and got a photo with him. He was a very active mascot and really is a hit with the fans, especially the younger ones, and there where plenty there for a Sunday matinée.
The game itself wasn’t too pretty for the home SeaWolves. Starting pitcher Jeff Ferrell went five innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits, and striking out four. Relief pitcher Jose Valdez gave up one more run in the ninth. Offensively, the SeaWolves got off to a good start with a home run blast by Steven Moya, who was 1-3 on the day. Marcus Lemon and Dean Green each went 2-4 on the day, also. Outfielder Jason Krizan went 1-4, but knocked in two RBIs.
We ended the game by playing some catch on the field. I really enjoyed the game at Jerry Uht Park, and this is a team I would really love to come and watch again. Highly recommended for any minor league baseball fan. Final: SeaWolves 3, Flying Squirrels 7.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
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 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
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
Los Angeles Dodgers‘ hurler Clayton Kershaw has won the Cy Young award for being the best pitcher in the National League. With a recor of 16-9 and a microscopic ERA of 1.83, not too many can really argue. Before he became a star on the west coast, however, he honed his stills in the Midwest League as a member of the Great Lakes Loons in 2007. I remember a lot of talk about him back then, like everyone knew that this kid was going to be that good. In 25 starts for the Loons, he ended up 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA. The sad part is, though, I never was able to see him pitch down in Midland. And to think, just one season later, he was making his big league debut with the Dodgers. A new team in 2007, the Loons had Lance Parrish as their manager, who was a member of the 1984 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers. So, the only game I attended that season, I was more determined to meet a local hero like Parrish then an up-and-coming superstar. That was my mistake, though seeking an autograph from a starting pitcher isn’t an easy task. On days they pitch, they’re not allowed to sign autgraphs, and on days they don’t they’re not really out of the dugout, or even in uniform at times. It would have been nice to have seen him pitch, but it’s always good to have alumni do well and make through the system, and in Kershaw’s case excel at the highest level.
Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons
Moving on up: I’ve been so busy catching up on my posts from my baseball trip, I’ve almost forgotten my boys in blue (except for the previous post..) The West Michigan Whitecaps have been playing some very good baseball lately, as they’ve won eight of their last ten game. Their record now stands at 30-31, and in fourth place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. They’re only three games out of second place, and securing a playoff berth. The team went on a five-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Great Lakes Loons in Midland. The Loons did earn a small victory, however, as their mascot Lou E. Loon beat out our very own Crash the River Rascal in MiLB.com’s Mascot Mania. Crash made it through the first two rounds, but was somehow ousted by Lou E. We’ll be in Midland watching the ‘Caps next month, and we’ll let them know we think Crash is the best!
Weekly MWL Award Winners: Two Whitecaps were won the weekly Midwest League Awards on June 6. Infielder Eugenio Suarez won the Player of the Week, while Tommy Collier was named Pitcher of the Week. Suarez hit safely in all seven games last week and had multiple hits in six of those, including two four-hit outings. He went 18-28, batting .643, hitting four doubles, eleven runs scored, five stolen bases, with a .857 slugging percentage. Suarez is now hitting .318 for the season with two homers and 30 RBI. On the mound, Collier pitched a nine inning shutout and complete game against the Lake County Captians. That led to a ‘Caps 1-0 win, on the back of his seven strikeouts. He only allowed four hits and issued one walk. Collier is now 3-4 on the season with a 2.60 ERA and leads West Michigan in quality starts with seven.
Whitecaps All-Stars: Fiver players from this season Whitecaps roster were named to the 2012 Midwest League All-Star Game. Outfielder Steven Moya and DH Dean Green will be starting for the Eastern Division, while infielder Eugenio Suarez was selected as a reserve player, and pitchers Tommy Collier and Michael Torrealba will be making the trip to Kane County. Moya is hitting .299 with five home runs and 28 RBI. He started the season red-hot, hitting .377 before being placed on the DL. Green is batting .304 with nine homers and 34 RBI. His nine home runs leads the Whitecaps this season.
Pics: The pictures shown are from the ‘Caps recent home stand with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com. Last nights’ game also featured the return of Tiger Fridays, and former catcher and 1984 World Champion Lance Parrish was on hand to sign autographs.
Monday night the Detroit Tigers will honor the 1984 World Championship team in a pre-game ceromony. All the greats will be on hand including HOF manager Sparky Anderson, MVP Allan Trammell, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Willie Hernandez and more. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the Tigers won it all. Detroit had the best record in baseball that season with 104 wins on their way to the World Series. This is one of my favorite memories about being a baseball fan as a kid.
Luckily, I’ve had a chance to meet some of my childhood heroes through my Minor League baseball trips. A lot of these guys like to give back to baseball and coach in the Minors. It’s great seeing them instruct a whole new generation of players. So far off the the 1984 team I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tom Brookens (West Michigan Whitecaps), Lance Parrish (Great Lakes Loons), Doug Bair (Dayton Dragons), and Barbaro Garbey (Peoria Cheifs). We also had a chance to meet John Wockenfuss this season, who was traded in 1984 in a deal to the Phillies to bring Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman to Detroit. We got to meet pitcher Jack Morris, too, but he wasn’t coaching, just signing at a store opening in northern Michigan. Still, he has the most wins of any pitcher in the 80’s, so it was great meeting him. I can’t wait until next years trip to see who we can meet along the way.
Tom Brookens of the Whitecaps signs for the kids in 2007
Lance Parrish of the Loons signs some cards for the kids in 2007
Photos property of MIB