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
Walsh Park-La Grange, KY: It seems as it just started, but Brian’s fall ball league has come to an end. I’m really happy that he chose to keep playing, and I think he had a good time. Honestly, I really didn’t pay too much attention to his team’s record, although I’m pretty sure they won more than they lost, and there are no playoffs. He got a chance to play some other positions, also, finding he likes to play some infield. He still needs to work on his throwing mechanics a little, but he’s fielding pretty good. Brian had a solid fall season at the dish, also. He hit well over .500, going 3-3 in two consecutive games. After that second one, he was given the game ball by his coach as player of the game. He had some good coaching this fall, as well, as they stayed very positive and stressed fun and learning above all else. He’s excited to play next year, and spring can’t come soon enough.
Walsh Park-La Grange, KY: Wow, I really love it down here! It’s amazing that my son can play a fall sport without it being soccer or football! The North Oldham Little League fall ball program is a good one, and Brian is having fun so far. Not quite as many kids play though, so instead of team names, they just have colors, but the coaches have dubbed their team the Blue Sharks. The fall league is more of an instructional league, with the kids being able to experience different positions every inning. We’re blessed again with good coaching, and they try to go above and beyond to help the kids out with the fundamentals of the game.
The team is 1-1 so far this season, and Brian is playing well, hitting .500 and doing well in the field. He’s been able to play a few different positions in Fall Ball, also, so it’s a little more fun and the kids won’t get bored playing in the same place all of the time. The season is just getting started, and they play through the first of October. Hopefully it might cool off just a little bit down here by then. The first couple of games the temps were still in the 90 range!
Walsh Park-La Grange, KY: I honestly don’t know where to start! First off, I guess we can congratulate the Mariners on winning the North Oldham Little League Rookie Division championship! It was not an easy road, and there were many good teams in this league. The Mariners finished third in their division and received a first round bye. They faced the Indians in the quarter-finals, and won by the score of 4-2, with Brian getting the game-winning RBI. In the semi-finals, they went against the Royals, a team they haven’t beat all year. The Mariners won a tough battle, however, winning 6-4 on a hot 90 degree day at noon, to head to the championship. The Mariners were down 5-0 in the first, then battled back for the win. Their opponent in the final game was the Padres, the team that won the division in the regular season. This time it was the Mariners who jumped out to a lead, 3-0 in the first, then added a pair in the middle innings. The Padres stormed back in the fifth, scoring four runs, but the M’s held them off in the sixth for a 5-4 championship victory! Here are a couple of shots of Brian in the final:
The championship aside, though, I still believe this team was the best fit for Brian. The coaches never preached winning, but focused on having the kids be positive, work hard, and have fun playing the game of baseball. From there, the winning just sort of took care of itself. I really think Brian learned more about being part of a team and earning something you’ve worked hard for, as much as he did about the game of baseball. Their coach told the boys to enjoy this, as it may be the only championship they ever win, and he could be right about that. My last year in Little League was the one and only time I’ve seen glory in all my years of playing. I’m glad he’s tasted victory, but if he keeps on playing and loving this game, it’s sure to break his heart at some point. But that’s something I’ll start preparing for next year. This big win sparked him to want to play Fall Ball and to keep working hard at the sport, so that gives us something to look forward to in a couple of months.
Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Walsh Park-La Grange, KY: Brian has had no problem fitting into our new environment here in Kentucky. In fact, he suited up for the Mariners and played his first game within the first few days. I was honestly hesitant on whether to sign him up or not, knowing he wouldn’t have any practices, and playing in a more competitive league than he’s used to. Brian put all my concerns to rest after his first game, however. He went 1-2 at the plate, and played well. More than anything, his smile after the game, and the simple statement “I had fun” was all I needed to hear. Yeah, he may be a step behind some of the other players, but at the same time he is contributing to his team, and is a step ahead of others.
I also have to say that I’m very impressed with the North Oldham Little League organization, and the coaches involved. The kids play in a beautiful facility at Walsh Park as well. The coaches don’t baby the kids, but treat them like young men, and at the same time stressing for them to relax and have fun. I honestly think that he’s made more friends on the field than he has at his new school, also. Overall, this has been a great move for us, especially from a baseball perspective. They’ve had a couple of rainouts, but look to be making some games up this weekend and early in the week. I’ll post more updates as his season progresses.
Lake Superior State University-Sault Ste. Marie, MI: Last week Brian participated in his last clinic hosted by the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team. Pictured above, is him acting silly with two of his favorite players. They are always really nice to him, and were sad to hear that he’s moving away. Brian had a good time running through the basic drills and hitting off of the tee. He tired out a bit in the second hour of the clinic, though. I’ve always appreciated the clinics and camps that the Lady Lakers have made available to both the girls and boys throughout the years. Lily started attending when she was young, with her brother following suit. I’m sure we’ll take advantage of all the camps down in Kentucky with all of the colleges and pro teams in the area. This has also been an fairly easy winter up here, so we’re really hoping the Lakers are able to play their first home game in four years, so we can see them one last time.
Lake Superior State University-Sault Ste Marie, MI: This week Brian participated in the second of three clinics the Lake Superior State softball team hosted. Brian was the only boy in the clinic again, but the players always have fun with him. They started out taking some ground balls, and then worked on some fly balls. The kids always love the obstacle courses, too. They like to compete with each other and it’s good that they get to run around since they can’t play outside in the weather up here. Then they played some other games that worked on their speed and agility before hitting the cage.
As usual, Brian is a boss in the batting cage. He hit well, but is his own worse critic. Getting him to relax and have fun is the real challenge, as he feels he should be pounding the ball every pitch. I didn’t help that we had a busy weekend with little sleep, so that made him a little grumpy as well. The joys of being a parent, I guess. The kids ended the clinic with more games, and Brian had the chance to don his tools of ignorance for a little while to take some pitches. The Lady Lakers will be hosting one more clinic next month.
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Lake Superior State University-Sault Ste. Marie, MI: This week Brian was lucky enough to take part in a clinic hosted by the Lake Superior State softball team. Since we don’t have a baseball team up here, the girls are gracious enough to invite the boys to join in, and get taught all aspects of the game. He had a chance to show off his batting skills in the cage, and really stroked the ball well. He also was given good instruction on his throwing and catching mechanics, which is something he needed. Brian was also given the chance to break in his new catchers gear that he got for his birthday. He had a lot of fun and was able to learn some new techniques to help out his game. The players area always really nice to him and he loves spending time with his ‘friends’. The Lakers will be having two more clinics in both February and March that he plans to attend.
With time winding down on 2015, it’s time to look back and reflect on this past year. Due to a personal loss, we didn’t get to take in a ballpark tour this season, but that didn’t stop us from having some great times, and making some unforgettable memories. Every moment spent with my kids and dad are special, and it’s always difficult to narrow a list down and do every event justice.
9) Meeting Joey Pankake: Picking the #9 slot is sometimes harder than the #1, as it usually means that one special event is left out. I decided to go with Brian meeting his favorite player in Whitecaps’ second baseman Joey Pankake. We watched him on TV last year when he was playing his college ball with South Carolina, and were excited when the Tigers picked him up in the draft. Every Sunday home game the Whitecaps let the fans on the field to meet the players, so we took advantage of that. Joey was really nice to Brian, as he signed a program for him and got a picture. Times like this is what makes baseball fans.
8) Back in Jax: While I was down in southern Georgia doing some training for work in April, I was able to take in a couple of Jacksonville Suns games. The Suns have a great venue, and a game here is always a great experience. Back in 2005 when I was down training for 18 weeks, I went to many games, and the Suns were a positive distraction from missing my kids back home. It was good to be back after a decade, and I hope I don’t have to wait that long to catch another game in Jacksonville.
7) Baseball in Michigan in March: This is an odd pick, I guess, for different reasons. For us, being able to watch live baseball in the month of March is amazing, and we were definitely lucky to be able to take a game as the Central Michigan Chippewas hosted the Ohio Bobcats. On a more somber note, this game was a chance for my dad and I to get out of town and away from things for an afternoon after my mom passed. She loved baseball and CMU, so this was a good place rehash some good memories of her.
6) Star Wars Night: Although Star Wars Night usually ranks higher on our list, it shouldn’t take away how much fun we had. This season we were back at Fifth Third Ballpark to watch the Whitecaps and see some of our favorite Star Wars characters (we were in Lansing last season). Most of the main guys were there, except Boba Fett, which is a favorite of Trevor and I. This was our fifth year in a row for a Star Wars event, so I’m glad that we are keeping up the tradition. It will be interesting next season to see if any of the characters from the new movie show up. After all, the 18th is coming up fast…
5) Playoffs in West Michigan: In September I was able to cross one more thing off my baseball bucket list, attending my first ever playoff game. The Whitecaps were hosting the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League finals, and were down in the series 1-0. We were able to witness a late come-from-behind victory as the ‘Caps evened the series. It was one of those exciting, high-fiving-total strangers type of game, and it was amazing! West Michigan went on to win two out of three games in Cedar Rapids to secure the championship, and I feel privileged I could be part of the play off run.
4) BTTF Night: This was a great night, and ranks so high probably because this was our first ever Back To The Future night event. Brian had an awesome night, and loved that he was able to sit in the Delorian, pretending to be bolted back to 1985. There was a BTTF theme throughout the Great Lakes Loons game, also, with music and games all relating to 1955, 1985, and 2015. Dow Diamond is one of the best ballparks in the minors, also, so just watching the ballgame is very enjoyable. And with a three hour drive before and after the game, was had plenty of time to watch all three BTTF movies during our trip.
3) Brian’s Lugnuts Clinic: For a Little Leaguer having the chance to play some ball on a professional field is quite the experience. Brian was a little intimidated at first when he stepped onto the big field, and the fact that we live so far away he didn’t have any friends in the clinic. Once things got going, though, he was able to relax and just play and have fun, which is the important thing. I hope this was a good experience for him, and that one day he can appreciate being taught the game by professional ballplayers and coaches. If nothing else, the Lugnuts certainly made another fan.
2) Loons Fantasy Camp: This summer I was also able to live out a fantasy I’ve had since being Brian’s age, and that was playing baseball in a professional stadium. The Great Lakes Loons held a drawing to be able to play in a fantasy game at Dow Diamond, and I was lucky enough to secure a slot. The game was a lot of fun, and I hit the ball well each time up going 1-3. In the field at least I didn’t make any errors and a couple of plays. This was an amazing experience, and having the kids there to cheer me on was just awesome. If any other fans have the opportunity to play in one of these games, I highly recommend it.
1) Coaching the Cubs: As usual, being able to coach one of my kids in Little League is always number one. Brian and I were members of the Cubs this season, and this was a great team full of great kids. Being able to spend time with him like this is a dream come true, and I love this age level, as I can nurture the kids love of the game while teaching them the basics. No matter how long Brian decides to play this great sport, I will hold on to these years with all my heart and soul. Merry Christmas everyone, and God Bless in the new year!
Photos property of Minoring In Baseball
Locey Field-Sault Ste. Marie, MI: On Wednesday night, the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team hosted Little League Day. The team invited the kids to watch one of their practices, and they were able to hang out in the dugout with the girls. After practice, the Lakers brought the kids onto the field for some fun and games. Brian did great in the throwing and running the bases competition. Then they played some catch, and Brian did some hitting in the cage with his favorite player. This was a really nice thing for the Laker Softball team to do for the Little Leaguers, I just wish that more kids would have showed up to participate.
After the work on the field was done, we all headed to Buffalo Wild Wings. The Lakers were giving out team posters that all the girls signed for the kids. Brian was really happy that the Laker mascot Seamore the Seaduck showed up to entertain his fans, also. We ate well, and the girls are always to nice to Brian and all of the other kids that showed up. It was a nice way to officially end our season, and for the Lakers to begin theirs.