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
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
Dow Diamond- Midland, MI: Last week I was lucky enough to participate in a Fantasy Camp hosted by the Great Lakes Loons. This was rescheduled after we were rained out last month. Unfortunately, that meant that the Loons players and coaches were away in Lansing while we were there. They still took great care of us, though. Walking into the locker room and seeing my name above the locker was awesome, just like I dreamed about when I was ten years old. We started out as usual by playing catch to warm up, then they took us to the indoor batting cages to get some swings in. I even snuck Brian down to take a few cuts.
We were split up into Blue and White teams wearing Miller Lite shirts, with my White team being the visitors. We took some infield and outfield practice, and I got stuck in the latter where I have no business playing. As the visitors, we were up to bat first. I held my own at the plate, going 1-3 and getting on base all three at-bats. My hit was a solid liner up the middle, so I was happy with that one. It was also a thrill to hear my name announced and be on the video board.
While I was mostly stuck in the outfield, but did get to play shortstop for an inning. I caught the only ball hit to me, a pop fly over second. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to actually play second, since that’s my position, but still had fun in the field.
After the game, the Loons gave away some prizes and Lou E signed autographs for the kids. In all, this was a great experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Thank you to the Loons and Miller Lite for sponsoring this.
UPDATED: This was sent to me by the Loons this morning. Our group shot with both teams.
Great Lakes Loons vs. West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)
Dow Diamond-Midland, MI: This month is the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite films of all time, Back To The Future. When we found out that the Great Lakes Loons were hosting a BTTF night, Brian and I jumped in the van and drove 88 mph downstate to take in the game. As soon as we entered the gate, we found what we were looking for: the BTTF car; the time machine; the DeLorean. Just to be able to see the car that was in he movie was amazing, but Brian got a special treat. By making a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, he was able to get into the car. ‘Future boy’ hammed it up a bit, and we got some great photos!
Great Scott!!!! Three generations of baseball fans:
After we were done checking the car out, we headed down to the visitor’s dugout to try for some Whitecaps autographs. Brian really wanted to get Joey Pankake to sign his card, but he didn’t play this game. He did get his hat signed by Zach Shepherd and Franklin Navarro, though, and they were both very nice to him.As for the actual baseball game that took place, the Loons jumped out to a 1-0 lead when first baseman Justin Chigbogu hit a bomb over the right field fence that hasn’t landed yet. He went 2-4 on the night. Great Lakes then went up 2-0 on a Jimmy Allen RBI that scored Federico Celli. Allen was 1-3 for the game, and Celli 2-4.
Whoa, this is heavy, but while we were in the Lookout, the Whitecaps started their comeback. The ‘Caps scored five unanswered runs, and needed only two RBI’s to do it. Michael Gerber got West Michigan on the board, when he scored on a wild pitch after hitting a triple. Gerber went 1-3 with an RBI, while Derek Hill led the way offensively, going 2-4 with the other RBI. David Gonzalez also went 2-4 with two runs scored.
On the mound, Artie Lewicki earned the win for West Michigan, allowing two runs on seven hits. Gabe Hemmer and Johan Belisario picked up the hold and save, throwing just over three scoreless innings. Kevin Guzman took the loss for the Loons. Another fun game, and feeling very blessed to be able to experience this with my son and dad. With a long drive ahead of us, ‘future boy’ and I made like a tree and got out of there. We have another game planned soon, but we’ll see how the weather holds up. Final: Loons 2, Whitecaps 5.
Photos and videos property of Minoring In Baseball
Great Lakes Loons vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)
Dow Diamond-Midland, MI: Flying home from Florida, I decided to take an extra day and spend it with my dad. We usually go to a game for his birthday the first of April, but my training pushed that back a couple of weeks. I flew in just south of Midland, so we had a nice lunch and took in a Loons game, which is always a good time. As you can see by some of the pics, also, I finally discovered the MiLB In The Park app, and took advantage of it with the photos I took with my phone. I wish I would have used it in Jacksonville, but will definitely use it for any of our upcoming games.
I did get spoiled a little bit with the warmer weather down south, and it seemed that some of the rain followed by back up north here. It was a little cooler here in Michigan that it was in Florida and Georgia, but in reality not all that bad for the time of year. The rain didn’t last long and didn’t delay the game, either, so it’s all good on that front.
As far as the game goes, the Lugnuts jumped to a 2-0 lead after scoring a run in each of the first two innings. The Loons came back to score single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to tie things up, but then both offenses would come to a complete stand-still.
The game went to a whopping 16 innings, with the visitors finally plating a pair. For the Lugnuts, they were led by Rowdy Tellez, who went two for seven with three RBI’s in the game, and Dickie Joe Thon who went three for six at the plate. Andrew Case pitched the last four inning for Lansing, picking up the win while striking out two. For the home-town Loons, Josmar Cordero went three for seven, while Alex Verdugo and Mike Ahmed had two hits each. Kevin Guzman got the start on the hill for Great Lakes, going five strong innings while only giving up one earned run. Cordero, despite his three hits, would come in a take the loss, giving up both runs in the 16th. Also making an appearance for the Loons, was pitcher David Reid-Foley. Reid-Foley was born in Sault Ste. Marie (where I currently live), then moved down to Brunswick, Georgia (where I was training just the day before), and went to school and was drafted while in Jacksonville, Florida (where I caught a couple of Suns games). Baseball does unite the world, does it not? Final: Loons 2, Lugnuts 4.
I wish I could say that we stayed for the whole 16 inning marathon, but honestly can’t. After being up since four in the morning, travelling back to Michigan, and still being and hour and a half until I could lay my head down, we couldn’t do more than 12 innings. A long day, but a fun time as always at Dow Diamond. We don’t have any plans to come back as of yet this season, but once Little League starts and gets a schedule, I can start looking at the rest of the summer. We do have plans to hit a pair of Whitecaps games next month, though.
Great Lakes Loons vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Dow Diamond-Midland, MI: I’ll start out by saying for some reason I just didn’t get very good photos from this game. It could have been due to the weather, but none of that stopped us from having a great night at Dow Diamond. We knew there was some rain, so we really didn’t have to get to the ballpark all that early to fight for tickets. Our seats were great, though, in the last row behind the third base dugout. First of all, there are no bad seats at this stadium, and second the last row kept dry! Something new to Dow Diamond this season, is the Midland Sports Hall of Fame, so we took time to check that out before the getting our food and checking out the Loons shop.
There was only a 45 minute delay, but we kept busy and had our dinner there. It was just Brian with me this time, so we walked around and explored the ballpark a bit. The playground wasn’t open yet, but we went to the gift shop and he got a plush Lou E. Loon, so he was happy.
The delay went by quick, and he finally had some baseball! Unfortunately for Loons fans, the Hot Rods knocked in six runs in the first inning, to take what was the home crowd out of it. They also opened the playground, so Brian and I headed out that way. At least at Dow Diamond you can still see the field and follow the game from there. I tried to get some pics from out that way, too.
The Hot Rods didn’t let starting pitcher Zachary Bird out of the first inning, as he surrendered all six runs. Kyle Hooper came into the game in relief, but gave up three more runs, while striking out five. We were able to see Jordan Hershiser (Orel’s son) pitch a few innings also, he gave up three runs, also, but struck out three. Third baseman Brandon Trinkwon led the offense for the Loons, going 3-4 with three RBI’s. Jesmuel Valentin, Joey Curletta, and Spencer Navin each had two hits on the night, also. We were able to see Willy Adames play again, also, who was traded from the Whitecaps to the Rays organization in the David Price deal, and assigned to Bowling Green. Despite the Loons loss and a little rain, we had a great time. I really need to get us down to Dow Diamond more during the season, as it’s such a great venue and fun for the kids. I’m not sure if this will be our last game of the season or not, but if it is I’m glad we made it a good one. Final score: Loons 6, Hot Rods 12.
Here’s some video:
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
The Los Angeles Dodgers have announced the players they will be placing at the Single-A Great Lakes Loons this season. The 2014 Loons roster has plenty of prospects listed by Baseball America and MLB.com, and plenty of top draft picks by L.A. in the last few years. Pitchers Zachary Bird and Victor Arano, catcher Kyle Farmer, outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo, and infielders Justin Chigbogu and Jesmuel Valentin are sure to impress fans at Dow Diamond this summer. Some other notable additions, such as outfielders Alex Santana and Joey Curletta, and pitchers Jacob Rhame and Brandon Martinez are young prospects who could contribute to the Loons this season also.
Great Lakes also has 12 players returning that have played in Midland in the past. Pitchers Bird (’13), Brandon Martinez (’12-’13), James Campbell (’12), and Jonathan Martinez (’13), catcher Webster Rivas (’13), infielders Paul Hoenecke (’13), Brandon Twinkwon (’13), and Delvis Morales (’12), and outfielder Malcolm Holland (’13). This seasons’ Loons roster also features some baseball legacy, as three players are sons of former Major Leaguers. Dillion Moyer is the son of former pitcher Jamie Moyer, Jesmuel Valentin’s father is former Dodger infielder Jose Valentin, and Greg Harris(Jr.) is the son of big league hurler Greg Harris.
This season’s squad will be led by 13-year major league catcher Bill Haselman, who managed the Inland Lakes Empire to the California League championship last season. This seems like a very experienced team for Single-A, and Hasleman has a good chance of success this season in the Midwest League. We don’t have any concrete plans to see the Loons this season yet, but I’m sure we will. There’s a chance we’ll see them play on April 13th, but a lot has to do with the weather and how the Whitecaps’ game goes. I guarantee we’ll be at Dow Diamond at some point this summer, though!
Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons
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
The Los Angeles Dodgers have named former Major League catcher Bill Haselman as the new manager of the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. Haselman spent last season as manager of the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers (California Angels), leading them the California League Championship. He has also managed the Single-A Bakersfield Blaze (Texas Rangers) in 2010. Haselman spent 13 seasons in the bigs, hitting .259 with 47 home runs and 210 RBI’s with the Rangers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Tigers. Playing with Detroit in 1999, he batted .273 with four home runs, and 14 RBI’s in 48 appearances.
Haselman will replace Razor Shines, who the Dodgers promoted to manage the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. In his one year stint with Great Lakes, he took the club to the Midwest League Playoffs with a 40-29 showing in the second half (67-72 overall). Along with Haselman, Bill Simas will return as the Loons pitching coach, while Johnny Washington will take over as their hitting coach. The Loons will kick off the 2014 season on Thursday, April 3 at Fort Wayne. We’re still waiting for the Tigers to name a manager for the West Michigan Whitecaps, too. Larry Parrish was promoted to Toledo earlier this year, and the ‘Caps are still waiting to see who will be taking the helm next spring.
Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Loons
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