West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods: Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI
Our favorite game of the year is Star Wars night for sure. This time we brought Brian down for the fun, too. It was a beautifull night for baseball, but the real thrill for the kids was seeing all of their favorite movie characters. Me being a Star Wars freak since I was like, five, they’ve been exposed to the movies (original trilogy) for a number of years. We were able to get pics with most of the characters on hand, especially Darth Vader and Boba Fett, who is simply the greatest. There were some Jedi and X-Wing pilots hanging around, but the kids, especially Trevor, favor the Empire and thier legions of Stormtroopers, Snowtroopers, and pilots. Brian wanted no part of Darth Vader, either, as you’ll see he’s not in the picture with him. Darth Vader also threw out the first pitch, and had a little duel with Crash, the mascot. The night ended with a fireworks display with Star Wars theme music. The Whitecaps also wore special Star Wars jerseys. Of all the game I’ve been to so far, I think we’ve only seen the regular ‘Caps jersey’s once! There was a huge crowd again this year, season high 10,528, but we still got to see who we wanted and had time to play in the park there, too. I’m not sure what our next game will be, but it will be hard to beat this night.
In the game, the Whitecaps had a solid offensive effort, beating the Hot Rods 11-3. Top prospect Nick Constellanos had two home runs the game, and went 3-4. He was recently named the Detroit Tigers Minor Player of the Month for hitting .375 with 20 RBI’s in June. He now leads the Midwest League with 94 hits, leads the ‘Caps with 52 RBI’s, and is one of the MWL leaders in batting average with .306 and doubles with 23. Castellanos is a good bet for next seasons Furtures Game if he keeps this pace up. On the mound, Alex Burgos was solid in the win. He allowed three runs on five hits while striking out six, to up his record to 4-1. Three of the hits he gave up were infield singles.
Anyone thinking that being a grounds keeper at a professional ball park is an easy task, think again. After a freak snow storm dumped over three inches on Fifth Third Ball Park on Monday, first year head groundskeeper Adam Ferrell and his crew took action. Actually, more than 20 staff members, including front office personnel, the grounds keepers, and salesman all chipped in to remove the snow. It was a three hour process, with snow ball fights, snowmen, and Christmas music keeping the mood light. Even a Christmas tree was placed on the Whitecaps dugout.
Ferrell told the Grand Rapids Press: “I was a little nervous when I first woke up and it was coming down good, but we got some manpower behind it and everybody chipped in. We removed the snow off the tarp, flipped it over, and let Mother Nature do her thing. It melted by 3 p.m.”
With eleven forign-born players on the West Michigan roster, some were seeing this type of weather for the first time. Outfielder Luis Castillo from Panama and Clemente Mendoza from Venezuela are two of them.
“I was like, oh my God,” Castillo told the Press. “This was the first that I’ve seen this and couldn’t believe it.”
Mendoza chimed in, “It’s really depressing, and nobody from the Latin countries have seen this before. I didn’t think we would be playing baseball, I thought they would cancel the game because of the snow on the field.”
Ferrell, an intern with the Whitecaps in 2008, though, was up to the task. He worked under Heather Nobozny and the Detroit Tigers in 2009, and was head groundskeeper for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League last season. He was named the NWL Sports Turf Manager of the Year for 2010.
The ‘Caps were able to play Monday’s game, but were rained out Tuesday night. They were able to beat the Fort Wayne TicCaps by the score of 7-3, much due to the return of designated hitter Billy Nowlin. Nowlin drove in four runs including a two-run homer to lead the way for West Michigan. After being hit in the head and sustaining a concussion in spring training, he was just activated from the DL on April 14. In his four game so far this season, he’s hitting .400 with two home runs and six RBI’s. Nowlin was a Midwest League All-Star in 2009, and split last season between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie.
“I’m just going to keep going out and playing hard, playing with my team here and see what happens,” Nowlin told the Press. “It’s always nice coming back to a place where you already know the ins and outs and stuff like that. Being familiar with a place is always a good thing.”
Manager Ernie Young seems happy to have Nowlin on the roster as well, “He swung the bat very well tonight. Billy being here is definately a good thing because it solidifies the middle of the order.”
Catcher Rob Brantly also drove in two runs in the game, and Hernan Perez scored three runs. On this hill, Jeff Ferrell picked up his first win of the season.
Photos courtosy of the Grand Rapids Press
Heading downstate, I wasn’t very optimistic about this game actually taking place, as all the weather reports called for thunder storms. The baseball gods must have felt generous, though, and after the first three games of the season were postponed from Lansing, the Whitecaps and Lugnuts were finally able to kick the season off in Comstock Park. The sun was shining as I packed the kids kid in the car. The boys stayed back at my sisters due to illness, so I got to spend the day at the ball park with my favorite girl (my daughter, not Avril Lavigne). The weather was sunny as we played catch in the parking lot before the gates opened at 11:00 a.m. When we were finally let into the ball park our sences were overloaded with the smells of popcorn, hot dogs, and freshly cut grass as we recieved out free hats and found our seats. Lily played at the park for a bit before we got in line for autographs on the field at 12:15 p.m. They only allowed about fifteen minutes on the field, so we had to hustle to get her baseball and cards signed. Lily did get to meet the Tigers number two prospect Nick Castellanos and former Major Leaguers Ben Oglivie and Ernie Young. The rest of the day was perfect for baseball, topping low 80’s (a record high for the ‘Caps openers) with a nice breeze for us to enjoy the action.
The game itself was a real pitchers duel, with the Whitecaps winning 13-12 with a walk-off hit in the ninth. Trailing 12-7, they scored the last six runs of the game for the win. West Michigan battled back with a seventh inning two-run homer by Luis Castillo, and a three-run shot by James Robbins to even the score in inning eight. In the ninth inning, Dixon Machado stole second and scored the winning run on a two-out base hit by Rob Brantly. Machado was 4-5 on the day with a stolen base and three runs scored. Brantley went 2-4 with the home run and a two-run double. Bruce Rondon came on in the ninth to close the door and earn the win.
I simply can’t wait for the next ball game we can make it too. Just another month until our trip in May, which will include a Whitecaps game, too.
Photos property of M.I.B.