The West Michigan Whitecaps are competing in their 20th season in the Midwest League. To celebrate this event, the team is having the fans vote on the best players they’ve seen in each position for the last two decades. Even three managers are up for the vote, in Bruce Fields, Matt Walbeck, and Tom Brookens. All three won the Midwest League Championship in West Michigan. Catchers such as Brandon Inge, current Tiger Alex Avila, and Miami Marlin Rob Brantley are all up for the best behind the plate. At first base, I think that Robert Fick has the inside edge. He was voted into the first Whitecaps Hall of Fame, and has the honor of hitting the last home run in Tiger Stadium. That’s just my vote, though. Second base is my favorite position, so I’ve followed the players there pretty closely. It will be tough for me to choose only one of my favorites such as Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, and Brandon Douglas. At short stop, in my opinion, the vote might come down to current Tiger Ramon Santiago, or last’s years MiLB Gold Glove winner Eugenio Suarez, which is a tough call. At the hot corner, top prospect Nick Castellanos may be the favorite despite being moved to the outfield last season with Lakeland and Erie. He may get a push from guys like Wade Gaynor and Wilkin Ramirez, though. Fans are allowed three choices for outfielders, and there are plenty. While players like Matt Joyce, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, and Brent Clevlen have all seen action at the MLB level, Gorkys Hernandez had a great season in West Michigan in 2007. He was also named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year that year. Fans are also allowed to vote for three pitchers. Players like Andy Van Hekken, Casey Crosby, Duane Below, and Joel Zumaya all found success on the hill in West Michigan. Rounding out the relief pitchers, fans can vote for two, including Michael Torrealba and Anthony Claggett. This is another great way the Whitecaps are celebrating so much success the last 20 years. VOTE NOW!
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps
Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: I’m not talking about the doomsday prophecy, but last weekend was the second-to-last game for the Whitecaps, and most likely our very last game of the 2012 season. It’s always bitter-sweet to see a season come to an end, but we have a lot of great memories to look back on. This was another memorable game for the kids and I, as we were able to get onto the field again and see some of the players and coaches. Brian really wanted to see Crash the river rascal one last time, so that was our priority! We didn’t have much of a chance after that for playing catch or getting many other pics with the players, but I did get one with the kids in front of the dugout. Brian was able to play on the playground and jump around on the ‘bouncy house’, which burns up some of his energy (Lily and Trevor are too big for the playground…where does the time go???). The kids Papa and Nana were able to join us, too, so it was a great day spent with family at the ballpark. I’m really going to miss the sunshine and the green grass, as fall, and soon winter, will be blasting us with the reality that we live up north. I was really glad we were able to make this trip, though, with school starting and two birthdays within ten days of each other, this was definitely a ‘no frills’ trip. Don’t worry…I still fed them and even got them their ice cream!
The game itself was a fun one, as the ‘Caps built and early 5-run lead on the Dragons. That was no easy task, either, considering that Robert Stephenson was on the mound for Dayton, who was the Cincinnati Reds first round draft pick last year and the organizations top pitching prospect. For West Michigan, Zach Maggard hit a two-run double in the second inning, to put the ‘Caps up 3-0. In the third inning, Jason King and Patrick Leyland each had RBI singles to put them up 5-0. Eugenio Suarez gave West Michigan some insurance, with an RBI triple in the sixth inning. The Dragons came back to score a few runs off starter Jeff Ferrell, but he held on for the win. Ferrell is now 4-1 in his last six games. Michael Torrealba pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save. In all, the Whitecaps ended up with 15 hits in the game, with five doubles and one triple. It’s good to see them playing hard, even though they won’t be making the playoffs. I still can’t believe that it will be another six months at least until another baseball game. This was an end to and extremely busy week for us, that saw Trevor turning 10, his first football game, and a couple of trips to the county fair. The kids last hurrah before school starting up. Final: Whitecaps 6, Dragons 4.
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
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.
The West Michigan Whitecaps evened their record to 16-16 with the split of a four game series against the Lugnuts in Lansing. The Lugnuts, who are currently the best team in the Midwest League, won the first two games of the series by the scores of 2-0 and 4-3. The Whitecaps fought back to win the next two contests. On Monday, the two teams were tied 1-1 from the second inning on, until West Michigan rallied for four runs in the eight inning. Brandon Loy and Eugenio Suarez each singled, and Dean Green reached first on a bobbled bunt to load the bases. They scored one run on a fielder’s choice, and Suarez then scored on a wild pitch. Curt Casali hit a single that scored two runs, to give West Michigan the 5-1 victory. The winning pitcher was Wilsen Palacios, who improved his record to 2-2. He struck out five batters and did not issue a base on balls.
Tuesday’s morning game was an offensive battle, as the Whitecaps knocked a season high 15 hits, on their way to the 7-6 win. Patrick Leyland went 3-5, and hit a single in the ninth inning to put the Whitecaps in the lead. Casali also had three hits, while Suarez went 2-4 with three RBI’s. Green hit an RBI single in the seventh inning, tying the game at 5. On the mound, Michael Torrealba was the winner, retiring two batters in the ninth. Dan Bennett struggled, but was able to earn the save for West Michigan. The team returns home for a series with their other in-state rival, the Great Lakes Loons.
Photos courtesy of the Lansing State Journal