Villainy in West Michigan

West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)

28348988844_ee2ce811af_zFifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI:  Back in the mitt to visit friends and family before school starts, we were lucky enough to take in a Whitecaps game.  The ‘Caps were hosting another one of our Michigan teams, the Lansing Lugnuts.  It was Super Villain Night at Fifth Third Ballpark, and Brian was able to meet some of these dastardly scoundrels that give our heroes so many fits.  Above, he’s with Harley Quinn, Crossbones, the Winter Soldier (who I really don’t consider a villain, he was brain-washed after all, and Bucky is really a good guy), and Poison Ivy.  Below, he is hanging out with Batman nemesis The Penguin, and Spider-Man foil, The Lizard.

'You don't really think you'll win, do you?'
‘You don’t really think you’ll win, do you?’
Bri with Dr. Curt Connors, AKA The Lizard
Bri with Dr. Curt Connors, AKA The Lizard

We were also able to catch up with Crash the River Rascal, and it was good to see him again!  He also gave Bri a t-shirt.

It was good to see Crash again!
It was good to see Crash again!

We seemed to pick another great day to be at the ballpark, and to see some free baseball.  The Whitecaps and Lugnuts would finish a tied game suspended the night before, with the ‘Nut winning this one 5-3 in the 12th inning.  The scheduled game would go into extras, also.  West Michigan tied the game at one in the second inning, when Will Allen scored on a Jose Azocar double, after hitting one of his own.  Azocar would plate another RBI in the fifth inning, scoring Brett Pirtle on a ground out.  Both team would load the bases in the 11th, but came away with nothing.  The ‘Caps would have better luck in the 12th, however, as Arvicent Perez earned the walk-off RBI with a bases-loaded hit.

28905947762_5240e05ea7_z28393932693_852989bd61_z29011003465_85043e3968_zOn the mound, Trent Szkutnik started the game giving up just the two runs.  The bullpen came through also, with Drew Smith, Zac Houston, and Toller Boardman combining for six no-hit innings and 11 strikeouts.  FINAL in 12:  Whitecaps 3, Lugnuts 2.

28348996564_9a02112eda_z28348998354_9eff642497_z28905904792_751690cc9c_zAnother fun game, and it’s always good to be back home.  Especially seeing a game with Brian and his Papa (and even getting photo bombed by the Whitecaps staff…).  With the minor league season rapidly winding down, we will definitely try to catch at least one more game in Kentucky. Here’s a video for y’all.

Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball

 

Whitecaps SnOwpening Day

West Michigan Whitecaps vs. South Bend Cubs (Midwest League)

26271459721_828e34229b_zFifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI:  For our last game in Michigan for awhile, mother nature really dumped on us, and it’s hard not to take this personally.  For the Whitecaps home opener, it was a balmy 36 degrees, but honestly at least the sun was out and the game wasn’t cancelled.  We wanted to make sure we were one of the first 1,000 through the gate, so we could claim our replica 2015 Midwest League championship rings.

26245268852_efa26afb62_zUnfortunately, do to the field conditions and cold, they cancelled the on field catch and autograph session.  They never opened the play ground, either, and really cheesed Brian off.  At least we were able to see all three of the ‘Caps mascots one more time, as they entertained the kids until game time.

Brian with Roxy the River Rascal
Brian with Roxy the River Rascal
Brian and I with Frankie the Swimming Pig
Brian and I with Frankie the Swimming Pig
And, finally, Brian with Crash the River Rascal
And, finally, Brian with Crash the River Rascal

The team also had all six of West Michigan’s Midwest League championship trophies on display.  The time finally passed, and while we were basking in the sun, the club had a little presentation of the newest trophy.

26337666795_068f5926a5_z25734786193_8f9e331a28_z26245282022_25139fe837_z26064680710_235428d9eb_zBefore the game, we took a walk over to watch the ‘Caps warm up, and I got a couple of pics of starting pitcher Matt Hall (22) and outfielder Cam Gibson (23), son of Tiger great Kirk Gibson.

26311617146_c777c62c3c_z26311607796_ceace1f58c_zAs you can see, the Whitecaps have added extended netting all the way across the dugout, and this really screws up my world as a baseball fan. Watching and trying to take pictures through this netting simply sucks, in my opinion.  I do understand it’s for safety, but if some fans can’t keep off their iPhones during gameplay, or have small children, they need to pay attention or sit in a less dangerous area.

26064633790_45b3c7d64c_z26271289861_4632a6afc9_zDue to the cold, the game itself seemed to be a little sloppy, although a few of the batters were given an ‘hit’ on a ball that would probably normally be an error.  The Whitecaps could seem to get a big hit with players in scoring position either, with Brett Pirtle scoring their first run on a passed ball.  On the bump, Hall pitched four innings, giving up one run on five hits, while striking out two.  Relief pitcher Toller Boardman gave up three runs for West Michigan to take the loss, however.

25732821424_b908389aa7_z26271281021_8134d034ef_zTrailing 5-1 going into the ninth, the ‘Caps made it a little interesting, score a pair of runs, but it was too little too late. Offensively, Pirtle ended up going 1-3 with a walk and two runs scored.  First baseman Will Allen and left fielder Rashad Brown each went 2-4, with Allen adding an RBI.  I also had to take another walk to find a place for a few more photo not obstructed by the netting.  Final: Whitecaps 3, Cubs 5.

26337529165_9c42ff695a_z26064601490_8e1bbb2ee5_zDespite the cold and the everything, it was still a fun day at the ballpark.  Again, the watching the game through all that netting isn’t as enjoyable, and Brian was bummed all game that they never opened the playground, but still a better time than doing anything anywhere else.  We’ll be pretty busy the next couple of weeks, and can’t wait to be settled and at home in a new ballpark.  I’ll sign off for now with a video of the game:

Video and photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Dive in! Loons unveil new logo and uniforms

24728421270_65a8aab510_zDow Diamond-Midland, MI: On Saturday the Great Lakes Loons kicked off their 10th season with an event to unveil their new logo and uniforms.  The concourse at Dow Diamond was able to be enclosed, and we were able to enjoy the presentation, along with all of the other activities, in relative comfort.  The presentation started with a video that showed some of the highlights of the first nine seasons of Loons baseball.  Then the new logos were revealed, all together, and then they went over each one. My favorite is probably the Loon with the fishing hat. In won’t show each one individually, but you can see them all between the top and lower photo of Brian and I.

24714864210_8c7e766061_zWe also got a good look at all of the new Loons uniforms that the team will be wearing when they take the field this season. Here are the road uniforms:

24397080303_ca8278a61f_zHere are the alternate uniforms, and these are my favorite:

24728399220_c1bf41683f_zAnd finally, the new home uniforms, along with the mascots’ new look, also:

24728392130_589b5b0f93_z24397018583_b048aaffdf_zThe mascots, Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel, did a nice job of getting around and spending some time with the kids and older fans alike.

24984045476_d49d584793_z24984046986_93f2ad6f3d_kAlso on hand for the event, the Loons hired fire-twirling-guys and some guys-juggling-on-stilts-guys. They were a big hit, and the fire guy even did some sword swallowing. Creepy…

24714934060_61f0a03537_z24905813512_1c6c5ac9d8_zAnd what kid doesn’t like to get his face painted? Especially of the American Flag…that’s my boy! And just for the heck of it, a look at a snowy Dow Diamond.

24984045256_d6b9016bc9_z24642739169_3b25b97357_zWe ended the day both taking some cuts in the batting cages. Brian and I were both able to experience this back when I played the fantasy game here, but it’s always fun to get some swings in, especially in winter when it’s -15 outside!

24984040016_6100fa1bf7_z25023805965_560398c4c1_zAnd for the grand finale, if Brian’s baseball career doesn’t take off, he could always make it as an announcer or color commentary…

Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

 

 

 

Kelly & Maybin join Whitecaps HOF

This is a switch, we met Don Kelly while with the Tigers, instead of back when he was with the Whitecaps!
This is a switch, we met Don Kelly while with the Tigers, instead of back when he was with the Whitecaps!

Tonight the West Michigan Whitecaps will add two more players to it’s prestigious Hall of Fame, as alumni Don Kelly and Cameron Maybin return to Grand Rapids for the 22nd annual Whitecaps Community Foundation Winter Baseball Banquet. Maybin is returning to the Tigers organization after being traded to the Marlins in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. He was a first-round pick of the Tigers in 2005, playing his first full pro season in West Michigan in 2006, hitting .304 with nine home runs, 69 RBI’s, and 27 stolen bases. Maybin also played in the 2006 MLB All-Star Futures Game, and help lead the ‘Caps to the 2006 Midwest League Championship while being named MWL Prospect of the Year.

Kelly played for the Whitecaps way back in 2002, and was an 8th round pick of Detroit in 2001. He went on to hit .286 with 59 RBI’s, and was also the starting shortstop in the Midwest League All-Star Game that season. Kelly is mostly known for being a super-utility player, and has seen action at every position on the field, including pitching an inning or two. Other ‘Caps alumni scheduled to be at tonight’s banquet are Wynton Bernard, Nick Castellanos, Jeff Ferrell, Montreal Robinson off of the Tigers’ Caravan. Other Tiger players, coaches, and personnel that will be there include Al Alvila, Alan Trammell, Matt Boyd, Tyler Collins, Michael Fulmer, Anthony Gose, Shane Greene, Blaine Hardy, Bryan Holaday, Jose Iglasias, Mark Lowe, Drew VerHagen, Alex Wilson, Wally Joyner, and Omar Vizquel. That’s a lot of baseball guys under one roof, and one day when I win the Powerball I’ll be able to get tickets for the kids and I too attend. The Whitecaps Community Foundation does a lot of good in the Grand Rapids area, though, so it’s nice to know the money is being well spent.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

M.I.B. Prime 9: Our top moments of 2015

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.

Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake
Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake

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.

17148118526_412fc48d08_z8) 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.

16893076806_42ca3e5288_z7) 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.

19040155204_22d92329b2_z6) 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…

21486574056_05198e7575_z5) 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.

19201290210_c58e17643c_z4) 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.

IMG_24313) 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.

IMG_2559-02) 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.

17713796284_949ef5be80_z1) 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

 

Whitecaps win MiLBy Award

The West Michigan Whitecaps are winners again, this time in the annual MiLBy Awards. The ‘Caps organization won the award for Best Blooper based in this video:

Always good press for West Michigan, and makes me miss baseball season even more. Time to start the countdown until April!

Video courtesy of the Whitecaps/MiLB.com

Jimenez and Gerber honored by Tigers

21325734839_de4b417391_zThe Detroit Tigers have named Joe Jimenez as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and outfielder Mike Gerber Player of the Year. Both players laced up their cleats in West Michigan this season, and both were instrumental in the Whitecaps winning the Midwest League Championship. The 20-year-old Jimenez posted a 1.47 ERA in 40 games with the ‘Caps this season, earning five wins and 17 saves. He struck out 71 batters in 43 innings of work, with a 0.79 WHIP. His 97-98 mph fastball and nasty slider made him the ‘Caps ‘go-to’ guy in late innings, especially in the playoffs. Jimenez was the Tigers’ lone representative at the All-Star Futures game this past July in Cincinnati, and will head back to his home of Puerto Rico to play winter ball.

19382532142_e7bd8a82c5_zGerber hit .292 this season in West Michigan, smacking 13 home runs and 76 RBI’s. He also added 31 doubles, 74 runs scored, and swiped 13 bases with a .822 OPS playing in 135 games this season. He also played eight games with the Whitecaps in 2014, hitting an impressive .387 with five RBI’s. Gerber, 22, was drafted by the Tigers in last seasons’ MLB Amateur Draft out of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, in the 15th round. Ranked number 18 on Detroit’s prospect list, he’ll join fellow Whitecaps’ alums Austin Kubitza (last season’s Pitcher of the Year), Montreal Robertson, Dominic Ficociello (recently awarded a MiLB Gold Glove with a .996 fielding %), and Adam Ravenelle in the Arizona Fall League.  JaCoby Jones will also be representing the Tigers as a member of the AFL’s Scottsdale Scorpions. It was fun to watch Jimenez and Gerber play for West Michigan this season, and I’ll enjoy watching them climb the latter up the organization.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball