Traverse City Beach Bums vs. Joliet Slammers (Frontier League)
Wuerfel Park-Traverse City, MI: While back visiting family in Michigan, we decided to take in a Beach Bums game, the defending Frontier League champions. It seemed like we brought some of the southern heat with us, as the temps were pushing the upper 80’s, but the nice cool breeze off of Lake Michigan turned it into a perfect night for baseball. Brian remembered that the Slammers gave him a baseball last year, so he was actually rooting for the visitors.
The way the game started out, I thought it would be a high scoring affair, but then the pitchers settled in, and the game moved by pretty fast. At one point, 10 Beach Bum players were retired in a row. Lucky for TC, Jacob Lanning was on the mound, as he pitched a complete nine inning game for the win. He gave up only one run in the first inning, on seven hits, and he struck out two.
Also during the game, Brian was able to catch up with both Beach Bum mascots, Suntan and Sunburn. Be honest…doesn’t it look like the red bear is flipping me off??!!
Anyway, the Beach Bums scored one run in the first inning on a Will Kengor RBI double that scored Jose Vargas. Then in the fifth inning, Jeff DeBlieux hit a double of his own, this time scoring two to put TC in the lead for good. It was good to be back in Michigan, if only for a few days, and I’m sure this isn’t the end of us enjoying some games up here. We look forward to our next game in Kentucky, though! FINAL: Beach Bums 3, Slammers 1.
Louisville Bats vs Columbus Clippers (International League)
Louisville Slugger Field-Louisville, KY: It’s that time of the year again, and a change in venue couldn’t keep me from taking my scruffy-looking nerf-herders to Star Wars night. This year is our first here in Louisville, and they put on a pretty good show for the kids. Due to an accident on the freeway, we got to the game about a half hour late, so Brian missed out on his free light-saber (not that he doesn’t have an arsenal of them at home..). But, the weather was perfect, and my friend Darryl visiting from Ohio got us great seats behind the first base dugout. They had the Star Wars characters on the field before the game, and throwing out some first pitches.
We watched a few innings of the game, which turned out to be a pitchers duel, sort of… Chad Rogers got the start for the Bats, and he ended up pitching four shut-out innings. He gave up only five hits on the night, while walking two, and striking out three.
When the Star Wars characters started making their way to the concourse, the boys and I decided to join them. First of all, Brian was really happy just to finally meet the Bat’s mascot, Buddy Bat!
We then were able to see some of the Star Wars guys, with Brian getting in with an Imperial Speeder Bike Trooper, and Trevor and I were happy to see Boba Fett, who is our favorite and we missed him last year.
Back to the game. A 0-0 tie doesn’t sound all that exciting, but this was a great game to watch. Both teams had runners in scoring position multiple times without being able to push a run home. Louisville actually had the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth, and were unable to score. Pair that with a gorgeous night for baseball, and we didn’t mind at all going into extra innings! The game finally came to an end in the 11th, when Seth Mejias-Brean smacked a two-run homer to win the game and send the crowd home happy. Relief pitcher Wandy Peralta picked up his first win of the season, and Kyle Waldrop added a pair of doubles in the game. FINAL: Louisville 2, Clippers 0, 11 innings.
This game was as much fun at a ballgame that I’ve had in some time. It was a great time spent with the boys and my best friend, and it’s always good to be surrounded by other knowledgeable baseball fans. If the weather could be like this every game, I would be more than happy. I’m sure we’ll be making another trip to Louisville Slugger Field, too, and to some other teams in the area. I did remember to take a quick video, too, hoping the Bats would win it in the ninth.
Locey Field-Sault Ste Marie, MI: Going into the weekend, we knew this would probably be our last chance to see the Laker softball team play. What I didn’t expect, is the school making the decision to cancel the softball program entirely after this season, and that is as of last weekend. I do feel that we were fortunate, however, to witness the final games of the program.
Game one was a tough loss for the Lakers. Down four zip, the girls stormed back to tie the game in the sixth. The rally started when Soo native Jenna Holt hit a double to the wall, scoring Lindsey Pajot and Carly Banchiu. Alyssa Boucher then scored on a wild pitch, cutting the lead to one. Kylie Durre then tied the game by surviving a tough pickle situation. Boucher took the circle at the top of seven, but game up the game-winning home run. FINAL Game 1: LSSU 4, TU 5.
Between games, the Laker mascot Seamore the Seaduck was on hand to entertain the crowd. Of course, Brian had to get one last photo with him.
On to game number two, the final game in the history of the LSSU softball program. With the Dragons up 2-0, catcher Katie Martin hit an RBI single to cut the lead to one. That would be all the Lakers got for a few innings, though, as Tiffin racked up a few more. Kylie Durre hit a dinger in the sixth, and Banchiu added an RBI single in the seventh, but it was too little, too late, and that’s all she wrote for Laker softball. FINAL Game 2: LSSU 3, TU 7.
It was sad to watch that final out, and the girls were obviously very emotional. The program has been very good to us over the years, with Lily, Trevor, and Brian all participating in their camps and clinics. We in turn have supported the team the best we can. Now, as we move on as a family, these girls must now do the same, especially the younger classes that will have to find a new team to play for. So, as this door closes, new ones are now opening for all of us…
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. South Bend Cubs (Midwest League)
Fifth 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.
Unfortunately, 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.
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.
Before 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.
As 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.
Due 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.
Trailing 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.
Despite 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:
Dow 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.
We 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:
Here are the alternate uniforms, and these are my favorite:
And finally, the new home uniforms, along with the mascots’ new look, also:
The 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.
Also 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…
And 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.
We 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!
And for the grand finale, if Brian’s baseball career doesn’t take off, he could always make it as an announcer or color commentary…
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.
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!