Wake Forest Demon Deacans vs. Miami Hurricanes (Atlantic Coast Conference/NCAA)
Gene Hooks Field-Winston-Salem, NC: We were blessed with another beautiful day, as we headed north from Charlotte up to Winston-Salem for some college baseball. You might be wondering how a kid growing up in northern Michigan can become a fan of the Miami Hurricanes. Then again, you might not be. Anyway, I became a fan of the ‘U’ in the 80’s, while watching their sports teams win with attitude and swagger. You can understand my excitement, then, when I realized that the Wake Forest Demon Deacons would be hosting the ‘Canes during the very weekend we would be down there. The game took place at Gene Hooks Field, which is located just off campus next to the football field. It’s formerly Ernie Shore Field, that at one time hosted the Winston-Salem Warthogs of the Carolina League. With the Deacons taking over after the Warthogs became the Dash, and moved to their new stadium, Wake Forest inherited a nice venue for college baseball. I spent most of the game chatting with a fellow Michigander, who now coached football and baseball in the area. It was also senior day for the Deacons, with a pre-game ceremony celebrating their last home game. The rubber match of the series went to the home team, with the ‘Canes giving up six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie. Despite the loss, the future looks bright for Miami as freshman David Thompson and sophomore Garrett Kennedy both hit home runs in the loss. It was still a lot of fun for me, and I really wish we could have squeezed more college games into our trip. Final score: Wake Forest 9, Miami 3.
Cooley Law School Stadium-Lansing, MI: Last Thursday we gambled…and lost. As mother nature continued to punish us in Michigan with freezing rain, sleet, and snow, the 7th Annual Crosstown Showdown, pitting the Lansing Lugnuts against the Michigan State Spartans, has been postponed. The Lugnuts announced that the game will be made up on May 1st, as a seven inning game. We won’t be able to make it to that one, but the Lansing ticket office staff was more than helpful in helping us exchange our tickets for a game that we will be able to make it back down for…weather permitting. The kids and I still had a fun day together, though. We took a tour of the State Capitol building that was very enjoyable and informative. Lily and Trevor have been studying government in school, and it’s good for them to actually see where and how it’s applied. Our love of cars also took us to see the R.E. Olds transportation museum. We love to see the old cars and memorabilia. So much pride and workmanship went into the classic vehicles. The most fun the kids had was at the Impression 5 Science Center. This is a hands on play area for kids to build, do experiments, and encounter science and nature first hand. They could have spent all day there, and we’ll probably visit this again after the Lugnuts game here in a couple of weeks. It does get you down a bit, waiting for the weather to clear up to see some baseball games, but we still had fun, and the kids were able to spend some quality time with their Papa for his birthday. We also had dinner at one of my favorite sports bars, the Nuthouse Sports Grill!
We all know how the song starts….’On a cold winter’s morning..’. And that’s exactly how it felt this morning when my alarm blared in my ear, telling me it was time to get up and get the kids ready for school. Despite being the first day of spring, ‘old man winter’ pounded us with another few inches of snow. Throw the high winds and cold with it, and it’s just another winter storm, complete with low visibility and icy roads. Spring has not sprung, and winter looks as if it wants to stay with us for a little longer. Today was also the day that single game tickets went on sale for the Lansing LugNuts. Here’s where the gambling part comes in.. Despite there being several feet of snow on the ground, and temperatures in the 20’s, I took a gamble and ordered tickets for the Crosstown Showdown on April 11th. I’m sure the grounds crew at Cooley Law School Stadium is working diligently to get the field ready for game action, but there’s still no guarantee what the weather will be like and how cold it will be in just a few short weeks. If it was just me, I wouldn’t care too much, but I’m hoping it’s warm enough for the kids to sit through. I rolled the dice, however, so we’ll see what happens. The Crosstown Showdown is the LugNuts opening day exhibition game against the Michigan State University Spartans, based in East Lansing. According to the LugNuts, this is one of the most attended games every season, so I guess we were lucky to get tickets. Trevor is the one who really wanted to see this game, as he’s a Sparty backer, for some reason. It should be a fun day all around, too, as we plan on visiting the State Capitol building while down there, as well as a couple of museums. If I’m going to pull the kids out of school, I have to justify it somehow, right? It should be a good game to watch, also, as MSU is the defending Big Ten champions, and Lansing had a great season last year. So, in a few weeks we’ll pack up and head downstate…and hope that Mother Nature deals us a favorable hand.
Promotion courtesy of the Lansing LugNuts
There’s really no sign of spring up here in Michigan’s crazy Upper Peninsula. In fact, it seems that there is even more snow, cold, and wind than ever. Things will be heating up for the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team, however, as they start their season today in the Superior Dome over in Marquette. The girls play three game today, taking on Lakeland, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and Wisconsin-Superior. Good luck to the girls this weekend, and all season long. Their season actually kicked off last weekend, though, with the annual ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ spaghetti dinner. There was fun and games, and the kids were thrilled that they won two of the raffles. They won a movie package that included, movie passes, popcorn and candy, along with different popcorn seasoning. Also includes some free movie rentals. The other raffle we won was a cooler, beach towels, beach toys, water bottles, and sun screen. Uh…we’ll have to put that one up on the shelf for a few months, but very thankful that we got lucky. And all the money for the tickets goes to the softball team, so it’s a good cause. Brian had a good time showing off his throwing arm and playing with the balloons. Lily and Trevor drew pictures for the girls on the paper table cloths. We had a great time, but we’re sick of the snow and ready to burn the snowman, already.
Lily has been pretty busy with softball lately. Yes, I know it’s December, but there’s really no off-season for us. Last weekend she participated in a free clinic put on by the Lake Superior State Lakers, where she practiced all aspects of the game. Also, during the week, Lily has some hitting clinics going on. They were very productive, as she was working one-on-one with Lakers head coach Lori Shimasaki. I could really see an improvement in her hitting over the past couple of weeks. Lily had a lot of fun, which is the important thing, and the clinics may start-up again after the first of the year.
Theunissen Stadium-Mt. Pleasant, MI: Ahh…back in our home state!!! It was a long drive back, and we were dog tired, but not tired enough to miss a baseball game. On our way back home, we stopped in at my dads’ alma mater, Central Michigan, to see them take on their arch-rivals, the Western Michigan Broncos. We’ve only been to a hand-full of college ballparks, but Central’s Theunissen Stadium is the best one we’ve been at, and probably one of the nicer college stadiums in Michigan. This was CMU‘s final regular season game, so plenty of students and family in attendance to cheer on the home team. Before the game, some of the former baseball alumni and coaches were honored, including Coach Theunissen, who the stadium was named after. He threw out the first pitch to his grandson Nate Theunissen, who is now the Chippewas all-time hits leader. The game itself was a good one, with the Chips edging the Broncos 3-2. It was a hot day that drained us a bit, but the game went by pretty quick. I was excited, though, because I was about to be reunited with three most important people in my life… Final: CMU 3, WMU 2.
University at Buffalo Bulls vs. Bowling Green State Falcons
Amherst Audubon Field–Amherst, NY: Trying to squeeze as much baseball into our trip as possible, we decided to take in some college baseball at the University at Buffalo. We had some extra time before the Buffalo Bisons game, and I personally enjoy the college game. UB has a nice campus, and we explored a bit and checked things out at their book store/gift shop. I was actually disappointed with Amherst Audubon Field, which looks a lot more like a high school field than one used for Division I baseball. I know baseball isn’t a big draw up north, and other sports like football and basketball bring in the revenue, but you would think they’d put something into a decent baseball stadium. We still had a fun time, and there were some scouts there looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’ type player, and they’re always fun to talk to. The weather was beautiful also, and to some good baseball free of charge is simply a plus. Other than us and the scouts, the rest of the crowd was primarily just friends and family of the players. It’s still a high level of baseball and well worth our time. Final: Buffalo 3, Bowling Green 6.
Pierce Arrow Museum
Buffalo, NY: Other than baseball, my other love is cars. I’m a guy, and guys just like classic cars. This is actually the third car museum we visited on this trip, and it’s located just a few blocks away from Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. After the game at UB, we decided to check out some automotive mastery. The Pierce Arrow cars are really beautiful, and the museum had some other memorabilia like old gas pumps and signs. They’re in the process of moving into a bigger facility, but it was a great way to waste some time until the next ballgame. The best car museum we went to on this trip was in Norwich, NY, which is just north of Binghamton. When I get a chance, I might post some pics from that one with one of my B-Mets reviews.
It’s always hard to watch baseball come to an end in the fall, but at the same time it makes you appreciate it when it comes back the next spring. As much as we miss baseball during the winter, we don’t just sit around and sulk. Winters up here can get dull and depressing, so we really have to keep busy to beat the winter blues and make it through until the baseball fun begins. As usual, we take in a lot of hockey games up here. We live in the original ‘Hockeytown U.S.A.’, so between our Lake Superior State Lakers, junior and high school hockey, we spend a lot of time at the rink. We also do a fair share of ice skating ourselves, too. The kids are involved in their own activities throughout the school year as well. Lily participated in the youth bowling league, while Trevor played flag-football and wrestling. A special treat this winter, too, was that we were able to catch a Harlem Globetrotters game. I took Trevor and Lily a few years ago, but this was Brian’s first time seeing them and he had a great time. We were also able to see the Stanley Cup at a Detroit Red Wings Alumni game which was a thrill for the kids. It wasn’t just sports that held our interest, as we saw some rock concerts, too. I took the two older kids up into Canada to see Avril Lavigne (my hearts pants…), and saw legendary rock bands like Slaughter and Stryper come to town. We also spent some time playing outside, and over at the tubing hill blazing down the icy slopes. Do you think that scared Brian at all…No. Anyway, I might not win father of the year..I’ve been known to give the kids NyQuil out of a shot glass, and help them with their math by teaching them Blackjack, but we do have a lot of fun together. Plus, only a single dad can get away with a full size hockey net in the living room, and foosball table instead of a dinner table!
The Lake Superior State Lakers softball team is ready to this the road this spring, as the first leg of their season takes them to California. Trips like this are expensive for small programs, especially since LSSU is the smallest state funded college in Michigan. One of the ways the girls earn money for the trip is the annual Take Me Out To The Ballgame dinner. This has also been a tradition for the kids and I, as we’ve attended all since Lily and Trevor were babies. We had fun again this year, and the kids’ Papa was able to join us, too. One of Lily’s favorite things to do is to put a pie in the face of her favorite player. They started doing this last season, and it’s been a big hit. A lot of the players already know Lily from the local softball camps and clinics, so it’s fun for them, too. The girls were also raffling off a flat screen TV and went out on the ice during the hockey game that night to announce the winner and promote the team. Pictured above is the team sporting their very cool new uniforms. The photos below are from the banquet, and feature Lily sporting her new softball hoodie and us enjoying our spaghetti dinner. Good luck to the Lady Lakers this season, and we hope the weather is decent this April for their home games here in the Sault. Here’s the link to the girls 2012 schedule:
Bottom photos property of M.I.B.
Working for the government, we have to pick our vacation almost a year in advance, which can cause problems in making plans, and planning trips. It used to be we had to pick our vacation days by January or December, which wasn’t bad because most Minor League ball clubs had their schedules posted by that time. Now we have to have them submitted by October, and all I can really do is pick a couple of weeks in May, and hope for the best.
This year the Baseball Gods smiled on me a bit, as I was able to put together a nice little trip in my allotted time, featuring Minor League Baseball, NCAA Baseball, and even a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There is a lot of fun and excitement for me when the 2012 schedules come out, and I can start writing games down on the calendar and see how everything will fit into place. It’s not always easy, as I like to pack as much baseball into one week as possible, but it is so much fun, and really gives me something to look forward to over the long winter months. Starting the first of the year, I can start making reservations, ordering tickets, and doing some research on the best sports bars in the areas we’ll be at. Here’s a little rundown of our plans for next May, and if the world is ending in 2012…then at least I die seeing the HOF…
The first leg of our trip takes us to Syracuse, New York, to see the Chiefs host the Rochester Red Wings in International League action (Triple-A). Our first game is a Sunday matinée at 2:00 p.m., then after a long drive it’s early to bed, as the Chiefs host the Red Wings again on Monday afternoon, with a 12:00 start time. I absolutely love doubling back to be at the ballpark in the morning when the grass is still wet with dew, and it brings so much more ambiance to the experience. No time to rest on Monday, though, as we travel to Rochester after the Chiefs game to watch the Scranton/WB Yankees host the Durham Bulls (Int. League/Triple-A). Wait..what? Yes, due to the S/WB Yanks renovating their stadium, they will be playing some home games in Rochester while the Red Wings are on the road, so we pick up an extra game due to that…thanks Yanks! I’ve always wanted to see the Durham Bulls play, too, and will probably be part of their cheering section. Ok, take a second to catch your breath…
The next stop on our trip is in fabled Cooperstown, New York, home to the one and only National Baseball Hall of Fame. This will be my first time here, and probably not be able to grasp how amazing it will be until I’ve actually seen it myself. I’ve been to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, which is breathtaking in itself, but no sport has the history that baseball does. No sport has had an impact on our country’s history the way baseball has, and right now I can’t even comprehend all the things that I will be seeing while there. I’m setting aside a full day and a half to take it all in, and maybe check out Doubleday Field and see if anything is going on there. All I can say is that I’m sure I’ll have lots of pictures to share! After the second day in Cooperstown, we travel south to see the Binghamton Mets host the Trenton Thunder in Eastern League action (Double-A). I’ve heard nothing but good things about the ballpark in Binghamton, and really enjoyed all of our Eastern League games last year, so I’m looking forward to this one. Hold on, though, ’cause we’re not done yet…
The next leg on our trip takes us back west, as we stop in Rochester once again, this time seeing the real home team Red Wings host the Louisville Bats. We saw the Bats a few years ago while in Louisville, so it will be nice to see them in action again, also. After a good night rest in Rochester, we’ll keep heading west to Buffalo, New York, for a pair of games. Our first stop will be the University at Buffalo where the Bulls host the Bowling Green State Falcons of the Mid-American Conference (NCAA). This game starts at 1:00 p.m., and gives us a chance to enjoy the campus before heading downtown for the night game. Keeping with the International League, we’ll be watching the Buffalo Bisons host the Gwinnett Braves in our final game in the state of New York. I actually saw the Bisons play a couple of time back in the 90’s when I was out that way working security for the World University Games and that was my first taste of the Minor Leagues. After the Bisons game we head back to Michigan…but why stop there?
After getting back on our Great Lake State, you’d think we’d just want to get home and get some rest, right? Wrong! Plenty of time to rest later, and while we’re heading back, we go right by Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and lucky for us the Central Michigan Chippewas will be hosting their biggest rival, the Western Michigan Broncos at 2:00 p.m. in more MAC action (NCAA). After that game, we’ll hit a cross-roads. The Whitecaps will be playing that night, and we could jot down to Grand Rapids to see them play or call it a day, or trip, or whatever, and head home. In all honesty, we’ll be making that a game-time decision. If my dad’s feeling up to it, I’ll be more than happy to take in one last game. The only problem is, I usually need a vacation to rest up after all of this…but that’s what I call a good problem.
By the time this trip comes around, I’m hoping to join this century and be able to make Twitter updates from my phone or something, and if anyone is in the area for any of these games, let me know and I’ll be happy to have a ticket waiting for you at the gate. I’ll also be bringing back the ‘Logo of the Month’, featuing each of the home teams until the trip, so keep an eye out for those.