West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: I had the night off from work, rare for a Thursday, so I decided to take the boys downstate for a ballgame for my birthday. What can be better than a birthday at the ballpark with family, right? When we got to the ballpark, the team had a dunk tank out front, so this gave the boys a chance to show off their arms a bit and dunking a couple of the Whitecaps players.
The giveaway was an Oyo (like Lego?) figure of Whitecaps outfielder Ben Verlander (now with the Connecticut Tigers). Brian loved this, and had to get one put together right away with a little help from his Papa. The kid is starting to become a master builder, if there ever was one!
As a birthday bonus, the Fox Sports Detroit Girls were on hand to mingle with fans, also. They were nice enough to sign a baseball for my birthday and Trevor had his picture taken with them. The boys had their hats signed, but Brian was too shy for a picture. Stephanie and Angela each threw out a first pitch, too.
And finally on to some baseball! The game itself, though, only lasted just over six hours, with the pitching leading the way. For West Michigan, Jonathon Crawford threw five solid innings, giving up one earned run, one walk, one strikeout, and giving up only four hits. Will LaMarche came in to pitch three innings, striking out three, and only giving up one hit. Scott Sitz earned the save by pitching a scoreless ninth. Dominic Ficociello led the way offensively, going 3-4 with three runs scored and two doubles. Francisco Contreras was 1-3 with two RBIs, while shortstop Willy Adames knocked in a run, also. Catcher Grayson Greiner added two hits in the game as well. It’s always good to have the Whitecaps win, especially on my birthday. I hope my schedule works out so we can make it back down this way and see them in the playoffs. This was a great birthday at the ballpark, and I’m very blessed and lucky to have spent the day with my boys and dad. We need to drag Lily down to another game this summer, though. Final: Whitecaps 3, Chiefs 1.
Here’s a video:
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
So far in this second half of the Minor League season, the West Michigan Whitecaps are certainly treading water. The good news, is that the Whitecaps are currently in second place in the Midwest League‘s Eastern Division. The bad news, is that they are tied with Great Lakes, Lake County, and South Bend for that spot. Each with an identical 15-14 record. More good news, is that they are only three games out of first place. More bad news, is that there are three teams in first place, all with identical 18-11 records. So, I say that they’re treading water is fairly accurate. Helping the Whitecaps this second half is infielder Eugenio Suarez. On July 19th, Suarez turned his 21st birthday into one he’ll never forget. He went 4-4 with four RBI’s, including a two-run home run, and reached base in all of his six plate appearances. To top that all off, he came through with a walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, as the ‘Caps rallied from behind to beat the Peoria Chiefs 9-8. He lined a 2-2 pitch into left field for the win, and was mobbed by his teammates for his efforts.
“I’m so happy because I dedicated this game to my father,” Suarez told MLive.com. “I told my father I was going to have a good game for my family, and I did. I’m so happy and excited because we never gave up and kept working and fighting for this game.”
He’s also been getting the job done in the infield, too. On the 21st, in a close game with the Burlington Bees, Suarez made 11 assists in the field. One of his assists was a throw to the plate that caught a Burlington player trying to steal home in the seventh inning, and that kept his team in the lead. In the third inning, he assisted on all three outs. The Whitecaps won the game 5-0, but it was very close (1-0) until they opened up the offense in the eighth inning.
“That is the first time in my life that I’ve had 11 assists in a game,” he stated. “I like a game like that, I feel excited when I can help the team win with defense.”
We ‘Caps fans like it, too, Eugenio! The team will have to keep playing tough, and starting winning more of these close games (they lost 1-0 last night…grrrr…) if they plan on playing in the post season. And with the teams so evening matched, every game will certainly count.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
Peoria Chiefs vs. Clinton LumberKings: We didn’t have a whole lot of time to celebrate the Kernels victory before hitting the road again to Peoria. We made it to O’Brien Field about 30 minutes before game time, which is good enough to get our merchandise, grab a brew, and get ready for more baseball. It was Monday, and unfortunately not much of a crowd. We missed the big crowds over the weekend with Star Wars night and a Little League ceremony. Still, half price tickets should be drawing the people in anyway. O’Brien Field is nicely fit into downtown Peoria, and the Chiefs share their home with the NCAA Bradlay Braves. It was a beautiful night for baseball, but a quik game tied at 1-1 in the ninth. The Chiefs sent up a pinch hitter with two outs who hit a walk-off homer with the bases loaded for the win. Pretty exciting at the end. Final: Chiefs 4, Lumber Kings 1. Worst: The scoreboard. One half never worked, the other half only part of the time. Best: Half priced seats every Monday.
Photos property of MIB
Monday night the Detroit Tigers will honor the 1984 World Championship team in a pre-game ceromony. All the greats will be on hand including HOF manager Sparky Anderson, MVP Allan Trammell, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Willie Hernandez and more. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the Tigers won it all. Detroit had the best record in baseball that season with 104 wins on their way to the World Series. This is one of my favorite memories about being a baseball fan as a kid.
Luckily, I’ve had a chance to meet some of my childhood heroes through my Minor League baseball trips. A lot of these guys like to give back to baseball and coach in the Minors. It’s great seeing them instruct a whole new generation of players. So far off the the 1984 team I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tom Brookens (West Michigan Whitecaps), Lance Parrish (Great Lakes Loons), Doug Bair (Dayton Dragons), and Barbaro Garbey (Peoria Cheifs). We also had a chance to meet John Wockenfuss this season, who was traded in 1984 in a deal to the Phillies to bring Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman to Detroit. We got to meet pitcher Jack Morris, too, but he wasn’t coaching, just signing at a store opening in northern Michigan. Still, he has the most wins of any pitcher in the 80’s, so it was great meeting him. I can’t wait until next years trip to see who we can meet along the way.
Tom Brookens of the Whitecaps signs for the kids in 2007
Lance Parrish of the Loons signs some cards for the kids in 2007
Photos property of MIB
There’s no better way to spend your birthday than at the ballpark. This year my dad, the kids and I went to the Whitecaps game. We started off at Chuck E. Cheese’s in Grand Rapids so the kids could expell some energy.
At the game, the rain held off and we had a beautifull night. They were playing the Peoria Chiefs again this time. Last year we got to meet Ryne Sandberg while he was managing there. This season former Tiger Barbaro Garbey was in town so he signed some cards for the kids. Garbey was on the Tigers 1984 World Series Championship team, and is currently the hitting coach for the Chiefs. It was also Tiger Friday, so John Wockenfuss was on hand to meet the fans and he signed some cards for the kids, too. They were also giving away bobbleheads to the first 1,000 fans. In the end, the ‘Caps won 9-0 and we had a great time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to catch another game in West Michigan this year or not, but we’ll be going to Appleton, WI next month to watch the Timber Rattlers.
Photos property of MIB
July 17, 2009-Comstock Park, MI: The West Michigan Whitecaps beat up on the visiting Peoria Chiefs 9-0. The onslaught starting in the first inning, when center fielder Ben Guez hit a two run homer to put the ‘Caps up 2-0. Guez ended up going 3-5 on the night, with three RBI’s. Also helping out was second baseman Mike Gosse who was a perfect 4-4 with a double, two runs scored, and 2 RBI’s. Third baseman Brent Wyatt went 2-5 with a double, triple, RBI, and run scored. All around good offensive game by the Whitecaps. The fact that Peoria had three errors helped out, too.
On the mound Brayan Villarreal pitched a solid five innings. He struck out six and didn’t give up a run. He gave up six hit’s, but he was able to pitch himself out of trouble with the help of his defense. His ERA is now a measly 1.06.
Rain threatened the game, but it turned out to be a beautifull night. After some first inning mist, the rain held off and it actually warmed up a bit. It was also Tiger Friday, so former Tiger John Wockenfuss was there to sign autograpsh. That’s another entry, though.
Photos property of MIB