Lake Superior State University-Sault Ste Marie, MI: This week Brian participated in the second of three clinics the Lake Superior State softball team hosted. Brian was the only boy in the clinic again, but the players always have fun with him. They started out taking some ground balls, and then worked on some fly balls. The kids always love the obstacle courses, too. They like to compete with each other and it’s good that they get to run around since they can’t play outside in the weather up here. Then they played some other games that worked on their speed and agility before hitting the cage.
As usual, Brian is a boss in the batting cage. He hit well, but is his own worse critic. Getting him to relax and have fun is the real challenge, as he feels he should be pounding the ball every pitch. I didn’t help that we had a busy weekend with little sleep, so that made him a little grumpy as well. The joys of being a parent, I guess. The kids ended the clinic with more games, and Brian had the chance to don his tools of ignorance for a little while to take some pitches. The Lady Lakers will be hosting one more clinic next month.
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!
Locey Field-Sault Ste. Marie, MI: On Wednesday night, the Lake Superior State Lakers softball team hosted Little League Day. The team invited the kids to watch one of their practices, and they were able to hang out in the dugout with the girls. After practice, the Lakers brought the kids onto the field for some fun and games. Brian did great in the throwing and running the bases competition. Then they played some catch, and Brian did some hitting in the cage with his favorite player. This was a really nice thing for the Laker Softball team to do for the Little Leaguers, I just wish that more kids would have showed up to participate.
After the work on the field was done, we all headed to Buffalo Wild Wings. The Lakers were giving out team posters that all the girls signed for the kids. Brian was really happy that the Laker mascot Seamore the Seaduck showed up to entertain his fans, also. We ate well, and the girls are always to nice to Brian and all of the other kids that showed up. It was a nice way to officially end our season, and for the Lakers to begin theirs.
Every year it seems like the baseball season just flies by, and 2015 was no exception. I feel blessed and honored that I had the opportunity to coach the Rookie Division Cubs this season. They are a great bunch of kids, and it’s always special to be able to spend time coaching your own son or daughter. I’m really proud of Brian this season, as he adjusted well from tee ball to hitting off of the machine, especially since it tosses the ball all over the place. He made some nice plays in the field, and learned about being a good teammate. I saw a lot of growth in our other players, also, and that’s always very satisfying. As long as the kids learned the game and had fun to the point of wanting to play again next season, then I’ll call this one a success. We ended the season on a positive note also, as the team came back to beat the Yankees 4-3 in the final inning. I really give the Sault Area Little League credit, too, as we’re continuing clinics even after the official season is over. Sometimes Brian prefers just working one-on-one with me, so we end up doing that, also. I’m still hoping we’ll be relocated by next season someplace warmer so we can get going sooner in the year, but if not we’ll make do where we’re at.
Video of our sliding drill from the last practice:
Brian has had a few more games in this season, and is really adapting well from tee ball to hitting off of the pitching machine. He’s getting hits on a regular basis, and has made some nice plays in the field. Most important of all, he’s having fun and learning a lot. We give the kids an opportunity to play every position, so he’s seen the ball come off the bat at about every angle.
The posted photos are from two different games, all taken by his sister Lily, who has become his official photographer. His brother Trevor has also been helping out with the team, especially with the catchers. It’s always good to have us all together, and they can easily be bribed with Dairy Queen after the games. I feel very blessed to be able to coach Brian and the Cubs this season.
Things move slowing here with our Little League, but the kids finally were able to get a couple of games in. Their first game was rained out, but we scrimmaged the Angels the next night to make up for it. The scrimmage went well, and we got all the kids through the batting order twice. Brian did well, and made a great play at first base. Last week we got our first ‘real’ game in, as the Cubs took on the Tigers. Brian got his first taste of playing catcher, as well as some other infield and outfield positions. We try to give the kids a chance to play a different position every inning, so they can experience each one. He also ripped a double in his only at bat, and made a nice play at the hot corner. No game this week, but looking forward to some good practices and next week’s game.
Last night Brian’s age group of Sault Area Little Leaguers participated in Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit, & Run competition. Of course it was a typical Michigan day here in late May, with the temps barely above 40, and that ‘brisk’ wind pouring off Lake Superior, blowing the kids’ hats every which way. The kids up here are tough, though, and they all did a great job. Brian didn’t win any of the categories, but he made a strong showing at each one. He’s playing for the Cubs this season, and really looks good sporting the blue and red! Our first game is next week, but the competition sponsored by MLB was a good experience for the team.
And who didn’t pull up a little grass while ‘patiently’ waiting our turn?