I have to admit that 2013 was pretty good to us, and I’m probably going to miss it. We had a rocky start to the baseballs season, with some rainouts in Lansing (along with freezing rain, ice, snow, and so on), but after that it was sunny days ahead for us. It was really difficult to narrow a list down to just nine, as far as the fun things that we participated in this year. In reality, the whole trip through North Carolina could be listed (especially Greensboro and Asheville), it was so much fun. We have some fun things planned for 2014, but you’ll see how hard it will be to top our 2013 list. I am very thankful that we had such a fun year, and that my kids, and my dad, and I could spent this time together.
9) Meeting the Fox Sports Detroit Girls: It’s no secret, we love the FSD Girls here! They do a great job of representing our local teams here in Michigan. The kids and I were lucky enough to meet them at a Grand Rapids Griffins game earlier this year. They were very nice to the kids, especially Brian, who they signed a baseball and his hat for. With luck, we might run into them again at a ballgame next season, maybe at the all-star game or something.
8) Double-Header in Midland: Like I stated, our baseball season got off to a rough start. Here in Michigan, we had a horrible spring that was cold, rainy, and snowy. On this day, though, we took advantage of a rain-out to catch at double-header on a Sunday afternoon at Dow Diamond, home of the Great Lakes Loons. The first game, or games, of the season are always special, and this one was no different. It was still a cold day in early April, with the temperature about 30-40 degrees, but we stayed in the sun and it was pretty nice. The Loons mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel entertained the kids between games. We brought the kids’ Papa along for his birthday, and it was a great way to kick-off our 2013 baseball year.
7) The ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum: I really loved visiting Greenville, South Carolina. The city made such an impression on me that I’m trying to get a transfer down there. Can you imagine a state where you can play catch outside almost ten months out of the year? It’s a very beautiful and historic town, with plenty to do for any sports fan. First, we dropped by Flour Field to watch the Greenville Drive, which was a great time. The next day was a thrill visiting the ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson Museum. The family that runs it is very nice, and knowledgeable about Jackson for sure. It was a fun experience that I highly recommend for anyone in that area.
6) Back in Battle Creek: It’s hard to believe, but we this is the first game we’ve seen in Battle Creek since the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays packed their bags and moved up to Midland. We were down here in 2010, but got rained out, unfortunately. This is where it all began, though, here at C.O. Brown Stadium. The start of the baseball trip, and my love for minor league baseball. This was the kids first game here, too, as well as the opportunity to see the Battle Creek Bombers in the Northwoods League. The day itself was special, because we were able to spend some quality time with family down there. Plenty of family was in attendance to see me throw out the first pitch, too (a beautiful strike, by the way). Lily and Trevor really enjoyed trying out their Twinkie Dogs, as well. It was super hero night, and Brian was able to chase the costumed staff across the field between innings with the other kids. He also participated in an on-field game that he did great at. This was all-around one of the best baseball days anyone could ask for.
5) Star Wars Night: Well, this will probably make the list every year. This year we were back in West Michigan for the Whitecaps game. There were plenty of characters on hand from that galaxy far, far, away to entertain us this year, too. We were able to get pictures with Boba Fett and all the Imperial Stormtroopers, as well as Darth Vader himself. All the kids got lightsabers, and Brian didn’t have any trouble finding other kids to play with. After the game, the lights went out and we enjoyed the fireworks as this special night came to an end.
4) Running the Bases: Being on the field is always fun, and Brian was able to do a lot of that this summer. As mentioned in #6, he was able to run through the outfield and do a race in Battle Creek. Along with that, he ran the bases at the Loons game in Midland, and the Beach Bums game in Traverse City. The kid is a little speed demon, and he had to slow down so not to lap some of the other kids. As a parent, it’s so much fun to watch your kids having such a good time. At least having some baseball experience under his belt, he knows which way to go.
3) Training for Trevor: Despite a shoulder injury that kept him out half of his Little League season, Trevor was able to take part in a couple of baseball clinics. The first one was put on by Major League Baseball Alumni. Former players like Doug Mirabelli, Roger Mason, Dennis Rasmussen, and Rob Ellis were there and did a great job teaching the kids. They were all very patient and helped many of the kids one-on-one. The second clinic was the Beach Bums Baseball Academy in Traverse City. Trevor was able to learn first hand from the Bums’ players and coaches. He was a little limited to what he could do due to his shoulder, but still had a great time. I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid.
2) The Durham Bulls Experience: Seeing the Durham Bulls was on my baseball bucket list for a long time, and now I can finally cross that off. The Bulls really don’t disappoint, either. It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful game to watch. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is an amazing place to watch a baseball game, and seeing the Bulls during the 25th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham was an awesome experience. The Bulls have to be one of the most recognized baseball logos in minor league history due to the movie, and a game here should be on every fan’s bucket list. We even visited the old ballpark where they filmed the movie, and they still use it for local games.
1) Coaching the Boys: Yeah, this one is personal. Being able to coach my kids in baseball is one of the highlights of my life, not just this year. Lily decided to take a year off, and I really missed watching her play. The boys had a fun season, though, even with Trevor’s injury. Brian made some big improvements, and is hitting the ball better than any five-year-old should. The kid has a rocket arm, too. Being at the local ball fields three or four nights a week is something I’m truly grateful for.
Sitting here looking out the window at the nasty weather outside, snowing and blowing, it’s hard to believe it’s been seven months now since this years baseball trip. The good news, is that it’s only five months until my 2010 trip. Those will be five very long months, though.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself: how does one start a baseball trip? How did this tradition of yours originate. OK, NOT, but here’s the story anyway. Like most of us, my love for baseball started as a kid. Playing Little League, sandlot ball, collecting baseball cards, and so on. Even just playing catch with my dad or grandpa in the backyard (reference: Field of Dreams). It was, and still remains today at that level, a pure and fun game. I played baseball all through high school at the Varsity level, but that was it, though. I was done. After high school, I moved north and my focus really shifted toward hockey. And why shouldn’t it have? It was my other favorite sport, and my teams did quite well in the 90’s. The college I was attending (Lake Superior State) won two NCAA D-1 National Championships on three Frozen Four appearances from 1992-94. They won a combined seven league championships counting regular season and playoffs during the 90’s, too. The Red Wings made three Stanley Cup appearances, winning in 1997-98. All was good in my hockey world, while the Tigers were, well, not winning, to put it lightly. All of the heroes from the quality 80’s teams were gone. So long Trammell, Whitaker, Sparky, and so on. I didn’t forget about baseball completely. I did go to some Buffalo Bison games in 1993 while out there working security for the World University games (thank you, tax payers). And in 1996 saw the Cubbies at Wrigley Field while visitig a freind in Chicago. Whether you like the Cubs or not, Wrigley is a must see. I even took in a Tigers game at the new Comerica Park in 2001, just to see the new ballpark (which can’t compare to Tiger Stadium in any way, shape or form). Then something happened in 2005, which is where out story truelly begins…
Like most traditions, whether baseball or not, they start with family. In Battle Creek, Michigan I still have a lot of family. Unfortunetly, not as much as I used to. We did get down to BC and watch the Big 10 baseball championships at C.O. Brown stadium a few times, but for some reason I never had been to one of the Minor League games there. The Michigan Battle Cats arrived in 1995, becoming the Battle Creek Yankees, and finally the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays in 2005-06. At this point in 2005, I was married with two kids-and needed a break. My dad suggested we go to Battle Creek, visit some family, and take in a few ball games. It sounded good to me. Getting away from the family for a few days, and seeing some baseball which I actually was really excited about. When we got to C.O. Brown, we got box seats right on the field. Literally-right on the field. The game itself was fun, with the Devil Rays winning 4-3 in extra innings. Ok-I was officially hooked. The next day, we were back at the ballpark for an 11:00 am game. There is something magical about a day game. The dew still on the grass before the sun warms things up. The tast of a cold beer for brunch. This is what it was all about. My gandpa was gone about 12 years at this time, but I swear he was right there with us. After the morning game, I experieced my first Whitecaps game in Grand Rapids on our way back up north. That was quite the experience, too. I was now a Minor League junkie. That’s really how it started. Pretty simple: three games in a two day span. A month later, I was sent down to Georgia for 16 weeks of gruelly training. On the weekends, they bussed us down to Jacksonville to watch the Double-A Suns or up to Savannah to take in a Class-A Sand Gnats game (again, thank you, tax-payers). This fueled the fire even more.
The next year in 2006, we added the Lansing Lugnuts to our journey. Still pretty simple. One game in Landing and Battle Creek, two in Grand Rapids. All in Michigan and not a lot of travel. Still fun for us, and a good get away. Unfortunately, 2006 was out last trip to Battle Creek for baseball. The team couldn’t come to terms with the city and get a new ballpark built, so they jetted to Midland, MI to become the Great Lakes Loons. We did get to see the Loons as part of our 2007 trip. That also included the Dayton Dragons, Toledo Mud Hens, and the Whitecaps. In 2008, we added college and the Majors to our trip. This one started at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI. We then took the S.S. Badger to Wisconsin to see two Milwaukee Brewers games and one Beloit Snappers game. That trip ended with the Whitecaps on our way home. This years trip (2009) sent us to the South Bend Silver Hawks, Indianapolis Indians, Louisville Bats, Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Michigan State University, and the Lugnuts. We do keep busy, and meet a lot of nice people along the way. The 2010 trip should be finalized soon (there is always ONE team that doesn’t put their schedule out on time). I know your on the edge of your seat wondering where I’m goint next year, but you’ll find out soon enough….See you at the ballpark.
Photos property of MIB