Fifth-Third Ballpark–Comstock Park, MI: Well, my ex was actually nice enough to drive my kids down state so they could join us for our last game of the trip. I was so happy to be reunited with my babies again, you have no idea!!!! My mom was able to join us, too, for this game, and due to medical reasons this is her first game in some time. It was Sunday, so that meant family day, and the kids could get in free with their Crash’s Kids Club passes. We were also able to get on the field to get some autographs and pics with some of the players and mascots. Brian loves to see Crash and Frankie, and the players are great with all of the fans, especially the kids. It was still extremely hot, but I had the foresight to get us seats under the over-hang and out of the sun. The kids still spent some time on the playground, though. The Whitecaps fell behind 4-0, but battled back on home runs by Dean Green and Steven Moya. Kyle Ryan pitched for the ‘Caps, and did a solid job. This game was so much fun, and it’s just one of those days that you’re so thankful for. This was the perfect finale for our 2012 baseball trip. We have more games on tap for this season, but will start looking into potential trips for next year. Final: Whitecaps 5, Silver Hawks 4.
Baseball is a game for children of all ages, and on Friday the West Michigan Whitecaps took that statement to heart. Members of the team spent the day at the DeVos Children’s Hospital, putting smiles on little faces that need it the most. One of those smiles belonged to eleven year-old Colin Bradley of Grand Rapids. This young man has recently been diagnosed with Leukemia, and has a rough schedule of treatments ahead of him. He had a fun day playing stick-hockey with ‘Caps outfielder Steven Moya and relief pitcher Nick Avila, though.
“I’m really glad they came, because I was supposed to have a field trip in a few days to go see a Whitecaps game,” Colin told MLive.com. “But I got hospitalized so I was going to miss it, but now I still get to meet them.”
The players really seemed to enjoy giving back to the community, also. The team gets a lot of support throughout the season, so many players volunteer during the summer, like first baseman Aaron Westlake.
“It’s a good opportunity to come and spend an afternoon with the kids and have some fun with them,” Westlake stated. “It’s a day to make them happy and have fun and get to know them. You can ask why they’re here and get to know them better, but they want to be treated just like everyone does. It’s fun for them, and fun for us and a great way to help out the community.”
I get sappy when I hear stuff like this, but I think it’s so important. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like for any of my kids to go through stuff like this, and my heart goes out to them and their families.
As for the readers who’ve read some of my other posts, I’ve stated that I’m a former second baseman when I played the wonderful game of baseball. As such, I really follow that position when I watch live games. As a fan of the West Michigan Whitecaps, I also follow that position, and the personnel assigned there, with great interest. From Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, to Brandon Douglas, I’ve done my best to keep track of them all as they make their way through the system, even after a trade or two. This season, second base has mostly been occupied by first year player Brandon Loy. Loy has played a little short-stop as well, but defense wasn’t much of an issue with him early on, as much as his hitting. Getting off to a rough start in professional baseball, he went 0-10 with four strike-outs to start the season. With some hard work, Loy has been hitting well recently, though, and is on a 13-game hitting streak. He has six multi-hit games, is now batting .390, and has four steals.
“For me it was just a matter of getting started and getting accustomed to this atmosphere,” Loy told MLive.com. “When you strike out a few times, you tend to start swinging at bad pitches. So I just told myself to relax and I’m just seeing the ball much better now.”
He’s also getting help from outfielder Steven Moya, who’s on a 12-game hitting streak of his own, and now leading all ‘A’ ball players with a .436 batting average. Batting in front of Moya is giving Loy some decent pitches to hit.
“That helps out a lot because I’m seeing a few extra fastballs because he’s (Moya) hitting the ball so well,” Loy stated.
Brandon was a fifth round draft pick of the Tigers last June. It will be fun to watch him play this season, and move up through the Tigers system. Detroit doesn’t really have a number one at that position, so maybe in a few years he can fill that role.
Photo property of M.I.B.
The Lansing Lugnuts are having a great season. No doubt about it, with a current record of 9-1. Their only blemish, however, came at the bats of the West Michigan Whitecaps on Friday night. The hero of the come-from-behind victory, was Danry Vasquez, who went 3-4 with the winning two run homer in the eighth inning. The 18-year-old Vaszuez is also ranked 18th on the Detroit Tigers prospect list by Baseball America. ‘Caps closer Dan Bennett made it interesting, but held on for the save, while relief pitcher Jade Todd earned the win. Also pitching in offensively, was Steven Moya, who was 2-2 on the night with a home run of his own. Eugenio Suarez also went yard to help West Michigan’s 5-4 victory. The team was unable to bottle that late game lighting, however, as they fell to the Lugnuts on Saturday by the same score of 5-4 in 12 innings. Sunday’s game would be another close one, and it was made a little more exciting with a home town boy on the mound for….Lansing. Jesse Hernandez played for Grand Rapids Community College and Central Michigan University before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Lugnuts slugged their way to another 5-4 win, but Hernandez wasn’t involved in the decision. He did seem to appreciate the home town support, though, despite pitching for the visitors.
“It was amazing, and I can’t put it into words how it felt,” Hernandez told the Grand Rapids Press. “It is nice knowing that you have so many people behind you supporting you and I’m just very appreciative of those people. It was great having them their.”
The Whitecaps took a 3-1 lead, but were unable to hold it. They had the scoring chances, but were unable to come up with the big hits to drive home runs. Seven of these first ten game for the Whitecaps have been decided by just one run. It was enough to frustrate manager Ernie Young a bit.
“I look at it as not taking advantage of all the opportunities we had,” Young also told the Press. “We’re not going to take advantage of all of them, but however, when we have an opportunity to get a pitcher out of a game, we have to find a way to do it. I hope that we will grow from this-losing by one run these three games-and get better. Hopefully we can find a way to pull for each other, to get a big hit or big stolen base, or take and extra base, something.”
The 4-6 Whitecaps now travel to Eastlake, Ohio to take on the Lake County Captains for three games before returning home to face the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
There was some optimism for this 2012 West Michigan team. And, in reality, there still is. With a solid number of prospects on the roster, as well as some familiar names for Tigers fans, this years rendition of the Whitecaps looks to have a winning look to it. Even infielder Colin Kaline feels confident about his team this season.
“I don’t see many weaknesses on this team,” Kaline told Steve Kaminski of MLive.com. “These are great guys, great team guys and great ball players. I think the team has some pretty high expectations for moving on this summer. We have a lot of guys who have been around a bit, with a mixture of young talent. It’s going to be really special to be a part of this team this summer.”
The Whitecaps hit a speed bump on Opening Day, however, in the form of Dayton Dragons pitcher Justice French, who was named the Cincinnati Reds‘ Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season. French struck out eight hitters and only allowed two of the Whitecaps four hits to earn the 3-0 victory. In all, the ‘Caps struck out eleven times and were 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Aaron Westlake, Dan Green, Eugenio Suarez and Steven Moya collected hits for West Michigan, while Kaline went 0-3. Starting pitcher Josue Carreno took the loss for the ‘Caps, who are now 11-8 all time on opening day.
All in the family is a good way to describe a small percentage of the West Michigan Whitecaps roster this season. Four of the new Whitecaps players are related to a former or current Detroit Tiger! First is catcher Patrick Leyland, who is the son of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland. Patrick was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, and played at short-season Connecticut last year. Manning the second base position in West Michigan will be Colin Kaline, who is the grandson of HOFer Al Kaline. Big shoes to fill for Colin, as Al is one of the greatest Tigers ever, winning the World Series in 1968 and being a 15 time All-Star. Colin also played for the Connecticut Tigers last season. Also patrolling the infield will be Marcus Lemon, son of former Tiger Chet Lemon. Chet was a member of the 1984 World Series Champions during his nine-year stint in Detroit. Marcus was actually drafted by the Texas Rangers, but picked up by Detroit as a Minor League free agent in February. Pitching out of the ‘Cap bullpen this season will be Nick Avila. Nick is the cousin of current Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila, and the nephew of Detroit’s Vice President/Assistant General Manager Al Avila. Like I said, all in the family…
Joining the above mentioned on the 2012 ‘Caps roster, are seven of the Tigers ten 2011 draft picks. These are some decent prospects consisting of first baseman Aaron Westlake, shortstop Brandon Loy, and third baseman Jason King. The Whitecaps have some quality players returning from last season, too, who made a late season run and barely missed out on the playoffs. Outfielder Steven Moya and lefty pitcher Kyle Ryan are two of those returning players, and give the Whitecaps a more experienced ballclub this season. While the 2011 Opening Day roster consisted of six teenagers and twelve players under 20, this year club has just one teenager and five 20-yr-olds. The lone youngster is Danry Vasquez, one of the top 30 Detroit prospect despite having only one professional season under his belt.
The Whitecaps have been a pretty busy crew, though, despite only being in town a few days. Yesterday they held and open practice for the public, and took time to meet the fans and sign autographs. Today, a handful of players like Westlake, Loy, and Moya, participated in the Tigers vs. Mud Hens game in Toledo. They open the season tomarrow in Dayton, Ohio, against the Dragons. It was a nice surprise to see these guys in the lineup on TV, and a chance to see them in action before our game next week. I’m hoping that this is an exciting year in West Michigan!
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press