Washington Wild Things vs. Normal CornBelters (Frontier League)
Consol Energy Park-Washington, PA: After our trip to see some Cy Young stuff, we made our way to southern Pennsylvania to see the Washington Wild Things host the Normal CornBelters in Frontier League action. This is the first Frontier League ballpark we’ve been to outside of Traverse City. Consol Energy Park is a very nice ballpark to watch a game, also. The parking and entrance is in the right field area, so really no one was at the front of the stadium when the gates opened. I’m also glad that Wild Thing was at the front of the stadium, also, to let fans know that there was a game.
While exploring the ballpark, we had a nice surprise, in meeting actor Dwier Brown, who played John Kinsella (Kevin Costner’s father) in the movie Field Of Dreams. Brown was at the ballpark selling his own book, If You Build It…, and signing copies for fans. We did buy a copy, and he was nice enough to sign it and get a photo with us. He also threw out the first pitch to start the game. In the time it’s taken me to finally get this post up, I have read the book and it’s very good. You don’t even have to be a fan of the movie or baseball to enjoy it. He also thought it was pretty cool that we were at the Field of Dreams movie site a few years ago, too.
We still had plenty of time to watch the teams warm up, and take some photos of the ballpark. I did notice that Consol Energy Park has the same artificial surface as the Beach Bums’ Wuerfel Park. The Wild Things also had a pre-game ceremony with members of the Make-A-Wish Foundation that was very nice. We got our shopping done, too, and I have to say Washington’s merchandise is priced well. I got a pennant and a Wild Thing plush for Brian. The mascot, simply named Wild Thing, made his presence known, but we really didn’t see him too much around the concourse during the game.
The game itself was another ugly one for the home team. Left fielder C.J. Beatty did have a nice night at the plate for the Wild Things, though, going 3-3 with three RBI’s on two home runs. On the mound, Alex Kaminsky took the loss for the Wild Things, throwing five innings, and giving up five earned runs on eight hits. In all, though, Consol Energy Park is a nice place to watch a game, without a bad seat in the house. Final: Wild Things 4, CornBelters 9.
All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
Next seasons’ Baseball Trip will be a little later this time, in June instead of May. One of the reasons for the change, is that we wanted to hit the Midwest League All-Star game on June 17th in West Michigan. This should be a great experience as I’ve never been to an all-star game before. This will be the hardest game to get tickets for, so I really need to be on the ball when they go on sale. The next day takes us south to Columbus, OH to check out our first Clippers game. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the stadium and franchise, so it should be a game to remember. The day after is a double-header for us. We start out with the Toledo Mud Hens for a day game. We saw the Hens back in 2007, and look forward to another great time at Fifth-Third Field. After we see the Hens, we head east to see the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and our first New York-Penn League game. Travelling in the early spring usually prevents us from making these games, since they start their season in mid-June. We stay busy the next morning, hitting the big city of Cleveland to check out the Baseball Heritage Museum. I don’t know much about this, so if anyone has been there any info would be appreciated. Next we enjoy more Midwest League action visiting the Lake County Captains in Eastlake, just east of Cleveland. Lake County and Bowling Green are the only two MWL teams I haven’t visited yet, as they transferred from the South Atlantic League a few years ago.
The next stop on our journey should be interesting, visiting Canton, OH, and just south of that the Temperance Tavern and Cy Young Museum. Again, I don’t have much info on this, so if anyone has visited there I’d appreciate your input. That’s just one stop on our way to Washington, PA to see the Wild Things in Frontier League action. Washington is an independent team, but it look like they have a nice stadium. The town was just awarded a pro softball franchise called the Revolution, too, so that’s something else to look into. The next morning, we travel north to see the Detroit Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, the Erie Seawolves. This is another team I’ve wanted to see for some time, and look forward to checking out some of the Tigers’ prospects. Another double-header for us, we go a little farther east to check out our second New York-Penn League team in the Jamestown Jammers. And..our trip concludes with the newly dubbed Akron RubberDucks. This should be a fun adventure if the weather holds, and it should be better in June. If anyone has been to this region and can recommend any other points of interest or eating establishments, I’d love to hear about them.
Despite ending the first half of the season in last place, the re-vamped West Michigan Whitecaps clinched a wild card playoff spot due to their second half performance. They were a dreadfull 26-43 in the first half and have a franchise worst 76 losses overall. The ‘Caps turned things around, however, going on a 26-12 tear since July 28. This is the seventh year in a row West Michigan will be involved in the Midwest League’s post season, and the 14th time in the franchises’ 17 year history. Whitecaps’ manager Joe DePastino said there absolutely is no complacency that his team is just happy to make the playoffs after dropping to as many as 29 games under .500 in late July.
“None at all,” DePastino said. “When you’ve gone from rock bottom to where we’re at, you want to win it all. These guys want to win it. To do what they’ve done, they would be disappointed if they didn’t finish it off with a championship.”
The Whitecaps might not be favored to win the MWL title, but may have as good a chance as any team. They start tonight at home against the Lake County Captains who finished first overall in the first half, but finished below West Michigan in the second stanza. The ‘Caps played the Captains more than any other team this season (21 times!), and are 7-5 against them since the All Star break. What could be interesting here, is if Lake County activates former ‘Caps All Star pitcher Giovanny Soto who the Indians organization picked up the Jhonny Peralta deal. If the ‘Caps can slip past the first round matchup, it’s possible they could play in-state rival Great Lakes Loons who, at 90-49, have the best record in professional baseball. This won’t scare the Whitecaps too much, though, as they went 7-5 against them in the second half.
Game 1: Whitecaps 2, Captains 4
Game 2: Whitecaps 8, Captains 0
Game 3: Whitecaps 2, Captains 3-Whitecaps Eliminated
Captains go on to win Midwest League Championship
Meanwhile, north of Grand Rapids up in Traverse City, the Beach Bums are making history of their own. Ending the regular season on a three game winning streak at home, the Bums qualify for the Frontier League playoffs for the first time in their five year history. They snagged the wild card bid with a 7-0 romping of the Washington Wild Things on the 4th, and ended the regular season in dramaitic fashion beating the Wild Things again the next night 4-3. Their first playoff game is on the 9th, while hosting the Windy City Thunderbolts on September 11-12. Good luck to both teams, and I’ll be updating this post with the results.
Game 1: Beach Bums 1, Thunderbolts 5
Game 2: Beach Bums 9, Thunderbolts 2
Game 3: Beach Bums 5, Thunderbolts 3-Bums advance to Championship Series
Game 1: Beach Bums 5, River City Rascals 3
Game 2: Beach Bums 0, River City Rascals 8
Game 3: Beach Bums 2, River City Rascals 6
Game 4: Beach Bums 0, River City Rascals 2-Rascals Frontier League Champions
Photos courtesy of West Michigan Whitecaps and Traverse City Beach Bums