Back To The Loons

Great Lakes Loons vs. West Michigan Whitecaps (Midwest League)

19201290210_c58e17643c_zDow Diamond-Midland, MI: This month is the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite films of all time, Back To The Future. When we found out that the Great Lakes Loons were hosting a BTTF night, Brian and I jumped in the van and drove 88 mph downstate to take in the game. As soon as we entered the gate, we found what we were looking for: the BTTF car; the time machine; the DeLorean. Just to be able to see the car that was in he movie was amazing, but Brian got a special treat. By making a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, he was able to get into the car. ‘Future boy’ hammed it up a bit, and we got some great photos!

19201253008_e9d602feca_z19201283820_4f86847236_z19382684782_80f8bec947_z19362800896_6106b5c641_zFlux capacitor…fluxing:

19201055610_06fed44157_zBri earned his DeLorean drivers license, too:

19362757706_c73d9fc95e_zAlso a little video of Brian in the time machine. I would love to take him on a trip back to 1985:

Great Scott!!!! Three generations of baseball fans:

18766291534_625d627dd9_zAfter we were done checking the car out, we headed down to the visitor’s dugout to try for some Whitecaps autographs. Brian really wanted to get Joey Pankake to sign his card, but he didn’t play this game. He did get his hat signed by Zach Shepherd and Franklin Navarro, though, and they were both very nice to him.19201127660_283a0b58d5_z19202517969_45c24ccfb9_zAs for the actual baseball game that took place, the Loons jumped out to a 1-0 lead when first baseman Justin Chigbogu hit a bomb over the right field fence that hasn’t landed yet. He went 2-4 on the night. Great Lakes then went up 2-0 on a Jimmy Allen RBI that scored Federico Celli. Allen was 1-3 for the game, and Celli 2-4.

19186358728_ba7471a66a_z19382540512_8f283ac021_z19382532142_e7bd8a82c5_z19202505339_f28164d0d8_zWe also spent some time at Lou E’s Lookout, playing on the playground and hanging out with mascots Lou E. Loon and Ral E. Camel.

19201227578_ae083e12b2_z19362600526_cb699591c4_z18768040963_37b8b6b499_zWhoa, this is heavy, but while we were in the Lookout, the Whitecaps started their comeback. The ‘Caps scored five unanswered runs, and needed only two RBI’s to do it. Michael Gerber got West Michigan on the board, when he scored on a wild pitch after hitting a triple. Gerber went 1-3 with an RBI, while Derek Hill led the way offensively, going 2-4 with the other RBI. David Gonzalez also went 2-4 with two runs scored.

19382526482_e19933f5c4_z19201106398_b84fbaecfc_z19382486382_50a6b63f12_zA view from out seats. There simply is no bad seat at Dow Diamond, it’s such a great ballpark. And this moon was amazing, too!

19373953005_d34c8891cb_z19388650985_8c532b6a75_zOn the mound, Artie Lewicki earned the win for West Michigan, allowing two runs on seven hits. Gabe Hemmer and Johan Belisario picked up the hold and save, throwing just over three scoreless innings. Kevin Guzman took the loss for the Loons. Another fun game, and feeling very blessed to be able to experience this with my son and dad. With a long drive ahead of us, ‘future boy’ and I made like a tree and got out of there. We have another game planned soon, but we’ll see how the weather holds up. Final: Loons 2, Whitecaps 5.

19202444799_44316b770a_zAnd another YouTube video of the game:

Photos and videos property of Minoring In Baseball

Tigers draft Gibson

With their 160th pick, the Tigers drafted Cam Gibson out of Michigan State.
With their 160th pick, the Tigers drafted Cam Gibson out of Michigan State.

The Detroit Tigers have drafted Cam Gibson in the 5th round with their 160th pick. Not really ground breaking news, other than the fact that Cam is the son of Tiger legend Kirk Gibson. Like his father before him, Cam is currently attending Michigan State University. Of course it’s unknown at this point if Cam, who just finished his junior season, will return to MSU or join the Tigers organization. As a junior, he had a career-best 10 doubles and 17 stolen bases. He hit .294 while hitting five home runs and posting 32 RBI’s. We had a chance to see Cam play back in 2013 when he was a member of the Battle Creek Bombers.

Drafting family members of current and former Tiger players and management is nothing new. In fact, Detroit just drafted RHP Ryan Castellanos in the 25th round (760 overall), who is brother to third baseman Nick Castallanos. Over the seasons we’ve seen the likes of Pat Leyland, Colin Kaline, Nick Avila, and Ben Verlander in West Michigan, all relatives to others in the Detroit organization (and I’m probably missing a few). Out of their top picks, though, I think that outfielder Christian Stewart and pitcher Tyler Alexander have the best shot at cracking the Whitecaps roster right out of the draft.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

Funday Sunday in West Michigan

West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Dayton Dragons (Midwest League)

Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake
Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake

Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: After a fun night of baseball, we were back at the ballpark the next morning for more of the same. Sundays at the Whitecaps games are the best, as the kids are able to get on the field before the game, run the bases after the game, and get some free eats. We started off on the field, with Brian getting to meet his favorite player Joey Pankake. Since we missed a shot with Franky the day before, we got a pic with him, as well as PBS Wordgirl. The boys even hot a chance to hang out in front of the dugout for a few minutes.

17868063240_cbec6cc659_z17867818928_f78bf4c253_o

Brian with PBS Wordgirl!
Brian with PBS Wordgirl!

The game went a lot better for the home team this time around. Pankake hit an RBI single in the first inning, to put West Michigan up 1-0 early. On the mound, Jeff Thompson worked effectively, even getting the Dragons to hit into an inning ending double-play with bases loaded in the fourth inning.

18033587786_4f16ce13d2_z17439630443_2f36697e95_z17873902049_737d64c5c8_z17437573154_bfbe651cab_z17439605793_0ffed84c24_zThere was more fun stuff for the kids, as Brian was able to make his own sign to cheer on his Whitecaps.

17433142554_d6f8b9c6fb_z17868054440_ef8102ce04_zWe had a little rain, too, but not enough to stop play or ruin our fun. We took turns with some rain ponchos, but maybe we should have gotten some umbrellas.

17873994349_ed7942c830_z18060215075_7a25f324ff_zThe Whitecaps would add on some more runs, as Zach Shepherd doubled in a pair in the bottom of the fourth. In the fifth, Austin Schotts hit a RBI single, and Garrett Mattlage squeezed home a run. So cool to see a squeeze play live. Forget home runs, that’s baseball! Thompson continued his dominance, pitching six innings and striking out a career high nine batters. Final: Whitecaps 5, Dragons 0.

17439662253_510f8d8ecb_z17872525110_3b1a6d24c6_k18033753306_1a45cb01c4_zAfter the game, Trevor took Brian back onto the field to run the bases. He had fun showing off his speed burning around the bases. He was a little tired, though, as the bases are a little further apart than they are in Little League. This was a great day, and a great holiday weekend with family. We are all very grateful for this time together, and thankful for all the brave men and women who gave their lives so we can enjoy days like this. We really wanted to see the game on Memorial Day, but things didn’t work out (it was a good game, too, as the ‘Caps won in extra innings). We’ll be back downstate in a couple of weeks, and will try to see more baseball then.

18056925362_88ccf9f08e_z17437678984_3b208cdb33_z18033786476_e8cfe44f87_zAnd here’s the YouTube video you’ve been waiting for:

Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

Pink in the Park

West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Dayton Dragons (Midwest League)

18052428712_c5f3efa299_oFifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Our holiday weekend started on Saturday night, with the Whitecaps hosting Pink in the Park to raise money for breast cancer awareness. We didn’t originally plan on attending this game, but with rain looming the next few days, we definitely wanted to get one in that was guaranteed. This was Brian’s first game of the season, so he was excited to get to…the playground. On our way there, though, we came across this beauty, which I signed up to win:

17433162644_7146b1c85c_zWhile Brian was playing, I snapped a couple of pics from the outfield area.

17868073310_4a7a677419_z17872252510_549218954a_zThe game itself was a very rough one for the Whitecaps. West Michigan actually drew first blood, when Will Kengor doubled, scoring top Tiger prospect Derek Hill. The Dragons stormed back, though, blowing the game open with a 10 run fifth inning. Ross Seaton, who was 5-1 coming into the game, was lit up before getting the hook.

17439220673_990af8f1e9_z17872066260_9a4140a414_z17439247133_da8a410c24_zBrian was happy, though, as he was able to see his favorite mascots, Crash and Roxy.

18062201962_e41dd5b221_o18039043136_c222360769_oDayton would add on four more runs, to make it a disastrous night for the Whitecaps. It just seemed the Dragons were able to drop about everything in, while the ‘Caps hit the ball hard, but just to the defense. Win or lose, it was fun to get our game in West Michigan this season. We’d be back the next morning, to get another game in for the holiday weekend. Final Score: Whitecaps 1, Dragons 14.

18060675961_75c619ba0e_z18060740521_e760f53758_z17439440813_b0cd2e6ed4_z17437385924_92dbe68a11_z18060049605_2a999e6ced_zPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

Whitecaps SnOwPEN HOUSE 2015

Snowpen1Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: This weekend the West Michigan Whitecaps officially kicked off the 2015 season, hosting a ‘SnOwPEN house’ at Fifth Third Ballpark. There were s’more stations and a pitching area out front for the kids and adults alike. The mascots Crash, Roxy, and Frankie were interacting with the fans, also.

snowpen2

Brian with our favorite mascot, Crash!
Brian with our favorite mascot, Crash!
Brian with Roxy. Hope he didn't make Crash jealous!
Brian with Roxy. Hope he didn’t make Crash jealous!

Brian’s favorite activity of the day was getting a ride by the sled dogs. This was a very popular activity for others, too, as we waited in line for an hour in the balmy 20 degree weather (at least it wasn’t -35, as it is today). The wait was worth it, as Brian had a blast getting pulled around in the snow. We were lucky to get him on, too, as he was in the second to last group, and so many people had given up that were ahead of us.

snowpen5snowpen6Up in the ballpark, the ‘Caps were serving up free hotdogs for fans. They even were playing the movie ‘Frozen’ on the giant video board for the kids to enjoy while they ate. The ticket office opened up, too, as single game tickets went on sale. A fun day, that got us excited for baseball season. It doesn’t look like the cold and snow is going anywhere soon, but we can certainly dream. We ended out day at the Van Andel Museum in downtown Grand Rapids. Brian enjoyed all of the artifacts, and especially the Real Pirate exhibit.

snowpen7snowpen8Promotion courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps

YouTube video of the dog sled:

Photos  and video property of Minoring In Baseball

More Whitecaps Alumni dealt

wmsdThe Detroit Tigers were a busy bunch at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski traded away a few more West Michigan Whitecaps alumni, trying to build a team to win the World Series in 2015. The price was steep, and we fans had to say goodbye to some solid young ballplayers. Before the meetings even began, the Tigers traded away middle-infielder Domingo Leyba, along with pitcher Robbie Ray, to the Arizona Diamondbacks in three-way deal that brought starting pitcher Shane Greene from the New York Yankees. The 19-year-old prospect hit .397 in 30 games for the Whitecaps this season, after being promoted from Class-A SS Connecticut Tigers when short-stop Willy Adames was traded late last season to the Tampa Bay Rays.

suarez1The second trade involving some West Michigan alumni, had another middle-infielder in Eugenio Suarez and starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford shipped to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon. As a rookie, Suarez hit .242 with four home runs, and 23 RBI’s last season in 85 games with Detroit.  In 2012 with the Whitecaps, Suarez batted .288 with 34 doubles and 67 RBI’s. His .947 fielding percentage helped him win a Minor League Baseball Gold Glove at short-stop (.971 at short, and his fielding percentage was 1.000 at second base).  Crawford was a first round draft pick by Detroit in 2013. He pitched for the ‘Caps this season, going 8-3 with a 2.85 ERA, and was the starting pitcher for the East at the Midwest League All-Star Classic played at Fifth Third Ballpark.

classic15The Tigers also lost former Whitecaps pitcher Alex Burgos in the Triple-A/Double-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The 24-year-old hurler saw action in Lakeland, Erie, and Toledo, but mostly with the Flying Tigers earning a 4.26 ERA. He suited up for the ‘Caps in 2011, pitching to a 6-5 record and a 2.19 ERA. We were able to see him pitch on Star Wars night that season. Two other former ‘Cap pitchers, Edgar De La Rosa and Montreal Robertson were spared in the Major League portion of the draft. We wish the best of luck to all of the players we were lucky enough to watch in West Michigan.

starwarsnight_018Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

 

Whitecaps organization honored

FreitasAward_wv9oj513_7ozo78l5The West Michigan Whitecaps seem to be faring well at the current Baseball Winter Meetings. They were first presented with the 2014 Bob Freitas Award, that is given to the organization with the best overall operations. The award honors teams that demonstrate a sustained excellence in the business of Minor League Baseball based on the last five years. The Whitecaps also earned this honor back in 1998, making them the second Class A team in history to win this award twice. The San Jose Giants also won it in 1990 and 2009. The Whitecaps CEO and Managing Partner Lew Chamberlin seemed very humbled that his team had been selected.

“The Freitas Award is one of the most prestigious awards that a Minor League franchise can receive and we couldn’t be more honored to be this year’s designee,” Chamberlin stated to MiLB.com. “The success that the award recognizes is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of our staff, the support of and incredibly engaged fan base and community, a terrific Major League partner, and a little but of luck. It’s been an incredible year for us in so many different ways and we’re very appreciative of this award.”

The ‘Caps also earned a Minor League Baseball Presidential Citation, which is a special award presented by MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Connor, and recognizes exemplary service on behalf of Minor League Baseball. Due to the fire last January at Fifth Third Ballpark, the team was given the award due to their effort through the community to rebuild and be ready by opening day. West Michigan also hosted the Midwest League All-Star Classic last season, and it drew the highest attendance in the last 12 years.

“We’re appreciative of this recognition,” Chamberlin also stated to MiLB.com. “Our Minor League peers have all been very supportive during the days immediately following the fire and throughout the rebuilding process and we’re pleased that that support has culminated in this citation from MiLB.”

This was a great season for Whitecaps baseball, that started with their open house back in February. The team made the playoffs, and I wish they would have made it a little farther, but we all had a great time at Fifth Third Ballpark this season. I’m hoping 2015 is just as fun, but if I get my transfer I will definitely miss being at the ballpark in West Michigan.

Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps