Jimenez and Gerber honored by Tigers

21325734839_de4b417391_zThe Detroit Tigers have named Joe Jimenez as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and outfielder Mike Gerber Player of the Year. Both players laced up their cleats in West Michigan this season, and both were instrumental in the Whitecaps winning the Midwest League Championship. The 20-year-old Jimenez posted a 1.47 ERA in 40 games with the ‘Caps this season, earning five wins and 17 saves. He struck out 71 batters in 43 innings of work, with a 0.79 WHIP. His 97-98 mph fastball and nasty slider made him the ‘Caps ‘go-to’ guy in late innings, especially in the playoffs. Jimenez was the Tigers’ lone representative at the All-Star Futures game this past July in Cincinnati, and will head back to his home of Puerto Rico to play winter ball.

19382532142_e7bd8a82c5_zGerber hit .292 this season in West Michigan, smacking 13 home runs and 76 RBI’s. He also added 31 doubles, 74 runs scored, and swiped 13 bases with a .822 OPS playing in 135 games this season. He also played eight games with the Whitecaps in 2014, hitting an impressive .387 with five RBI’s. Gerber, 22, was drafted by the Tigers in last seasons’ MLB Amateur Draft out of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, in the 15th round. Ranked number 18 on Detroit’s prospect list, he’ll join fellow Whitecaps’ alums Austin Kubitza (last season’s Pitcher of the Year), Montreal Robertson, Dominic Ficociello (recently awarded a MiLB Gold Glove with a .996 fielding %), and Adam Ravenelle in the Arizona Fall League.  JaCoby Jones will also be representing the Tigers as a member of the AFL’s Scottsdale Scorpions. It was fun to watch Jimenez and Gerber play for West Michigan this season, and I’ll enjoy watching them climb the latter up the organization.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

Playoff baseball in West Michigan

West Michigan Whitecaps vs Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League Finals)

21486574056_05198e7575_zFifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Last week I was able to scratch one more thing off my baseball bucket list, while cheering on my Whitecaps in the Midwest League finals. The game was during the week, so the kids had to sit this one out due to school, but I was able to take a day off from work and make the trip down to enjoy the day with my dad.

21315841269_aaea49c612_zThe game was going pretty quick, as both the Kernels Sam Gibbons and the ‘Caps A.J. Ladwig were locked in a pitchers duel. Gibbons kept West Michigan off of the board until the seventh inning. Down 1-0, left fielder Christin Stewart smacked a double that put runners at second and third, with no outs, to really get things going. Designated-hitter Joey Pankake then singled to score two runs and the Whitecaps had a 2-1 lead. Stewart was awarded the run, as the Kernels’ catcher was blocking the plate without the ball. Cedar Rapids manager Jake Mauer was tossed by the home plate ump for arguing the call. Not well-played, Mauer. Things fell apart a bit for the Kernels, as they made two errors and hit a batter, as the ‘Caps chased Gibbons and took a 4-1 lead.

21501678792_a65d18f0f7_z21324739320_be8983ca55_z21324704410_979892f4e8_z

Selfie 'Crasher'
Selfie ‘Crasher’

21501658042_3e48e69430_z21502697095_17519c850a_zOn the mound for West Michigan, Ladwig pitched a great game, giving up his only run in the second inning. He gave up only six scattered hits while striking out two, and issuing no walks in seven innings of work. Johan Belisario came in and carved up the Kernels batters in the eight with his nasty curveball, striking out one, and was credited with the hold. Top Tigers prospect Joe Jimenez pitched a perfect ninth, also, striking out two to earn the save. Great pitching performances all around for West Michigan. Leading the way offensively, Mike Gerber and Stewart each went 2-4 on the night, and Pankake went 1-4 with two RBI’s.

21324689270_c0b5a212a2_z21325821759_eab3df8b91_z20891581083_9c7f68e7f5_z21501562982_b9414de92e_z21324610940_d46fcdaca1_z21325734839_de4b417391_zThis was a great experience to be able to be at this game. Also fun when your team wins and you can high-five perfect strangers all around you and celebrate as fans. Good time for my dad and I to spend together, too, as baseball always goes best with family. This game tied the series at 1-1, but now as I’m posting this it’s tied at 2-2 with the fifth and final game tonight in Cedar Rapids. Win or lose, this was a fantastic season for the Whitecaps. They were an underdog team all season, and manager Andrew Graham has done a great job. Already looking forward to Minor League Baseball in 2016! Final: Whitecaps 4, Kernels 1.

21501497692_af6a10ed8b_z21512623035_fb189be174_zHere’s a nice little video of the ‘Caps taking a 2-1 lead on a Joey Pankake base hit, where West Michigan scored the second run due to the fact that the Kernels catcher was blocking the plate without the ball:

Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

Baseball or Hockey for Kivett

19202505339_f28164d0d8_zMiLB.com did a great story on West Michigan Whitecaps outfielder Ross Kivett. Growing up on Ohio, Kivett started playing hockey at an early age, and only started baseball when he was 12. He’s having a nice season in West Michigan, so it looks like he made the right decision, and that’s not taking anything away from the great sport of hockey. I know for me living here in Michigan, hockey is huge (especially the town I’m living in right now). For me as a kid, the only two sports were baseball and hockey. It made sense, too, playing baseball all summer and hockey all winter, and they continue to be the true sport loves of my life. I really don’t think that kids play multiple sports like I did as a kid, and it’s too bad. You can read the full article on Ross HERE.

Photo property of Minoring In Baseball

STAR WARS NIGHT-Episode V: The Umpire Strikes Out

West Michigan Whitecaps vs Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)

19636694776_938fcb7f23_zFifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Oh, it’s that time of the year, again, when my little Nerf-Herders and I head down to Fifth Third Ballpark for Star Wars Night. We got to meet old favorites like the Stormtroopers and Darth Vader, as well as a newbie like Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels. The one thing I was disappointed with was that there was no Boba Fett!! How could the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy not make an appearance?

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These aren't the droids you're looking for
These aren’t the droids you’re looking for

19655636012_36586a9ed9_z19476090359_cafc8931ab_zAfter we mingled with members of the Galactic Empire and Rebellion, we were able to take a stroll around the warning track of Fifth Third Ballpark. Personally, I never turn down an opportunity to walk around on a professional baseball field. Jedi Franky welcomed us onto the field, and was able to get a few good pics of the boys.

Jedi Franky welcomes us onto the field
Jedi Franky welcomes us onto the field

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With everything going on, we almost forgot we had a ballgame to watch. This was a pitcher’s duel for certain. On the mound for the ‘Caps, A.J. Ladwig gave up an early solo home run, but settle in and pitched a nice game. He went 6.1 innings, only giving up two earned runs, and striking out two. Gage Smith would come in and earn the save.

19655855892_202c59e680_z19636734256_2f2d4910a8_z19040337644_c2b6bd5137_z19040422044_74fa8047cb_z19662935215_22e5c28cee_z19636772016_49e240e3f6_z19474925090_372c76b1f4_zOffensively, West Michigan was led by catcher Arvicent Perez, who went 3-3 on the night, including an RBI. Both Rashad Brown and Michael Gerber went 2-4, respectively, with Gerber earning an RBI. Garrett Mattlage scored on a wild pitch, and Zach Shepherd walked and scored on a throwing error. Final: Whitecaps 3, Hot Rods 2.

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Brian with Jedi Crash
Brian with Jedi Crash

19476388909_09b649892f_z19667495841_04ddcf408f_z19042107123_4d14584504_zAfter the game we were treated to some fireworks, which capped off a fantastic night. Just one more game where I feel lucky and blessed to be able to spend time with my kids and dad. We’re not sure when our next game will be, but we’ll be sure to make it’s a good one.

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And one more photo we bought from MI Unlimited Photography. For some reason all three of us look like we were just captured and are about to be brought before the Emperor. I guess we’re just tired from travel and fun.

IMG_1987A YouTube video:

Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

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.

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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