Frazier, Shipley make season debuts in MWL

A pair of highly-touted prospects made their season debuts in the Midwest League on Thursday — OF Clint Frazier with the Lake County Captains and RHP Braden Shipley with the South Bend Silver Hawks.

Frazier, the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft, went 1-for-5 with a RBI single in the 8th inning of Lake County’s 6-3 win over the Burlington Bees. He also reached on an error and scored the game’s first run in the 1st inning.

Drafted out of high school last year, Frazier played 44 games in rookie ball in 2013. His 2014 debut was delayed until now because of a hamstring injury that kept him in extended spring training at the start of the season.

Clint Frazier singles home a run during his Captains debut Thursday. (Photo by TCP Photography)

Clint Frazier singles home a run during his Captains debut Thursday. (Photo by TCP Photography)

Shipley pitched well in his 2014 debut for the Silver Hawks, which was delayed by bicep tendinitis experienced by the righty last month. He pitched five scoreless innings against the Quad Cities River Bandits, giving up five hits and a walk while striking out four batters. As a result he earned his first professional win in the regular season. (He won one of the two postseason games he started for the Silver Hawks last year.)

Braden Shipley pitched for the South Bend Silver Hawks in the Midwest League playoffs last September. (Photo by Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune)

Braden Shipley pitched for the Silver Hawks in the Midwest League playoffs last September. (Photo by Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune)

You can read more about Frazier’s debut here and Shipley’s debut here at MiLB.com.

Cougars’ win streak reaches 8

Thursday’s matchup of the Kane County Cougars and the Dayton Dragons at the latter team’s Fifth Third Field was between two squads with seven-game winning streaks on the line.

The game wasn’t as close as you may have expected.

Kane County SP Daury Torrez shut down Dayton’s offense, giving up only one run on two hits and a walk while striking out four batters in 8 IP. Meanwhile, the Cougars offense exploded for 13 runs on 19 hits and four walks (as well as two Dragons errors).

Everyone in the Cougars starting lineup had at least one hit, with catcher Will Remillard leading the way with four hits and 5 RBI.

Kane County Cougars catcher Will Remillard (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Kane County Cougars catcher Will Remillard (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Campbell continues scoreless streak

Clinton LumberKings LHP Eddie Campbell pitched six shutout innings Wednesday to extend his scoreless streak to 14 1/3 innings over three starts this season.

Ferris wheel photo update

The Ferris wheel behind Modern Woodmen Park has risen high enough to be a noticeable part of the Davenport skyline, surely from across the Mississippi River and certainly from the ballpark itself. Check out this photo that was tweeted by Quad-City Times sports reporter Steve Batterson:

Ferris wheel at Modern Woodmen Park 4-17-14

A grand opening for the Ferris wheel is scheduled for Friday, May 2, while the Quad Cities River Bandits are on the road. The team opens a six-game homestand on Monday, May 5.

Posted in 2013 Playoffs, Burlington Bees, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Former LumberKings 1B Choi suspended 50 games

Mariners prospect Ji-Man Choi (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Mariners prospect Ji-Man Choi as a member of the Clinton LumberKings in 2012. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Seattle Mariners prospect Ji-Man Choi, a former Clinton LumberKings first baseman, was suspended 50 games Thursday after testing positive for methandienone, a performance-enhancing substance.

In a statement released to the media, Choi claimed he didn’t knowingly take any illegal substance:

“A banned substance was detected in my urine sample. I do not know what I could have taken that caused me to test positive. I have not and never would knowingly use anything illegal to enhance my performance. However, I also understand that without an explanation I must serve a suspension and I accept that. I look forward to putting this behind me and to returning to help the Mariners ballclub once my suspension has ended.”

Choi was hitting .394 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in 10 games for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers this season. The South Korea native batted .298 with 8 HR and 43 RBI in the 66 games he played with the LumberKings in 2012.

Posted in Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Pacific Coast League, Tacoma Rainiers | Leave a comment

Meet Humphrey the camel! I did

guess what day it is

The Lansing Lugnuts are on the road right now, but this still seems like an appropriate day to write about the team’s new Wednesday mascot, Humphrey the camel.

I was at Cooley Law School Stadium last Wednesday for Humphrey’s first appearance at the ballpark, and seeing a live camel at a baseball game was as cool as I thought it would be.

Humphrey will be at all of Lansing’s Wednesday home games this season (the next one is April 23). The camel makes his first appearance of the night walking from the outfield to the home plate area, where he delivers the first-pitch baseballs.

Humphrey delivered baseball

Afterward he finishes his lap of the field and heads up to the west gate area, where fans can pet him and take pictures. Lots of people were taking selfies with Humphrey, but I asked someone to shoot this photo of me with the camel:

The Midwest League Traveler meets Humphrey the camel.

The Midwest League Traveler meets Humphrey the camel.

Other Hump Day activities include “On The Hump” trivia segments on the video board, a Hump Day T-shirt toss (alas, I didn’t get one), and one lucky fan gets to ride Humphrey in the outfield between innings late in the game.

A young fan rides Humphrey the camel in the outfield.

A young fan rides Humphrey the camel in the outfield.

I think the combination of fun and uniqueness will make the Hump Day promotion a winning one for the Lugnuts.

Speaking of winning, the Lugnuts beat the River Bandits 6-4 that night. Here are a few game photos I shot from the stands:

DJ Davis doubled home a run for the Lugnuts in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

DJ Davis doubled home a run for the Lugnuts in the bottom of the 2nd inning.

Lugnuts LHP Griffin Murphy struck out five batters and gave up only one hit in 3 IP.

Lugnuts LHP Griffin Murphy struck out five batters and gave up only one hit in 3 IP.

Tyler White drove in all four River Bandits runs that night.

Tyler White drove in all four River Bandits runs that night.

Posted in Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Ferris wheel construction update: Spokes being spread

Work on the Ferris wheel being erected behind Modern Woodmen Park continues today, as the spokes are being spread and the amusement ride is starting to take shape.

This photo was tweeted to me this afternoon by Steve Campbell, news photographer and sports anchor/reporter at WQAD-TV:QC ferris wheel taking shape

A grand opening for the Ferris wheel is scheduled for Friday, May 2, while the Quad Cities River Bandits are on the road. The team opens a six-game homestand on Monday, May 5.

Hot Rods’ losing streak hits 10

As of when I’m writing this post, one of today’s two early Midwest League games is finished. The Cougars beat the Hot Rods 6-2 to extend Bowling Green’s losing streak to a franchise-worst 10 games. For awhile it looked like Bowling Green might win, but Kane County scored five runs in the top of the 9th inning.

At least the Hot Rods scored in the 6th inning, stopping their streak of scoreless innings at 22. Before today, they last scored in the 6th inning on Saturday.

As for today’s other early Midwest League game? The Burlington Bees and the Fort Wayne TinCaps are now in the 16th inning, tied 3-3.

UPDATE: The Bees-TinCaps game lasted 18 innings. The Bees won 7-5. The teams exchanged runs in the 16th and 17th innings before the Bees made a two-run lead stick in the 18th. It was the longest game in the history of Fort Wayne baseball, lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes. The previous longest game in Fort Wayne lasted 5 hours and 13 minutes (an 18-inning game vs. the Michigan Battle Cats on April 7, 1995).

You can read more about the marathon game here.

Posted in Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits | 1 Comment

Bees beat TinCaps in snow-shortened game

The Burlington Bees beat the Fort Wayne TinCaps 4-2 in a snow-shortened game that ended after 6 1/2 innings.

Bees CF Mark Shannon went 3-for-4 with two doubles and 3 RBI. Fort Wayne’s Josh VanMeter and Burlington’s Chad Hinshaw and Erick Salcedo each had two hits. TinCaps CF Ronnie Richardson walked three times.

TinCaps President Mike Nutter tweeted this photo of Parkview Field after the game was called:

snowy Parkview Field 4-14-14 2

It’s hard to believe that this is what Parkview Field looked like only a day earlier (via the TinCaps Grounds Crew):

green Parkview Field 4-13-14

Captains commit 7 errors

The Lake County Captains committed seven errors and the Peoria Chiefs committed two in their game at Classic Park tonight.

It was a rainy night at the ballpark, so slick conditions surely played a part in the high amount of miscues. Still, it’s worth noting that four of Lake County’s errors were committed by shortstop prospect Dorssys Paulino, and two were made by third baseman Grant Fink (who also hit a grand slam during the game). Paulino actually was charged with five errors originally, but one was taken away after the game.

The Midwest League record for errors in a game is 17 by the Burlington Bees, in a 15-inning game on April 16, 1978. Their opponent, the Wausau Mets, committed five errors.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Lake County Captains, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, snowbound stadiums | Leave a comment

Snow postpones three MWL games today

The snowy scene at Fox Cities Stadium around noon today. (Photo from Rattler Radio)

The snowy scene at Fox Cities Stadium around noon today. (Photo from Rattler Radio)

If you were planning to attend a Midwest League game in Wisconsin today, you’re out of luck. Same goes if you wanted to go to the scheduled game in the Quad Cities.

A combination of snow and cold weather caused the Lansing Lugnuts-Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game, the Great Lakes Loons-Beloit Snappers game, and the West Michigan Whitecaps-Quad Cities River Bandits game to be postponed. All three games are now part of doubleheaders later this week.

I don’t know how every player spent his snow day, but some Lugnuts decided to make a snowman outside their hotel. Here’s a photo of RHP Chase De Jong with “Frosty,” who is wearing a Lugnuts cap:

Photo tweeted by Chase De Jong.

Photo tweeted by Chase De Jong.

Coulter’s power surge

Clint Coulter’s bat was on fire for the Timber Rattlers this past weekend, as he hit a grand slam Saturday and two more homers Sunday.

In nine games this season, Coulter is hitting .286 with 4 HR and 12 RBI. He was named the Midwest League Offensive Player of the Week for the week ending April 13.

Clint Coulter connects with a pitch. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

Clint Coulter connects with a pitch. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

Whitecaps RHP Austin Kubitza was named the MWL Pitcher of the Week for that same period after going 2-0 while giving up only one run on six hits and two walks in 10 2/3 IP. He struck out eight batters in each of his two starts.

Austin Kubitza delivers a pitch for the West Michigan Whitecaps last week. (Photo courtesy of the Whitecaps)

Austin Kubitza delivers a pitch for the West Michigan Whitecaps last week. (Photo courtesy of the Whitecaps)

Gyorko signs 5-year extension

Second-year MLB player Jedd Gyorko signed a 5-year, $35 million extension with the San Diego Padres. The deal also includes a club option worth $13 million for a sixth season.

As a rookie, Gyorko led the team with 23 home runs last year.

Gyorko batted .284 with 2 HR and 23 RBI in 42 games with the 2010 Fort Wayne TinCaps. Now a second baseman for the Padres, he primarily played third base for the TinCaps.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, snowbound stadiums, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Whitecaps win first game at Fifth Third Ballpark since fire

Welcome to Fifth Third Ballpark

The West Michigan Whitecaps beat the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 3-2 in a fight-to-the-finish game Tuesday, but that was only the second-most interesting thing that happened at Fifth Third Ballpark that night.

The real story, of course, was the fact that baseball was being played there already, just three months after a fire devastated the ballpark. But Whitecaps co-owner Denny Baxter promised that the stadium would still host its scheduled home opener, and it did.

I’m not going to focus too much on the amazing rebuild of Fifth Third Ballpark in this post — so much has been written about it already, and I recommend you read at least some of the massive coverage The Grand Rapids Press has done. But I’ll say this: I was impressed with the way the Whitecaps celebrated with their fans. It ranged from fun (a Dixieland band, stilt walkers, postgame fireworks) to serious (a video retrospective of the situation, public acknowledgment of representatives from every fire department that assisted in stopping the blaze). The best part may have been the most basic — instead of having a kid yell “Play ball!” to kick things off, the crowd of 7,128 was asked to do the honor en masse.

Fans were welcomed to Fifth Third Ballpark by a Dixieland band playing at the bottom of the stairs near the main entrance.

Fans were welcomed to Fifth Third Ballpark by a Dixieland band playing at the bottom of the stairs near the main entrance.

Besides the rebuilt ballpark — which includes a new, much-bigger souvenir store — there were some other new things for fans to see and experience. New food items include the Auger Dogger (a deep-fried hot dog on a stick wrapped in spiral potato chips), which I ordered and enjoyed. The Whitecaps also revealed their newest (and third) mascot, Roxy. A female version of the team’s main mascot (Crash the River Rascal), she was introduced to the crowd as she rode in from the outfield on a horse-drawn carriage.

Roxy the River Rascal

Roxy the River Rascal

As for the game, it was a close affair won by the Whitecaps. Their infield committed four errors, but they also got clutch performances from their pitchers, who stranded 12 Timber Rattlers on the basepaths. Wisconsin went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Whitecaps SP Jeff Thompson lasted only 3.1 innings, but he gave up only one unearned run on three hits and three walks. He struck out six batters. RHP Julio Felix, who relieved Thompson, struck out four batters and gave up zero runs in 2.2 IP.

Whitecaps SP Jeff Thompson delivers a pitch during the 1st inning of Tuesday's game.

Whitecaps SP Jeff Thompson delivers a pitch during the 1st inning of Tuesday’s game.

Whitecaps 2B Javier Betancourt and Timber Rattlers LF Omar Garcia each had three hits. Whitecaps RF Ben Verlander (younger brother of Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander) and Timber Rattlers RF Michael Ratterree (whom I saw homer at Miller Park during a spring training game late last month) each drove in two runs.

Whitecaps RF Ben Verlander throws to a teammate before the start of Tuesday's game.

Whitecaps RF Ben Verlander throws to a teammate before the start of Tuesday’s game.

Posted in Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment