PHOTOS: South Bend projects progress

The conversion from artificial turf to natural grass at Four Winds Field is almost complete. Here is a look at the field at 4:30 p.m. EST, courtesy of the South Bend Cubs:

SB grass almost all in

For comparison, here is a photo of Four Winds Field — then known as Coveleski Stadium — that I took during a visit there in 2011 (the first year there was artificial turf at The Cove):

Look closely and you'll see Myron Noodleman in the forefront of this photo.

Look closely and you’ll see Myron Noodleman in the forefront of this photo.

Click here to see more grass-installation photos from earlier this week.

Work also began this week on the area where the new Four Winds Field batting facility will be located (behind the right-field wall, where there previously was a parking lot). Crews leveled the ground and began to set the foundation of the facility, as seen in this photo from the South Bend Cubs:

Cubs Cage work begins

All construction work is expected to be completed by Opening Day 2015.

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Davis, Coles join new teams as hitting coaches

Former Midwest League players Chili Davis and Darnell Coles were announced Thursday as the new hitting coaches of the Boston Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers, respectively.

Davis started his professional baseball career in the Midwest League, as a catcher and outfielder for the 1978 Cedar Rapids Giants. He batted .281 with 16 HR, 73 RBI and 15 SB in 124 games. (I wrote more about Davis in this post when he was hired as hitting coach of the Oakland Athletics in November 2011.)

Coles spent the 1981 season in the Midwest League playing for the Wausau Timbers, who posted a league-best 84-48 record and won the MWL championship series. He batted .274 with 9 HR, 48 RBI and 9 SB in 111 games with the Timbers.

Fans who watched baseball in the 1980s and 1990s will recognize the names of some of Coles’ Wausau teammates:

Harold Reynolds, currently part of the FOX Sports broadcast team announcing the World Series, batted .296 with 11 HR, 59 RBI and 69 SB in 127 games with the Timbers. He was named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year.

Ivan Calderon batted .306 with 20 HR, 62 RBI and 26 SB in 117 games.

Jim Presley batted .279 with 12 HR and 53 RBI in 57 games.

Donell Nixon, brother of Otis Nixon, batted .284 with 5 HR, 26 RBI and 20 SB in 59 games.

Ed Nunez went 16-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 186 IP. He completed 13 of his 25 starts; none were shutouts.

Kershaw voted player of year

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw edged Los Angeles Angels CF Mike Trout by three votes to win the 2014 Sporting News MLB Player of the Year award. Both players are former Midwest Leaguers.

Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, two shutouts, 239 strikeouts and 31 walks in 198.1 IP for the Dodgers during the 2014 season. He led the National League in ERA for the fourth consecutive season, and is expected to win his third Cy Young Award in four years.

Kershaw started 20 games for the 2007 Great Lakes Loons, going 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 97.1 IP.

Trout batted .287 with 36 HR, 39 doubles, 111 RBI and 115 runs scored in 157 games with the Angels during the 2014 season. He is expected to win his first American League MVP award after finishing second to Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera the past two years.

Trout was the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year in 2010 after hitting .362 with 6 HR, 39 RBI and 45 SB in 81 games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Other player notes

The Philadelphia Phillies signed OF Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $2 million deal. He played in the Midwest League as a Montreal Expos prospect, batting .268 with 2 HR, 61 RBI and 32 SB in 123 games with the Clinton LumberKings. (All three of that team’s starting outfielders — CF Sizemore, RF Jason Bay and LF Brandon Watson — made it to the major leagues.)

Angels RP Cam Bedrosian, son of 1987 NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian, was named the top relief pitcher in Minor League Baseball by MiLB.com staff. He had a breakout season that included 17 relief appearances for the major-league team. After missing the 2011 season because of Tommy John surgery, he went 3-11 with a 6.31 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 82.2 IP for the 2012 Cedar Rapids Kernels, and 1-5 with a 5.30 ERA, 69 strikeouts and seven saves in 54.1 IP for the 2013 Burlington Bees. This year in the minor leagues, he posted a 2.00 ERA with 82 strikeouts and 18 saves in 45 IP across three levels.

Former Lansing Lugnuts infielder Balbino Fuenmayor agreed to a deal with the Kansas City Royals after an impressive 2014 season that led to Baseball America naming him its Independent League Player of the Year. (He batted .347 with 23 HR and 99 RBI in 95 games with Les Capitales de Quebec of the Canadian-American Association.) He played all of the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Lugnuts, and part of the 2011 and 2013 seasons, too. Check out his Baseball-Reference.com page for a breakdown of his Midwest League statistics, and read Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler’s story about Fuenmayor for a fuller picture of Balbino’s baseball career.

SB turf project continues

As I noted here earlier this week, installation of the new natural grass surface at South Bend’s Four Winds Field began Tuesday. This latest photo shared by the South Bend Cubs shows that the foul area on the first-base side of the field was finished Thursday.

SB grass update 10-23-14

Posted in Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Great Lakes Loons, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Lansing renovation project begins

This is what the outfield area of Cooley Law School Stadium looked like midday Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of the Lansing Lugnuts)

This is what the outfield area of Cooley Law School Stadium looked like midday Wednesday.

South Bend’s Four Winds Field isn’t the only Midwest League ballpark where major renovations are taking place this offseason. A major overhaul of Lansing’s Cooley Law School Stadium is also taking place this and next offseason.

The “sexy” part of the project that everyone mentions is the four-story apartment complex that will be built adjacent to the outfield. The ballpark itself, however, should get its share of attention as it undergoes major renovation, getting new turf, dugouts, locker rooms, concession stands and restrooms, as well as a new scoreboard and some new seating.

The bleachers that were in the left-field corner of the stadium are being replaced with new seats.

The bleachers that were in the left-field corner of the stadium are being replaced with new seats.

You can see an artist’s rendering of what the finished project should look like here.

The following photos are of the old scoreboard being removed Tuesday. You can see more construction photos on the Lansing Lugnuts’ Facebook page.

scoreboard removal 1

scoreboard removal 3

scoreboard removal 6

scoreboard removal 7

*All photos courtesy of the Lansing Lugnuts.

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New grass being installed at Four Winds Field this week

A new natural grass surface is being installed at South Bend’s Four Winds Field this week. The artificial turf that covered the ballpark’s playing field from 2011 to 2014 was removed a month ago.

Here is what the field looked like without any grass on it Monday:

grassless Four Winds Field

Workers began installing the new grass Tuesday morning under the supervision of Chicago White Sox head groundskeeper Roger Bossard, aka “The Sodfather.” Grass was installed in most of the infield, left field, and left-field foul territory by late Tuesday afternoon.

INF & LF green

In the photo above, the scoreboard says “Under CUBStruction” in reference to the South Bend club’s offseason change of MLB affiliates, from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Chicago Cubs. Management changed the team’s name from the South Bend Silver Hawks to the South Bend Cubs to reflect the change.

*Photos courtesy of the South Bend Cubs.

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Former Midwest Leaguers on World Series rosters

When the World Series begins tonight, 18 former Midwest League players will be on the active rosters — 13 Kansas City Royals and five San Francisco Giants. Both managers played in the Midwest League, too.

Here is a look at their MWL statistics, starting with the Royals because they have more former Midwest Leaguers.

Kansas City Royals

MGR Ned Yost batted .192 with 6 HR and 27 RBI in 79 games with the 1975 Wausau Mets.

OF Lorenzo Cain batted .192 with 3 RBI in 15 games with the 2009 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

LHP Tim Collins went 4-2 with a 1.58 ERA, 14 saves and 98 strikeouts in 68.1 IP for the 2008 Lansing Lugnuts.

RHP Wade Davis went 7-12 with a 3.02 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 146 IP for the 2006 Southwest Michigan Devil Rays.

LHP Danny Duffy went 8-4 with a 2.20 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 81.2 IP for the 2008 Burlington Bees.

OF Jarrod Dyson played 27 games with the Burlington Bees (10 in 2007, 17 in 2009), collectively batting .317 with 5 RBI and 12 SB.

RHP Jason Frasor went 7-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 95.1 IP for the 1999-2000 West Michigan Whitecaps.

RHP Kelvin Herrera pitched in 12 games for the 2008-10 Burlington Bees, going 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 59 IP.

1B Eric Hosmer batted .254 with 5 HR and 49 RBI in 79 games with the 2009 Burlington Bees.

2B Omar Infante batted .229 with 5 RBI in 12 games with the 2000 West Michigan Whitecaps. He also went 2-for-5 during a two-game rehab stint with the 2013 Whitecaps.

3B Mike Moustakas batted .272 with 22 HR and 71 RBI in 126 games with the 2008 Burlington Bees.

C Salvador Perez batted .189 with 7 RBI in 36 games with the 2009 Burlington Bees.

RHP Yordano Ventura went 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 84.1 IP for the 2011 Kane County Cougars.

OF Josh Willingham batted .259 with 7 HR, 36 RBI and 24 SB in 97 games with the 2001 Kane County Cougars.

Yordano Ventura throws a pitch for the Kane County Cougars in August 2011. (Photo by Donnell Collins/Sun-Times Media)

Yordano Ventura throws a pitch for the Kane County Cougars in August 2011. (Photo by Donnell Collins/Sun-Times Media)

San Francisco Giants

MGR Bruce Bochy batted .243 in 30 games with the 1976 Dubuque Packers.

LHP Jeremy Affeldt went 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA and 8 strikeouts in 17 IP for the 1998 Lansing Lugnuts.

INF Joaquin Arias batted .266 with 3 HR, 48 RBI and 12 SB in 130 games with the 2003 Battle Creek Yankees.

RHP Santiago Casilla pitched in 39 games for the 2003-04 Kane County Cougars, going 1-1 with a 1.62 ERA, 16 saves and 77 strikeouts in 72.1 IP.

LHP Javier Lopez pitched in 36 games for the 1998-99 South Bend Silver Hawks, going 6-10 with a 6.17 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 143 IP.

RHP Jake Peavy went 13-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 133.2 IP for the 2000 Fort Wayne Wizards.

Jake Peavy warming up in the bullpen for the 2000 Fort Wayne Wizards.

Jake Peavy warming up in the bullpen for the 2000 Fort Wayne Wizards. (Photo courtesy of the Fort Wayne TinCaps)

Posted in Burlington Bees, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Happy birthday, Juan Marichal!

Happy birthday to former San Francisco Giants RHP Juan Marichal, who turns 77 today.

Marichal is one of seven Baseball Hall of Fame players who are Midwest League alumni. He went 21-8 with a 1.87 ERA in 245 IP for the 1958 Michigan City White Caps. The Dominican Dandy was 20 years old and pitching in his debut season as a professional that year.

Only one other member of the 1958 White Caps went on to play in the major leagues. Jose Tartabull batted .264 with 4 HR in 69 games; he played for Michigan City again in 1959, when he batted .305 with 17 HR in 125 games.

Juan Marichal's plaque inside the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Juan Marichal’s plaque inside the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

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Former Timber Rattler wins ALCS MVP award

Former Wisconsin Timber Rattlers OF Lorenzo Cain was named MVP of the American League Championship Series after the Kansas City Royals completed their ALCS sweep of the Baltimore Orioles to head back to the World Series for the first time since 1985.

He batted .533 (8-for-15) with two doubles and two walks during the ALCS. He also made several highlight-reel catches in the outfield.

Cain didn’t spend a lot of time in the Midwest League — only 15 games, in which he batted .192 (10-for-52) with 3 RBI for the Timber Rattlers.

Lorenzo Cain as a Wisconsin Timber Rattler, in bobblehead form. (Photo by Mike Jehle)

Lorenzo Cain as a Wisconsin Timber Rattler, in bobblehead form. (Photo by Mike Jehle)

Royals skipper played in MWL

When the Royals won Wednesday, Ned Yost became the first manager in MLB history to win his first eight postseason games.

The Royals skipper played in the Midwest League early in his baseball career, when he was a New York Mets farmhand. He batted .192 with 6 HR and 27 RBI in 79 games with the 1975 Wausau Mets.

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