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

Ballpark visits planned for this week

It’s a good thing that Monday was an off-day for the Midwest League. I needed about 7 1/2 hours of it to drive from my house to Grand Rapids, where my first MWL road trip of the season officially gets under way Tuesday.

My intention on this trip is to visit several ballparks before the end of the week, with the newly rebuilt Fifth Third Ballpark as my starting point. I’m very much looking forward to the first game there since the January 3 fire that did severe damage to the first-base side of the stadium. I’m expecting a great crowd of fans who will loudly show their appreciation for West Michigan Whitecaps management coming through with their promise to have the ballpark ready for the home opener.

The rebuilt Fifth Third Ballpark looks as good as new! (Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps)

The rebuilt Fifth Third Ballpark looks as good as new! (Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps)

Anyway, the Whitecaps will be hosting the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at 6:35 p.m. EST. You can expect to see photos of the rebuilt areas of the ballpark in addition to my usual game photos. I also will live-tweet this and all games I attend, as I have during the past three seasons.

On Wednesday I’ll be at Cooley Law School Stadium for the Lansing Lugnuts’ first Hump Day of the season. Every Wednesday game at the stadium will include an appearance by Humphrey the camel, who will deliver the first-pitch baseballs to the field and then be available for pictures and petting near the west gate. Fans also will have a chance to win a camel ride!

Humphrey the camel clearly was ready for his close-up when this photo was shot. (Courtesy of the Lansing Lugnuts)

Humphrey the camel clearly was ready for his close-up when this photo was shot. (Courtesy of the Lansing Lugnuts)

I have to admit I almost bought a generic Hump Day T-shirt at a store the other day just to wear it to the Lugnuts game. I didn’t buy it, but you can be sure I’ll be wearing my Lugnuts cap, which features one of my favorite Minor League Baseball logos!

The Lugnuts will take on the Quad Cities River Bandits (who also have a great logo) at 7:05 p.m. EST.

On Thursday I’ll be in South Bend to watch the Silver Hawks take on the Beloit Snappers at 7:05 p.m. EST. I’m looking forward to seeing the life-sized bronze statue of Stanley Coveleski that will be unveiled Tuesday inside the centerfield gate of Four Winds Field (formerly Coveleski Stadium). The statue was designed and created by Timeless Creation, the same company that created the famous Michael Jordan statue located outside the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

On Friday I’ll be at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, home of the Kane County Cougars. The Cougars will play against the Lake County Captains at 6:30 p.m. CST. I might also go there Saturday for the 1 p.m. CST rematch of those two teams.

Make sure to check back here throughout the week to read my posts about these ballpark visits!

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Midwest League Opening Day scenes

2014 Opening Night logo Fourteen teams — all but the Lansing Lugnuts and the Lake County Captains — opened the Midwest League season last night, and some teams, fans and news organizations shared Opening Day photos via social media. Here are some of them:

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers start stretching on the newly-renamed Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers start stretching on the newly-renamed Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.

Here is a shot of the line to get into Bowling Green Ballpark: line to get into BG Ballpark Those people were kept entertained as they waited, as you can see in the next two photos.

Hot Rods players signed autographs for fans outside Bowling Green Ballpark.

Hot Rods players signed autographs for fans outside Bowling Green Ballpark.

A fire juggler entertained people outside Bowling Green Ballpark. (Photo sent to me by Hot Rods fan Jeff Miller)

A fire juggler entertained people outside Bowling Green Ballpark. (Photo sent to me by Hot Rods fan Jeff Miller)

The next photo is from a promo tweet by the Fort Wayne TinCaps, but I’m including it because I like the “Don’t Text & Drive” gloves that fans got at Parkview Field. It’s a message I wholeheartedly endorse. FW's gloves giveaway At Fox Cities Stadium, all fans received a bobblehead version of 2010 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2B/SS Scooter Gennett, who now plays second base for the Milwaukee Brewers. Scooter Gennett bobbleheads Here the Kane County Cougars are taking batting practice before their game against the Quad Cities River Bandits at Modern Woodmen Park: Kane County BP Baseball wasn’t the only thing Dayton Dragons fans saw on the field Thursday. There also were monster trucks. Monster trucks at Fifth Third Field And, of course, baseball games were played.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers SP Taylor Williams gave up only one hit and one walk (no runs) while striking out 7 Peoria Chiefs in 5 IP. (Photo by Ann Mollica/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers SP Taylor Williams gave up only one hit and one walk (no runs) while striking out 7 Peoria Chiefs in 5 IP. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

The final scores for each Opening Day game, accompanied by a highlight or two:

West Michigan Whitecaps 5, Dayton Dragons 4 (Box score) Dragons 1B Sebastian Elizalde hit a 2-run HR.

Great Lakes Loons 9, Fort Wayne TinCaps 0 (Box score) Loons SP Jonathan Martinez struck out 11 and gave up only two hits (no runs or walks) in 6 IP.

Burlington Bees 5, Beloit Snappers 1 (Box score) Bees DH Mike Fish went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBI and a stolen base.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 4, Clinton LumberKings 3 (Box score) Kernels 1B Bryan Haar hit a solo homer to win the game in the 10th inning.

Peoria Chiefs 8, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4 (Box score) Chiefs 2B Mason Katz went 2-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and a walk. Timber Rattlers CF Omar Garcia went 3-for-4 and was 1-for-2 on the basepaths.

Kane County Cougars 8, Quad Cities River Bandits 4 (Box score) Cougars RF Yasiel Balaguert went 4-for-5 with three doubles and two RBI.

Bowling Green Hot Rods 5, South Bend Silver Hawks 2 (Box score) Silver Hawks SP Aaron Blair struck out 10 but gave up five runs on six hits in 6 IP. Hot Rods C Oscar Hernandez hit a grand slam.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Midwest League players to watch: Captains and Snappers

This sixth and final installment of my series previewing the 2014 Midwest League season focuses on the Lake County Captains and the Beloit Snappers. You can find the first five parts of the series here, here, here, here and here.

Sometime this season, the Lake County Captains should have one of the best prospects in the Midwest League on their team. But that must wait until after Clint Frazier recovers from a hamstring injury.

In the meantime, the Captains still have plenty of prospects to watch play. There currently are seven on the roster who are ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 in the Cleveland Indians organization: SS Dorssys Paulino (No. 6), RHP Dace Kime (No. 16), RHP Adam Plutko (No. 18), OF Anthony Santander (No. 20), LHP Luis Lugo (No. 21), RHP Mitch Brown (No. 24) and 1B Nellie Rodriguez (No. 27). When Frazier (No. 2) inevitably joins the team, that will make eight — assuming all of the aforementioned prospects also are still on the team.

Two of those prospects, Paulino and Santander, will look familiar to Captains fans, as they both played with Lake County last season. Paulino batted .246 with 5 HR, 46 RBI and 12 SB in 120 games; he struggled early but finished strong with a .281 batting average in August. Santander batted .242 with 5 HR, 31 RBI and 6 SB in 61 games; he also struggled early and then had his season cut short by a right elbow injury.

Lake County Captains OF Anthony Santander (Photo courtesy of FOX Sports Ohio)

Lake County Captains OF Anthony Santander (Photo courtesy of FOX Sports Ohio)

The Beloit Snappers roster features five players ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 Oakland A’s prospects: RHP Dylan Covey (No. 8), RHP Bobby Wahl (No. 9), RHP Kyle Finnegan (No. 16), RHP Ronald Herrera (No. 17) and OF B.J. Boyd (No. 20).

Wahl got the nod from the Snappers to start the first game of the season, but his future could be as a reliever. From the Baseball America Prospect Handbook: “Wahl has the three-pitch repertoire to be a starter, not to mention a successful track record as an ace in the Southeastern Conference. However, he shined as a closer for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 2012 with just his fastball and slider, and he could reach the majors fairly quickly as a reliever.”

Bobby Wahl pitching for Ole Miss (Photo by Joshua McCoy/University of Mississippi)

Bobby Wahl pitching for Ole Miss (Photo by Joshua McCoy/University of Mississippi)

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Lake County Captains, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Midwest League players to watch: River Bandits and LumberKings

This fifth installment of my series previewing the 2014 Midwest League season focuses on the two MWL teams located closest to each other, the Quad Cities River Bandits and the Clinton LumberKings. (You can find links to the previous parts of the series here, here, here and here.)

The defending champion Quad Cities River Bandits should field a good team again this year, especially pitching-wise. The 2014 squad features seven prospects ranked by Baseball America among the top 30 in the Houston Astros organization. Only one is a position player (OF Brett Phillips, ranked No. 30). The rest are pitchers: RHP Michael Feliz (No. 9), RHP Andrew Thurman (No. 15), LHP Kent Emanuel (No. 23), Chris Lee (No. 24), RHP Gonzalo Sanudo (No. 26) and RHP Jandel Gustave (No. 27).

Of those top-ranked prospects, only Phillips played with Quad Cities before this season, and that was for only 12 games. He batted .231 during that short stretch.

RHP Michael Feliz delivers a pitch for the Tri-City ValleyCats last June.

RHP Michael Feliz delivers a pitch for the Tri-City ValleyCats last June.

The Clinton LumberKings roster includes five of the top 30 Seattle Mariners prospects as ranked by Baseball America: RHP Edwin Diaz (No. 5), OF Austin Wilson (No. 6), OF Tyler O’Neill (No. 18), SS Jack Reinheimer (No. 26) and RHP Lars Huijer (No. 28).

Diaz was named the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year after leading the league in ERA (1.43), WHIP (0.91), and strikeouts (79) in 69 IP for the Pulaski Mariners. He is one of the best pitching prospects in the Mariners farm system — Baseball America says he “has a ceiling to rival any pitcher in the organization other than Taijuan Walker. He profiles as at least a potential mid-rotation starter or a strong late-inning reliever if stamina becomes a long-term issue.”

Also on the roster is infielder Justin Seager, younger brother of Mariners 3B Kyle Seager (who played with the 2009 LumberKings) and Dodgers prospect Corey Seager (who played with the 2013 Great Lakes Loons).

Posted in Appalachian League, Clinton LumberKings, Great Lakes Loons, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, Pulaski Mariners, Quad Cities River Bandits, Tri-City ValleyCats | Leave a comment