Graham to return as Whitecaps manager in 2015

West Michigan Whitecaps manager Andrew Graham (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

West Michigan Whitecaps manager Andrew Graham (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Andrew Graham will return as manager of the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2015, the Detroit Tigers announced today. It will be his second season at the team’s helm.

He led the 2014 Whitecaps to an 82-58 record and a Midwest League playoff berth, the team’s first since 2010. The Fort Wayne TinCaps eliminated them from the playoffs in the first round.

“Andrew Graham provides great leadership and a respectful passion for the game,” Jim Jarecki, Whitecaps vice president of baseball operations, said in a press release. “He has a positive presence both on and off the field, and that makes the players strive for improvement every game, which is so important at this level.

“Andrew continues to make great strides as a manager,” Jarecki added. “The Whitecaps were energized by his presence and it showed on the field with the run to the playoffs. Getting the word that Andrew is coming back to West Michigan in 2015 is great for the fans and the players.”

Graham was a Whitecaps catcher in 2004 and 2005. He batted .219 with 1 HR and 19 RBI in 183 at-bats.

Mark Johnson, who served as West Michigan’s pitching coach from 2008 to 2012, will return in that same capacity in 2015. He spent the last two seasons with Detroit’s short-season Class-A team, the Connecticut Tigers.

Phil Clark will be West Michigan’s hitting coach in 2015. It will be his first year coaching in the Tigers organization after spending eight seasons as a hitting coach in the Cleveland Indians system.

Posted in 2014 Playoffs, Connecticut Tigers, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Allen, Oliva fall one vote short of enshrinement

Tony Oliva signed autographs at Beloit's Pohlman Field in 2011. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Tony Oliva signed autographs at Beloit’s Pohlman Field in 2011. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Golden Era Committee didn’t elect anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame today, but Dick Allen and Tony Oliva each fell only one vote shy of the 12 needed for enshrinement.

Seventy-five percent of the 16-member Golden Era Committee must vote for a candidate in order for him to be elected to the Hall of Fame. In addition to Allen and Oliva each getting 11 votes, Jim Kaat received 10, Maury Wills got nine, Minnie Minoso got eight, and five others (Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam, Billy Pierce and Luis Tiant) each received three or fewer.

The Golden Era Committee meets to consider candidates every three years. The last time the committee met, in 2011, it elected Ron Santo posthumously.

Results of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America balloting will be announced at 1 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Jan. 6.

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Beloit Snappers, Midwest League | Leave a comment

South Bend Cubs unveil new logos, uniforms

The South Bend Cubs unveiled their new logos, caps and a home jersey design during a press event Thursday at Four Winds Field.

Here’s a look at the main logo surrounded by four complementary ones:

all SBC logos

The typeset used for the words “South Bend” on the main logo is the same one associated with Studebaker automobiles, which were produced in South Bend from the 1920s through 1963. Among the car models made by Studebaker was the Silver Hawk, which is why the baseball team’s previous nickname was the Silver Hawks.

“This was an important feature to us,” said Joe Hart, president of the South Bend Cubs. “We’re incredibly excited about bringing the Cubs to South Bend, but we’ll never lose that connection to our local heritage. And I think it’s really good to know that the Chicago Cubs like this design that integrates some of our Studebaker heritage as much as we do.”

The team has adopted the same primary colors used by its parent club, as you can see in the new logos and team uniforms.

SBC home jersey & caps “The designs we’ve come up with are especially important because they represent more than a professional baseball team. They represent everyone who lives in this region and one of the most storied brands in baseball history,” said Andrew Berlin, owner of the South Bend Cubs. “The people of this region who have supported the team deserve the best. The Chicago Cubs deserve the best. We feel that this is the perfect blend of Cubs and South Bend — two things that our local fans have told us that they feel very strongly about.”

“The Chicago Cubs are one of the most iconic brands in the world — not just in the sports world, but in the entire world,” Berlin added. “We’re going to make sure that their players and also the fans in this region see the connection very clearly — this is a Cubs team — South Bend Cubs to be sure, but Cubs, no question about it.”

The South Bend entered into a four-year player development contract (PDC) with the Cubs in September.

*Images courtesy of the South Bend Cubs. Quotes from the team’s news release about the press event.

Posted in Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment

Former Dragon Gregorius traded to Yankees in 3-team trade

Former Midwest Leaguers Didi Gregorius and Domingo Leyba were among the four players swapped as part of a three-team trade involving the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks today.

Gregorius goes from Arizona to New York, where he will replace the recently-retired Derek Jeter at shortstop. As a Cincinnati Reds prospect in 2010, Gregorius batted .273 with 5 HR, 41 RBI and 16 SB in 120 games with the Dayton Dragons. He made his major-league debut with the Reds in 2012 and played with the Diamondbacks the past two seasons.

Detroit sends LHP Robbie Ray and 2B/SS Leyba to Arizona. Leyba played 30 games with the West Michigan Whitecaps this year, batting .397 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He was ranked the No. 8 Tigers prospect in Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook. Ray made his MLB debut with the Tigers this year.

New York sends RHP Shane Greene to Detroit. He was ranked the No. 16 Yankees prospect in Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook and made his MLB debut this year.

You can read Baseball America’s analysis of the trade here.

Speaking of Baseball America, make sure to check out this article from Thursday about the Whitecaps being the Class A winner of the publication’s Bob Freitas Award.

Main Street Baseball buys another team

Main Street Baseball, the Davenport, Iowa-based group of investors that owns the Quad Cities River Bandits, reportedly has purchased the Billings Mustangs, a team in the short-season Pioneer League. The Mustangs are a rookie-league affiliate of the Reds.

Main Street Baseball also owns the High Desert Mavericks, the High-A California League affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Dempster retires, joins Cubs front office

RHP Ryan Dempster officially retired today after last pitching for the Boston Red Sox in 2013.

Dempster is joining the Chicago Cubs front office as a special assistant to team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. His duties will include scouting assignments, evaluating amateur players leading up to the draft, and visiting the club’s minor-league affiliates during the season.

The South Bend Cubs are Chicago’s Midwest League affiliate.

Dempster pitched in the Midwest League in parts of two seasons. As a Marlins prospect in 1996, he went 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 26.1 IP for the Kane County Cougars. His four starts included a shutout.

He also started five games for the 2004 Lansing Lugnuts while in the process of making a comeback from reconstructive elbow surgery. The Lugnuts were a Cubs affiliate at that time, and Dempster subsequently served as Chicago’s closer for three seasons before becoming a starter again in 2008.

Ryan Dempster started four games for the 1996 Kane County Cougars. (Photo courtesy of the Cougars)

Ryan Dempster started four games for the 1996 Kane County Cougars. (Photo courtesy of the Cougars)

Posted in Billings Mustangs, California League, Dayton Dragons, High Desert Mavericks, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Pioneer League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Hunter agrees to 1-year, $10.5M deal with Twins

Torii Hunter reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million deal to return to the Minnesota Twins, the team that drafted him in 1993 and for whom he starred for nine years before leaving via free agency after the 2007 season.

As a Twins prospect in 1994, Hunter batted .293 with 10 HR and 50 RBI in 91 games with the Midwest League’s Fort Wayne Wizards.

Hunter is a five-time All-Star and won nine consecutive Gold Glove awards from 2001-09.

Torii Hunter in 1994 when he played with the Fort Wayne Wizards

Torii Hunter in 1994 when he played with the Fort Wayne Wizards

Posted in Fort Wayne TinCaps, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Riordan to manage Beloit Snappers

Fran Riordan, a veteran independent-league manager, will helm the Beloit Snappers in 2015.

Thirteen of his 14 seasons as a manager were in the Frontier League, most recently as skipper of the Florence Freedom from 2011 to 2014. In 2010 he led the Lake County Fielders, an ill-fated Northern League team that went under during the 2011 season. His longest managerial stint was as skipper of the Kalamazoo Kings from 2004 to 2009.

Riordan played seven seasons of independent-league ball as a first baseman and outfielder.

Rick Magnante, who managed the Snappers to a 55-84 record in 2014, will take over the reins of the Stockton Ports, Oakland’s High-A affiliate in the California League.

Lloyd Turner will return for a second season as hitting coach of the Snappers, and Steve Connelly will be Beloit’s pitching coach after serving in that same role for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters this year.

Aaron Nieckula, who managed the Burlington Bees from 2011-12 and the Kane County Cougars from 2006-08 and 2010, will manage the Vermont Lake Monsters in 2015. Until the start of the New York-Penn League season, he will be Oakland’s Minor League Field Coordinator, a newly-created position that includes serving as a traveling instructor with all A’s minor-league teams.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, California League, Florence Freedom, Frontier League, Kalamazoo Kings, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, New York-Penn League, Stockton Ports, Vermont Lake Monsters | Leave a comment

Timber Rattlers and Brewers extend affiliation through 2020

The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announced today that their affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers has been extended through the 2020 season.

The existing player development contract (PDC) between the two clubs covered the next two seasons, so the extension is for four years.

The Timber Rattlers hooked up with the Brewers after the 2008 season, after 16 years as a Seattle Mariners affiliate. Including when they were known as the Appleton Foxes and the Fox Cities Foxes, the Timber Rattlers also have been affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles since joining the Midwest League in 1962.

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