Former MLB manager Jim Leyland was the guest of honor on “Throwback Night” at Clinton’s Ashford University Field, and the LumberKings won 4-0 in front of their old skipper.
Not that he managed the LumberKings, per se — Leyland helmed one of their predecessor teams, the Clinton Pilots, in 1972, 1973 and 1975 — but the recently retired skipper spoke to the team before Saturday’s game, and they seemed captivated as he talked on-field during a pregame ceremony, too.
Current Clinton players weren’t the only ones listening to Leyland speak. Some of his former Pilots players also were on hand for the pregame ceremony.
After the ceremony ended and Leyland threw out a ceremonial first pitch, he and former big-league outfielder Ron LeFlore spent about 3o minutes signing autographs on the concourse. LeFlore batted .277 in 32 games with the 1973 Clinton Pilots, a team that Leyland noted had seven future major-leaguers on it. That team finished with a 73-51 record, the best in the Midwest League that year.
Leyland stuck around for the entire game, but missed all the scoring while he was signing autographs. The game’s four runs were scored in the bottom of the 1st inning, when RF Tyler O’Neill hit a grand slam. It was O’Neill’s second grand slam in three days. He had a chance to hit another one in the bottom of the 7th inning, but he popped out.
As part of “Throwback Night,” the LumberKings wore uniforms based on those of the Clinton Pilots.
Elsewhere in the Midwest League, the West Michigan Whitecaps beat the Great Lakes Loons 7-2 behind a dominant pitching performance by LHP Kevin Ziomek, who gave up one hit and three walks while striking out eight in six innings. Whitecaps DH Pat Leyland — Jim Leyland’s son — went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, and 3 RBI.
*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler