By Matt DeVries
The 5th concert in the history of Dow Diamond is almost here as O.A.R., Vertical Horizon and Michael Robertson are about to light up Midland with their unique music styles!
The show is sure to be something that is rarely seen in the state of Michigan with music taking over a ballpark. With the Detroit Tigers, Lansing Lugnuts and West Michigan Whitecaps the other major baseball teams in the state, an outdoor concert in this type of environment only comes around every so often.
O.A.R. is renowned for its intense, vibrant live shows and the communal feeling it shares with its fans. In celebration of their 20th anniversary, O.A.R. has announced the upcoming release of their new album XX out on August 5th via Vanguard Records.
The two CD set includes a career-spanning collection of O.A.R.’s biggest hits and incredible live shows plus new studio material. Disc one features fan favorites such as “Heaven”, “Peace”, Shattered, “Two Hands Up” and more. Disc two spotlights select performances from their extensive live catalog.
Marc Roberge, Richard On, CHrus Culos, Jerry DePizzo and Benj Gershman provide a style of music that is pleasing to the ear for anyone. You can connect to the lyrics. The the songs are fun. You can’t wait to hear the next one.
O.A.R. has built a reputation as a great band to see live. They’re style has been likened to a Dave Matthews Band where they will play songs that allow the crowd to get involved. The term “jam band” is synonymous with groups like this, which makes for a entertaining shows like the one below at Madison Square Garden.
Vertical Horizon was founded in the early 1990’s, touring extensively before their breakout album in 1999, Everything You Want, which went on to sell more than two million copies. Their follow-up album, Go, was released in 2003 and solidified the band as a no-nonsense pop rock entity.
In addition to writing and producing songs for Vertical Horizon, lead singer Matt Scannell has spent the past few years writing songs with and for other artists. In 2010 he wrote “Wish You Were Here” for the band Hey Monday, featuring lead singer Cassadee Pope, who went on to win season 3 of NBC’s hit show The Voice. In 2013, Vertical Horizon released their album, Echoes From The Underground.
From the first notes of Michael Robertson’s debut CD, it’s clear that the singer and guitarist is a skilled storyteller. The Michigan native has a knack for recognizing irony when exploring the nuances of unremarkable – yet universal – life experience.
Michael spent a dozen years with Maybe August and currently heads a side project, the Robertson Bros. Band. All My Stories, released in June 2016, detail Robertson’s musical journey with vivid precision. From the breezy pace that propels the opening title track, Robertson is firmly in the driver’s seat, crafting sunny melodies that are accentuated by his ability to decelerate and allow the moment to linger.
Niky House goes more in depth with Michael in this great article from the Midland Daily News.
WHERE TO SIT?
There will not be a bad seat at Dow Diamond for the concert as general admission tickets can have you in the seating bowl with a perfect view of everything happening. Or gain access to the field and get that much closer to the artists! If you don’t have your tickets yet, not to worry. Just head over to Loons.com and snag some for you and your friends!
By Brad Tunney
Although dropping two of three in a weekend series against the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Loons starting pitching staff continued to dazzle in the second half of the season. Along with strong starts from Victor Gonzalez, Dennis Santana, and Isaac Anderson, an influx of fresh faces in the Loons lineup helped keep Great Lakes afloat in an extremely close series. The top two teams in home runs in the Midwest League combined for zero long balls during the weekend set.
Great Lakes (5-6, 34-47) T-4th; 3.5 GB
Loons: 8 runs, 18 hits, 3 errors, 19 left on base, 0 home runs
Hot Rods: 8 runs, 21 hits, 2 errors, 26 left on base, 0 home runs
- An updated look at the numbers on Loons starting pitchers in the second half:
- 11 GS, 60.1 IP, 35 H, 12 ER, 17 BB, 72 K, 1.79 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 10.7 K/9
- After adding Darien Tubbs and Noah Perio in the first leg of the homestand, the Dodgers sent three more new players to integrate into the lineup for the series against Bowling Green. Ariel Sandoval departed Great Lakes with a well-deserved promotion to high-A Rancho Cucamonga. In return, the Loons Will Smith, Luke Raley, and Dian Toscano. Smith, a Louisville product, was the 32nd overall draft pick in the 2016 1st-year player draft. Raley was the Dodgers 7th round selection, and Toscano was acquired in a trade along with pitcher Bud Norris from the Atlanta Braves.
- Smith had an impactful debut on Saturday night going 1-4 with 2 RBI tying the game at three in the 6th inning.
7/4-7/7: West Michigan Whitecaps (1-5, 43-34; Record vs. WM this year: 1-5)
By Brad Tunney
For the final time this season the Loons welcomed the Lansing Lugnuts to Dow Diamond and split a hard-fought four game series two games a piece. Three of the four games were one-run games including the second walk-off win of the season for the Loons coming in game one on Monday. Since the All-Star Break, Great Lakes has played eight games, six of which have been decided by one run. Ariel Sandoval, along with newcomers Darien Tubbs and Noah Perio, led the offense and the starting pitching was stellar again.
Great Lakes (4-4, 33-45) T-3rd; 3.0 GBResults
Monday, June 27th vs. Lansing: W 6-5, Game Story
2nd walk-off win of the season, Gage Green walk-off RBI-single with 2 outs in 9th inning
Loons: 15 runs, 29 hits, 5 errors, 33 left on base, 3 home runs
Lugnuts: 17 runs, 29 hits, 3 errors, 29 left on base, 4 home runs
- Similar to the first series of the second half against Lake County, the Loons were anchored by their starting pitching in the four games against Lansing.
- Starting pitching: 22.1 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 30 K, 2.01 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 12.1 K/9
- Starting pitching eight games into 2nd half: 44.1 IP, 28 H, 9 ER, 13 BB, 55 K, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 11.2 K/9
- On offense, Ariel Sandoval had a three-game hit streak entering the series and extended it to seven games with a hit in all four games against Lansing. Sandoval’s batting average has jumped 17 points during his current stretch (.230 – .247).
- Sandoval vs. Lansing: 7-16, 12 TB, HR, 2 2B, 3 BB
- Along with Sandoval, Darien Tubbs and Noah Perio aided the Loons offensively. Tubbs, a former Memphis Tiger, became the first 2016 Dodgers draft pick to join the Loons. Perio, a former Miami Marlins farmhand, was signed as a MiLB free agent from the Sioux City Explorers (American Association). Tubbs batted lead-off for all four games and was followed by Perio in all four as well.
- Tubbs vs. Lansing: 4 SB, 3 BB, 3 H
- Perio vs. Lansing: 6-16, 4 RBI
7/1-7/3: Bowling Green Hot Rods (3-5, 40-37… Record vs. BG this year: 4-4)
By Brad Tunney
The Loons made their only trip of the second half of the season to Eastlake, Ohio this weekend to kick-off the start of the second half of the Midwest League calendar. The Lake County Captains fell a half game short of clinching a playoff berth in the first half of the season and were propelled by one of the top offenses in the League, but it was the pitching from both teams that took center stage at Classic Park the last four days. The four-game series was split two games apiece. Great Lakes (2-2, 31-43) T-4th; 2.0 GB.Results
Thursday, June 23rd at Lake County: W 2-1, Game Story
Donovan Tate: 2-3, HR, 2 RBI in Loons debut; Isaac Anderson: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K
Loons: 9 runs, 26 hits, 6 errors, 23 left on base, 3 home runs
Captains: 11 runs, 29 hits, 4 errors, 23 left on base, 4 home runs
Loons starting pitching had a staff ERA of 3.32 in the first half of the season and they have set a pretty high bar for themselves to start the second half after the opening series.
Starters during the four games at Lake County: 22.0 IP, 16 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 25 K, 1.64 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
Game 1: Isaac Anderson – 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K
Game 2: Imani Abdullah – 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 10 K
Game 3: Michael Boyle – 6.0 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
Game 4: Victor Gonzalez – 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K
Overall, besides one bad 7th inning during game four, the entire staff, relievers included, showed out.
Entire staff excluding the 7th inning on Sunday: 33.0 IP, 34 K, 1.64 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Unfortunately, the offense did not come to play the same way the pitching staff did.
Offense during the series: 2.25 runs/game, .195 BA, .236 OBP
The first home series/homestand of the second half.
6/27-6/30: Lansing Lugnuts (Current record: 4-0… Record vs. LAN this year: 5-6)
7/1-7/3: Bowling Green Hot Rods (Current record: 1-3… Record vs. BG this year: 4-4)
By Matt DeVries
Note: This story appears in the 1st edition of the LoonsNest program available throughout Dow Diamond during Loons home games.
The timetable for designing and building a baseball stadium is typically expected to take anywhere from two to three and half years. Bill Stavropoulos led a group to the completion of Dow Diamond in 367 days.
“Ignorance is very important,” Stavropoulos said. “You don’t realize how high the mountain really is. You just say you can do this.”
Plenty of people on the outside thought it couldn’t get done. Multiple parties adamantly stated the Great Lakes Loons, then the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays, would need to play both the 2006 and 2007 seasons in Battle Creek, Mich., to leave enough time to build the stadium.
“We just had such a great team working on it,” Stavropoulos said. “The timing couldn’t have been better. For one year, everyone was working at 100 percent.”
But the story of the Loons and Dow Diamond doesn’t start with a stadium breaking ground on April 11, 2006. It dates back a year prior to a point in time when a community leader felt an urge to spice things up.
Stavropoulos’ career with the Dow Chemical Company spanned 39 years, where he served in a variety of positions in research, marketing and general management.
He served as president and chief operating officer from 1993-95; president and CEO from 1995-2000; chairman and CEO from 2002-2004; and chairman from 2000-2006. Stavropoulos was a member of the Board of Directors of Dow from July 1990 to March 2006.
“It was 2005 when I was chairman of the board when I started thinking about what we could bring to Midland to improve the quality of life and revitalize downtown at the same time,” Stavropoulos said.
“I had always been a baseball fan and I thought minor league baseball would probably be a good thing if we could put something together. But I didn’t know anything about minor league baseball or how it all worked.”
After seeking advice from personal connections, Stavropoulos reached out to Lansing Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson, citing his strong reputation. Current Midwest League president Dick Nussbaum, then the MWL’s legal counsel, was also someone Stavropoulos consulted early in the process.
“So I made a cold call to Tom and told him that I was really interested in minor league baseball and I’ve heard a lot about him,” Stavropoulos said.
“He tells me, ‘Great! Next time you’re down in Lansing why don’t we get together?’
“I say to him, ‘How about tomorrow?’”
“He says to me, ‘Well tomorrow I’m in Chicago.’”
“Great, I’ll be there,” Stavropoulos said.
After a quick flight to the Windy City, Dickson alerts Stavropoulos that there’s no expansion in the MWL and you have to buy a team. Dickson mentions that there is an owner that might be looking to sell.
“‘Well give him a call,’ I told him.”
“He said, ‘Yeah I will.’”
“Well call him right now while I’m here,” Stavropoulos says as he recounts the events like they happened yesterday.
After asking Tom to find out how much the owner wanted for the team, Stavropoulos heard the amount and immediately said, “We’ll buy it.”
Within two days of zeroing in on a franchise, Stavropoulos had agreed over the phone for the Michigan Baseball Foundation to buy the team.
“So then I thought, ‘Well now where are we going to play and who’s going to run the team?’”
It was a whirlwind, from not really knowing much about how minor baseball operates, to then purchasing a team. But the longtime Dow Chemical leader always had the same over-arching vision in mind.
“I wanted to make it a non-profit so it would stay here and benefit the community,” Stavropoulos said. “I wanted to use the concept of social entrepreneurship. That was the whole purpose. We wanted a first-class stadium, we wanted a first-class major league (partner) which is why we went with the (Los Angeles) Dodgers.”
Just as it is today, the entire region played a major part in pushing the project along.
“The communities, Midland and everyone else in the Great Lakes Bay Region, they really jumped on this and provided a lot of enthusiasm for the team,”Stavropoulos said.
“When we announced that we had bought a team and we were building a stadium, the reception was fantastic.”
Ground was broken on the Dow Diamond site on April 11, 2006. Baseball was played on April 13, 2007. It’s something that is rarely seen in sports, regardless of size or reputation. Things just aren’t done that quickly.
“Everybody was saying it was going to be two years,” Stavropoulos said. “But we had a lot of enthusiasm and we knew how to build things. And our team knew how to do it. Designing and building at the same time was a tough job.
“Everybody coming together and building this thing in one year was really special. A lot of good folks made this happen.”
By Matt DeVries
As many of you have heard by now, we at the Great Lakes Loons updated our brand in preparation for our 10th season of baseball in Midland! If you haven’t heard, go check it out!
Now, with any lengthy project comes a lot of back-and-forth when deciding what direction you want to go. It was no different for us with conversations happening between many of our staff here and Brandiose.
“Upon us reaching out to Jason Klein and Casey White at Brandiose, the ‘Discovery Process’ started in June of last year with them visiting us here in Michigan,” Vice President of Marketing & Entertainment Chris Mundhenk said after the event on February 13.
“They had the chance to work on surveys with our staff, lead focus groups with our staff and fans, along with visiting different parts of Mid-Michigan. They toured Midland and traveled to Bay City and Saginaw to get a feel for our region.”
Everything they do is top-notch, so we knew we were in good hands. It was a lot of fun to be part of the process with lots of chatter each and every day in the office about what the latest update was. It’s like planning a big surprise party, but you can’t tell a lot of your friends about it. So many times we wanted to give folks a sneak peak, but we were able to keep it under wraps until the big reveal last month!
With everything out in the open now, we figured now was as good of time as any to give you the chance to see some of the variations we looked at during the brainstorming process.
We could not be happier with the way everything turned out. There’s a reason you enlist the help of Brandiose. Just look at their track record. They produce quality work and are pleasure to work with.
Just a friendly reminder that you can check out all of our new gear with the new logos on them in our team store over on Loons.com. Get outfitted in time to help us celebrate our 10th season of Loons baseball!
On Feb. 13, the Great Lakes Loons are hosting their 10th annual kickoff event and part of the event will included an updated logo and updated uniform. Since the team came to Midland, Mich., in 2007, they have been a Single-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers and this has been there primary logo.
And these three images have been their cap insignia since their inception.
The Loons have only been in Midland since 2007, but their team history goes back to 1982 when they where the Springfield (IL) Cardinals, boasting this logo:
The cardinals played in Lanphier Park from ’82 – ’93 as a Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and the declining condition of their park led the team to relocating to Madison, WI where they became the Madison Hatters playing their games at Warner Park.
Still the Single-A Affiliate of the Cardinals, the Hatters had the below team logo (pictured left) and cap insignia on the right.
Only staying in Madison for year the Hatters moved to Battle Creek Michigan at the end of the ’94 season when they became Michigan Battle Cats, playing their games at C.O. Brown Stadium.
They had a team logo that looked like so (pictured left) and their caps bore the insignia on the right.
From ’95 – ’98 the Battle Cats were the Single-A affiliate of the Red Sox, and then from ’99 – ’02 they were affiliated with the Astros. In 2003 they became affiliated with the Yankees and became the Battle Creek Yankees.
The team logo (pictured left) and the team cap bore the insignia on the right.
In 2005 their affiliation with the Yankees ended, they became affiliated with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and they became the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays.
The team logo (pictured left) and the team cap bore the insignia on the right.
Following the 2006 season they moved to Midland, Mich., and became the Great Lakes Loons affiliated with the Dodgers. Here we are ten years later with the next chapter in the teams logo and cap insignia history.
By Matt DeVries
When Corey Seager donned a Great Lakes Loons uniform in 2013, there were lofty expectations for the teenager from North Carolina. Now, after making his major-league debut in 2015, the Los Angeles Dodgers prospect is being tabbed as one of five hitters who could have a breakout season.
“Seager’s time in the big leagues at the end of the 2015 season was brief, but he proved himself more than capable of handling big league pitching. He batted .337/.425/.561 in 27 games (113 plate appearances). Obviously, Seager isn’t going to post numbers like those, as big league pitchers will eventually figure him out a bit. But his fluid-yet-compact left-handed swing doesn’t seem to have many flaws.”
Before getting the promotion to High-A Rancho Cucamonga three years ago, the 21-year-old was hitting .309/.389/.529 with 12 HR and 57 RBI in the Midwest League. After playing for the Rookie-level Ogden Raptors upon being drafted in the 1st Round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, it was his first full season in professional baseball.
“Seager is currently ranked as MLB.com’s No. 2 prospect, and it’s easy to see why. Regardless, he won’t keep that title for very long — because he won’t be considered a “prospect” for very long. The Dodgers are ready to hand Seager the keys at shortstop, and he already appears to be the favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.”
Back in November, Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times wrote that, “if Seager is as successful as expected, he should prove a centerpiece for the Dodgers for many years to come.”
When you hit .337/.425/.561 in your first 27 games and 97 at-bats as a big leaguer, success certainly seems to be on the not-so-distant horizon for you.
Cassavell and Dilbeck might be on to something.
By Matt DeVries
He’s the No. 2 prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and Julio Urias (’13) says “he’s ready for his next goal which is reaching the majors.”
The Mexican teenager made his professional debut with the Loons during which he started 18 games compiling a record of 2-0 with a 2.48 ERA. It was rare for Urias to get a decision in his starts with him being on a strict pitch count and not going the minimum number of innings.
In his first-ever start as a pro at just 16 years old, the left-hander went three innings and struck out six against the Dayton Dragons. In his two decisions that season, Urias pitched 11 scoreless innings while allowing three hits, issuing just two walks and 13 strikeouts.
After undergoing successful eye surgery last year, Urias says he feels like “nothing can stop me and I’m deadset on reaching my goal.”
Pitchers and catchers begin arriving at Spring Training on Feb. 18.
By Matt DeVries
Working in minor league baseball can be a little unusual. For instance, I doubt Vin Scully has a mascot visit him in his radio booth very much. That wasn’t the case for first-year Great Lakes Loons radio broadcaster Chris Vosters during the 2015 season.
The Loons qualified for the Midwest League Playoffs by finishing in second place during the first half of the season with a 38-30 record. However, they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a rollecoaster year of sorts for the Loons that saw the first three home games of the season wiped out due to a field malfunction, the high of clinching a playoff spot and the ultimate end of your season.
Turns out, it was quite the up-and-down year for Vosters, as well, with him joining the Loons and ESPN 100.9-FM (WLUN) as the team’s second play-by-play broadcaster in its history.
“I wasn’t nervous or worried about anything, maybe there were some jitters going into the season because it was my first time as a No. 1 broadcaster, but it was very much an excited energy more than anything,” Vosters said. “I was very excited to get my first game under my belt and I’ll never forget that. It was down in West Michigan at Fifth Third Ballpark.
“It was also a crazy way to start the season because of losing the first three games of the season. I just had to laugh when it was happening because I had been waiting all winter to step into this role and get started with the baseball season. There was something telling me to just be patient and relax a little bit.”
One of the big reasons the Loons made the playoffs was thanks in large part to a string of games towards the end of May and into the early part of June that saw the Loons catch fire and take the MWL Eastern Division by storm.
“The highlight of the season was definitely when the team won 10 (games) in a row to tie a franchise record, and ultimately 15 of 16 for that stretch,” Vosters said. “It was cool to see it happen and the turning point was in a game against Fort Wayne. There was a disputed call involving a baserunner at second base and (Loons) field manager Luis Matos was ejected. I think that served as the catalyst for the rest of the first half of the season.
“The on-field performance was great, but it was also cool to see how the team gelled both on and off the field. It gave me an appreciation for how many little things go in to a team coming together to collectively achieve a goal, in this case, winning a baseball game.
“It was the timing of the year, too. The weather was finally starting to get warm, there were some good crowds at the ballpark, it just felt like there was a lot of promise in the air.”
Vosters found his way to Midland, Mich., after a few stops in broadcasting. Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin, where he was the Sports Director of WSUM-FM 91.7, Chris spent two seasons in the collegiate summer Northwoods Baseball League, where he got both play-by-play and hosting experience.
He then spent the 2014 baseball season as the No. 2 play-by-play voice of the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders working alongside Alex Vispoli. Before making the leap over Lake Michigan, he spent time at 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee doing high school sports.
“I think because it was my first time going through everything, I treated every day as a new experience,” Vosters said. “Of course, there are bumps and bruises along the way like the couple of times when we would become disconnected and dropped our signal on the road.
“But in hindsight, it really wasn’t a big deal. We were able to get every single game on the air and almost all in their entirety, whenever we dropped it was never for very long. I feel very good about the product that we put on the air.”
The transition from providing support throughout the day and receiving limited repetitions each night calling baseball games, to running your own show and being the lead broadcaster for a 140-game season can be both time-consuming and strenuous.
“I learned a lot about how to carry a broadcast for a whole nine innings as opposed to coming on for three innings in a relief role, you might say, as a No. 2 broadcaster,” Vosters said. “I think I gained a better feel for the ebb and flow of a game of baseball and learned to relax a little bit and have fun with the game.
“I think you learn that every game, there are similarities, but every game is different. So don’t go into it with a mindset of this is how I want the game to go; I want to talk about this in this inning, just react to the game and pick your spots when it might be a good moment to weave in a good storyline or a fun fact about a player. Also, know the moments when it’s okay to step back and let the game call itself and let the crowd and the excitement from the crowd tell the story.”
— Great Lakes Loons (@greatlakesloons) September 1, 2015
While seasons can tend to drag on, especially in the dog days of mid/late-July, there are bright spots with the job of broadcaster in minor league baseball.
“One of the fun things is every ballpark is different,” Vosters said. “Bowling Green, for instance, you’re along the third base line which, quite frankly, is difficult to adjust to. When you have the vantage point like you have here at Dow Diamond, you can get better reads on fly balls and you can just see the game play out in front of you. Even just the way the sound of the game seems to slowly roll up and rises towards and embraces you.
“In places like South Bend and Kane County, you’re at the top of a seating bowl and you’re basically embedded in the action. That’s a cool perspective because you can really see the breaks on pitches and get a good idea for a strike zone and really kind of see the way the ball spins. And you can get a much better view of ball and strikes. You really feel like you’re in the game, almost like you’re calling the game from the dugout or right behind home plate.”
— Christopher Vosters (@CJVosters) May 4, 2015
The unique thing about the Loons job that sets itself apart from nearly every other broadcasting job in minor league baseball is it is a full-time, year-round broadcasting/radio job. Along with maintaining the programming on WLUN during the calendar year, when MWL baseball isn’t on the air, Vosters can be heard describing some of the best high school action in Mid-Michigan. It has both benefits and drawbacks.
“Haven’t had a lot of time to digest everything just with flying right into high school football season, but I was really grateful through the season for the support I had from the Loons staff and from people in the community with the feedback that I got,” Vosters said. “It’s much more gratifying to look back and see how much I improved over the course of the season by relaxing and trusting that I would get better simply by calling 140 games over the course of a season.”
“Lots of room to improve for me fundamentally and mechanically, my knowledge of the game, all of those things need to get better. But it’s exciting to look back at last baseball season and see how much more I know now than I did even just a short time ago and being able to project that same progress and growth forward for another baseball season. It’s very exciting and more than anything a lot of fun.”