The Great Lakes Loons enjoyed an incredible seventh season in 2013, one that culminated in the franchise’s third Midwest League playoff berth in its seven-year history. There were ups and downs, winning streaks and losing streaks, joy and heartbreak. In the end, there were the memories. From three players tying a Loons record for most RBI in a single game to four of the Los Angeles Dodgers top nine prospects passing through Midland at the same time to some of the funnest (or most fun, whatever) promotions in Minor League Baseball. And of course, the Loons players that Loons fans came to know and love. Over the past few weeks, those Loons fans have been voting on the Top 25 Loons Moments of 2013 on the Great Lakes Loons Facebook page. The votes have been tallied and now we have what I think is a pretty awesome list of great memories from the 2013 season at Dow Diamond. Counting down from No. 25 to the top moment of 2013, here’s the list of Loons fans’ top memories of this season:
25. ZOOperstars appearance: Always an entertaining group to have at the ballpark, the ZOOperstars bring an eclectic bunch of characters to entertain the crowd. The animal characters, whose names are all a play of words off a famous athlete, each have their own personality, but every one of them knows how to make fans laugh. The four ZOOperstars that came to Dow Diamond on June 23: Dennis Frogman, Harry Canary, Mackerel Jordan and Shark McGwire.
24. Malcolm Holland walk-off: After struggling through May, the Loons had put together six wins in a row coming into a home game against West Michigan on June 12. After a low-scoring game could not be decided after just nine innings, the Loons and Whitecaps went to extra innings. Great Lakes threatened in the 10th, but couldn’t score. In the 11th, Robbie Garvey singled and stole second base before Holland hit a single through the left side to score him for the game-winning run.
23. Mascot Mania: One of MiLB’s best social media contests put Lou E. Loon front and center in late July. For two weeks, #MascotMania (@greatlakesloons) consumed the Loons fan base, including a hectic race to the finish in the Loons front office. The Loons Ambassador of Fun enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from Loons fans and finished second in the Midwest League.
22. Fireworks Loontaculars, powered by Dow Corning: Fireworks Loontaculars, powered by Dow Corning, are one of the biggest draws at Dow Diamond. Loons fans poured through the gates for 14 of them in 2013.
21. Jose Capellan’s 6-RBI night: Jeremy Rathjen and Corey Seager were the first to do it in 2013 (more on that later), but Jose Capellan’s six-RBI night was certainly the least expected of the group. He became the sixth player in franchise history to drive in six runs in one game on August 19 and did it in a huge spot. Great Lakes came into that game on a five-game losing streak and were losing their grip on a postseason berth. Behind Capellan’s big night, the Loons picked up a 12-5 victory over the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Capellan went 2-for-3 in the game with two bases-loaded doubles that cleared the bases.
20. Loons win eight of 10 in late August to secure a playoff spot: As we already mentioned, the Loons came into their game against Fort Wayne on August 19 on a five-game losing streak and it looked like they might lose their grip on what had appeared to be a sure trip to the postseason. But then the Loons ripped off eight wins in 10 games between August 19 and August 29, including two home wins over Dayton to seal a spot in the postseason.
19. Turnaround from May to June: The Loons had one of the worst months in franchise history in May, going 7-23, but bounced back in June, behind a rejuvenated pitching staff, a healthy Corey Seager and Leo Rodriguez hitting .300. Great Lakes posted an 18-9 record to put themselves right back in the thick of the MWL playoff chase.
18. 15-1 win over South Bend in early June: As Great Lakes returned to Dow Diamond on June 8 to start a six-game homestand with a game against the first-place Silver Hawks, they had lost 10 of their last 13 games, so Loons fans really didn’t expect to see any kind of offensive outburst that night or that series. But that’s what they got. Behind three-hit games from Garvey and Kevin Taylor, who were just two of the five Loons with multi-hit games that night, the Loons crushed South Bend, 15-1, in game one of the series and outscored the Silver Hawks, 31-4, while sweeping the series.
17. Raining Money Night, presented by Chemical Bank: During Raining Money Night, presented by Chemical Bank, on August 23, $2,000 in cash was dropped from a helicopter onto the Dow Diamond field, giving a group of lucky Loons fans the chance to win as much money as they could pick up! It was almost as much fun for those watching as it was for those on the field.
16. Country Western Night: On a night that saw Lou E. Loon ride a mechanical bull and a man with a banjo play the seventh inning stretch, Dow Diamond drew a single-game record crowd of 6,189. That crowd saw the Loons pick up a key 2-1 victory over the Lansing Lugnuts.
15. Miguel Sulbaran’s performance in June & early July: Sulbaran struggled out of the gate, posting a 5.26 ERA over 37 2/3 innings in his first 11 appearances this season, while allowing opponents to hit for a batting average of .309. However, from June 9 through July 13, Sulbaran allowed just three earned runs over 40 innings in seven appearances, six of which were starts. That is a 0.68 ERA, which is filthy. Sulbaran also had an excellent 1.00 WHIP and a 31-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio during the seven-game stretch.
14. Geoff Brown named a Midwest League Postseason All-Star: Loons reliever Geoff Brown finished the season with 12 wins, second-most in franchise history, tying him for the league lead. Brown earned a spot on the Midwest League Postseason All-Star Team. Brown had a 2.08 ERA over 78 innings pitched, along with a 1.01 WHIP and a .208 opponents batting average. He also had a 56-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not bad for a guy who was pitching in Australia in 2011 and in the Frontier League for most of 2012.
13. Chicago Boyz appearance: The Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team came to Dow Diamond on July 27 to be a part of Lou E.’s Big Top Loontacular. The national act wowed the Dow Diamond crowd with same amazing athletic feats. Just a few weeks later, Loons fans watched them appear on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
12. Lou E.’s Big Top Loontacular: One of Loons fans’ favorite nights every year, Dow Diamond turned into a carnival, entertaining fans of all ages.
11. Jose Capellan walk-off: In one of the best games of the season at Dow Diamond, Capellan hit a single into center field to score Jeremy Rathjen for the game-winning run, giving the Loons an 8-7 victory over Lansing after the Lugnuts had scored four runs in the top of the ninth to force extra innings. Capellan’s single capped a three-game sweep over Lansing and sent the Dow Diamond crowd into a frenzy.
10. Jeremy Rathjen’s 6-RBI night: The lanky outfielder from Texas was the first Loon this season to pick up six RBI in one game and at the time, was the fourth player in Loons history to do it. Rathjen’s big day led the Loons to an 11-0 victory over South Bend on June 9, which was the second game in the three-game series against the Silver Hawks in which the Loons outscored them, 31-4.
9. Three 6,000-plus crowds at Dow Diamond: In the first six seasons of Loons baseball, there were seven crowds of over 6,000 people at Dow Diamond. In 2013, there were three: July 3, August 10 and August 22.
8. Rathjen’s grand slam on August 23: Before Capellan walked off against Lansing to complete the sweep, Rathjen had what looked to be the biggest hit of the game and maybe the season. In a crucial game with huge playoff implications, the Loons and Lugnuts were tied 3-3 in the seventh inning. Rathjen stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a 2-0 pitch over the left field wall for a grand slam that seemed like it would the difference in a Loons victory.
7. Julio Urias’ start on July 3: The Dodgers No. 4 prospect had arguably the best start of his young career against the Whitecaps on July 3. Urias was filthy, holding West Michigan scoreless on two hits over six innings, while striking out eight and issuing zero walks in an 8-0 Loons win.
6. Julio Urias’ professional debut: 16-year-old Julio Urias debuted on May 26 as one of the youngest players in professional baseball history. Urias struck out the side in the first inning and held Dayton scoreless over three innings of work. Urias finished the game with six strikeouts and only one walk.
5. New Loons records: Three Loons players set new single-season records for Great Lakes in 2013. Tyler Ogle set new Loons single-season records for walks and on-base percentage, while Jeremy Rathjen set a new single-season record in ‘hit by a pitch’ and Luis Meza set a new mark for appearances.
4. Turn-Back-The-Clock Night: The Loons turned back the clock on July 2 as part of the Michigan Legends Series. The jerseys worn by Great Lakes were auctioned to fans immediately following the game.
3. Loons clinch third playoff berth in franchise history: With a 3-0 win over the Dayton Dragons on August 29, the Loons secured their third playoff in the seven-year history of the organization. Great Lakes got four scoreless innings from Dodgers No. 7 prospect Chris Anderson and 3 2/3 scoreless innings from Brandon Martinez. Luis Meza pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close the game for the Loons and set up Great Lakes manager Razor Shines for a Gatorade bath.
2. Aaron Miller’s return to the Loons as an outfielder: Miller was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2009 draft out of Baylor and made his Loons debut on August 2, 2009. In seven starts for Great Lakes in 09, he was 3-1, with a 2.08 ERA and a 38-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Miller got the win in the first playoff victory in Loons history. After the Dodgers made the decision to switch him from pitcher to outfielder, he returned to Midland in late May as a position player. Miller spent the year in the heart of the Loons lineup and closed the season strong, hitting .314 in August.
1. Seager Goes Ham: The hype train surrounding Corey Seager was crazy heading into the 2013 season. The younger brother of Major Leaguer Kyle Seager, Corey was the Dodgers No. 1 draft pick from 2012 and at the time he was listed as the No. 3 prospect in LA’s farm system. Although he struggled out of the gate, he hit his stride when summer arrived, hitting .338 in June and .330 in July. On July 29, he gave Loons fans a moment they won’t forget any time soon, hitting two home runs and driving in five RBI in a 9-0 win over Lake County. In his first at-bat, he hit a 357-foot opposite field home run for the Loons first run of the ballgame. When he came up again in the second inning, he crushed a 420-foot grand slam that landed in the Dow Diamond parking lot and put Great Lakes ahead 7-0.
It was a great season in Midland. I’ll leave you with the Loons highlight video from the 2013 season. Can’t wait to see everybody back at Dow Diamond in 2014.
As the Great Lakes Loons wrap up their 2013 season over the next week, they have an opportunity to do something that they have not done since 2010: make the Midwest League playoffs. After beating the Dayton Dragons, 4-1, on Wednesday night, the Loons are 3 1/2 games up on Dayton with five games left. The Loons are five games up on West Michigan, but have the tiebreaker because they had a better record in the head-to-head matchups with the Whitecaps. If Great Lakes wins on Thursday night, they clinch a spot in the postseason (!) for the first time in three years.
Should they clinch, things should be a bit more positive for the Loons than they were for Jim Mora on that fateful day in Indianapolis almost 12 years. Although that video is still one of the all-time classic coaching rants in the history of sports.
Great Lakes has made the playoffs twice before during their seven-year history, in 2009 and 2010. The 2009 season brought the franchise’s first playoff appearance, with a team that was led by Midwest League co-MVPs Kyle Russell and Dee Gordon, a future two-time No. 1 Dodgers prospect. After the Loons finished 25 games below .500 in their first season and 31 games below .500 in year two, the 2009 team went out and brought home an 81-59 record, led by Gordon’s .301 batting average and 73 stolen bases, as well as Russell’s 26 home runs and 102 RBI.
The Loons advanced to the Eastern Division championship after knocking off the West Michigan Whitecaps, 3-2, in an elimination game at West Michigan. Jaime Pedroza, named to the Great Lakes Loons 5th Anniversary Team in 2012, hit a solo home run in the 10th inning to push Great Lakes past the first round. The Loons staved off elimination against Fort Wayne in the second round in one of the most improbable comebacks in franchise history before falling in game three in Fort Wayne.
That win had Loons fans buzzing all offseason and gave the franchise momentum that it would continue in year four.
The 2010 season gave Loons fans a team that would set a franchise record for wins, finishing with a record of 90-49 after a late-season win over Bowling Green at Dow Diamond. That Great Lakes team had a dominant pitching staff that featured five future big leaguers, including Steve Ames, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Magill, Josh Wall and Allen Webster. The Loons also had another future MLB player in Jerry Sands and were led by the 2010 Midwest League Manager of the Year, Juan Bustabad.
Great Lakes dropped the first game of the playoffs to the Fort Wayne TinCaps, but exploded in game two with an eight-run eighth inning to force a game three, where they knocked off the defending Midwest League champs with a 6-4 win at Dow Diamond in game three.
Brian Cavazos-Galvez homered and drove in five runs in the first game of the Eastern Division championship series en route to 10-8 victory at Lake County, but then Great Lakes took a crushing loss in game two and lost 6-1 in the deciding game three.
The postseason is special in any sport. It’s hard to win a championship at any level. However, the first step is getting there and the Loons have that opportunity in front of them. Thursday is a $1 Family Feast Night, presented by Chemical Bank, and Great Lakes will play in front of a packed house at Dow Diamond with a chance to punch their ticket to the Midwest League playoffs.
Loons fans have been very fortunate this season. They have seen four of the Dodgers top nine prospects come through Midland. The No. 2 prospect, Corey Seager, and the No. 4, Julio Urias, have played most of their home games in 2013 at Dow Diamond. Both may end up being All-Stars at the Major League level. Seager is one of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) shortstop prospects to come along in quite some time, while Urias took Minor League Baseball by storm when, at just 16 years old, he made his professional debut at Dow Diamond in late May.
The Dodgers also sent their top three draft picks from the 2013 draft – Chris Anderson, Tom Windle and Brandon Dixon – to Midland to hone their craft in their first seasons as professional baseball players. Anderson and Windle, both starting pitchers, are now ranked No. 7 and No. 9 on MLBPipeline.com’s top 20 Dodgers prospects. They both debuted against South Bend on June 25 at Dow Diamond and in that game, they both threw two scoreless innings in a 10-1 victory over the Silver Hawks. Both have a sub-2.50 ERA as of August 20 and could find themselves playing their home games at Dodger Stadium in the next couple years.
Along with some pretty great on-field memories from the 2013 season, like when Corey Seager had two home runs and six RBI in one of his last games at Dow Diamond (Seager capped the night with a 420-foot grand slam that landed in the parking lot), there have been a few great off-the-field memories as well.
The Michigan Legends Series, presented by MidMichigan Health, has provided a few classic moments at Dow Diamond in 2013.
The series of promotions, a spin-off of the successful Red Wings Legends Series, kicked off on June 12 and has featured four games already this season, with two more on the docket.
On June 12, 10-time MLB All-Star and LA Dodgers legend Steve Garvey visited Dow Diamond. He spent time talking with CrunchTime host Jared Sandler, tossed out a first pitch and signed a boatload of autographs. He also managed to get Loons manager Razor Shines to laugh a little. Here’s the full Facebook album.
After the Loons turned back the clock and gave away some sa-weet retro jerseys on July 2, four-time Stanley Cup Champion and Davison, Mich., native Ken Morrow graced Dow Diamond with his presence on July 10 in the third installment of the Series. Morrow was also a member of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic ice hockey team that won a gold medal in Lake Placid. Click here for the full Facebook album.
Morrow did a lot of the same stuff that Garvey did: talked with the media, threw out a first pitch and signed a lot of autographs. But he also brought his gold medal from the Lake Placid Games with him, an artifact that he usually keeps in a bank. Morrow let fans, media members and even bloggers take pictures with the gold medal.
The fourth installment of the Series was on July 24, when the Loons gave away 1,000 Dow Diamond replicas. There are two installments left. One is on August 28, when the first 1,000 fans through the gates will receive a Tiger Stadium Replica. The other is an appearance by Michigan State legends Greg Kelser and Jud Heathcote on August 21 (tomorrow as of if this blog post).
Kelser, a forward and key contributor on the Spartans 1979 NCAA championship team, was drafted fourth overall in the 1979 NBA Draft. The Florida native played seven seasons in the NBA and is now an analyst on basketball broadcasts for Fox Sports Detroit and the Big Ten Network.
Heathcote was the head coach at MSU for 19 seasons and finished his career with a 339-221 record, a .605 winning percentage, including the 1979 championship season.
Loons fans have had a special 2013 season and there are still a few memories left out there, including a possible playoff run, but more on that later. For Loons fans, Wednesday night is a chance to meet two men that made a lasting impact on the sports landscape in the state of Michigan and for Spartan fans of my father’s generation, it is a chance to meet two people that played a huge role in bringing MSU their first national championship in basketball. If you want that chance, click here.
Corey Seager is a talented dude.
For starters, there aren’t many guys his size that have the athleticism to play shortstop. It’s a pretty short list (Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada along with one or two other guys that I’m forgetting). On top of that, he’s got a smooth, powerful swing that can hit line-drive double and long home runs.
He is an elite shortstop prospect and the only top shortstop in Minor League Baseball with a similar skill set might be the Astros’ No. 1 prospect, Carlos Correa. Incidentally, Correa also plays in the Midwest League. He is hitting .317, with a .460 slugging percentage for the Quad Cities River Bandits. Quad Cities plays their games at Modern Woodman Park on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, which might have the coolest backdrop in Minor League Baseball.
Back to Seager. The native of Kannapolis, N.C., is the youngest of three brothers and has a family that provides a great support system (for more on that, see the second edition of this year’s LoonsNest). His oldest brother, Kyle, starts at third base for the Seattle Mariners and the middle brother, Justin, just finished a great career at UNC-Charlotte, which led to him being drafted by the Mariners in the 2013 draft.
Last summer, the Dodgers recognized the kind of talent that Seager has and drafted him with the 18th overall pick. Loons manager Razor Shines
raves gushes about him. Through the first two months of the season, some wondered how long it would take Seager to produce like a first-round selection. It took him until the Loons 14th game to get above the Mendoza Line and even though he hit well in the second part of April, he struggled in May, hitting . 217 through six injury-riddled games.
But then he got healthy and came back with a vengeance. Since he returned to the Loons lineup on June 2, he has hit .335 with eight home runs and 40 RBI in 42 games. That’s 31 homers and 154 RBI over the course of a 162-game schedule. And with its big ballparks, the Midwest League is traditionally though of as a pitcher-friendly league. Not coincidentally, that’s about the same time that Great Lakes’ season turned around.
On July 29 (the day before this blog post went up), Seager put on exclamation point on the last two months with his best moment yet as a Loon.
In his first plate appearance, Seager hit an opposite field, 357-foot line drive that cleared the fence in left field. Great way to start a night.
In his second at-bat, he did something that everybody that was at Dow Diamond will remember for quite a while. He came up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Seager sat on a 2-0 changeup and crushed it 420 feet for the grand slam. Everybody in the park knew as soon as he hit that it was gone, but then it left Dow Diamond. Not just the field of play, but the whole stadium. It landed in the parking lot!! The link below will paint a better picture than I ever could.
And here’s the game highlights from the InterTubes, which include both of Seager’s bombs and a mammoth 405-foot homer that Tyler Ogle hit onto the grass berm in straightaway center field.
When Seager came up for his third at-bat, I think everybody in the park felt like he was going to hit another one out. And he almost did, hitting a deep fly ball to center field that was caught 385 feet from home plate. He was under the pitch and the scary thing is, I don’t think he was really that close to hitting the ball on the nose. His last at-bat didn’t have the drama of the first three, but he did get a hit, with a line drive single to right field to finish his night at 3-for-4 with five runs batted in.
Loons fans have been very fortunate in 2013. Several future Major League ballplayers have passed through the hallowed halls of Dow Diamond this season. Along with Seager, 2013 Dodgers draft picks Chris Anderson and Tom Windle will likely end up in the show, and probably sooner rather than later. Julio Urias may end up being a once-in-a-generation type of story. Put it this way. The last player to make his Major League debut before he turned 19 was Alex Rodriguez. Urias could be next.
The list of future big leaguers on this roster could also include Miguel Sulbaran and James Baldwin, along with some other possible dark horses that have played well this year. MWL All-Star Tyler Ogle, Jeremy Rathjen, Craig Stem and Scott Griggs are a few players who could progress through the system. I also think guys like Geoff Brown or Owen Jones could surprise some folks. Brown has a really cool story and it would be great to see him make the show down the line.
What that means is Loons fans should soak this season up. Enjoy every time Seager comes to the plate. Watch as many Urias starts as you can. Some day, you might tell your grandkids about the time you saw them play at Dow Diamond. The folks in attendance on Monday night certainly won’t forget what they saw for a long time.
It’s that time of year again. Minor League Baseball is rolling out their annual Mascot Mania contest. It’s a little different than last year, which featured a 64-seed March Madness-style bracket.
Last summer, Lou E. Loon, the Loons’ Ambassador of Fun, made it to the Elite 8.
The format is different this year. In the first round, Lou E. will compete with the mascots of other Midwest League teams, with the mascot that receives the most votes moving on to compete with the champions of other minor leagues around the country.
Loons fans can vote in two ways. The first is to vote on the Mascot Mania webpage. Click on this link. The second way is to log on to the Twitter machine and tweet two words: #MascotMania @greatlakesloons. It’s that simple.
Well you’re at it, vote for fellow Dodgers affiliates, Albuquerque Isotopes (@AbqTopes, Chattanooga Lookouts (@ChattLookouts) and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (@Quakes_Baseball), who are partnering with the Loons in the first round, along with a few friends of the program in the Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) and the State College Spikes (@SCSpikes).
So vote now and vote often! Lou E. Loon is one of the best reasons to come to Loons games. As a person that hasn’t always liked mascots, let me emphasize that Lou E. is one of the most unique mascots in baseball and in sports (Rall E. Camel actually isn’t too bad either). Show the rest of the country whey Lou E. is so great. Vote for him.
Lou E. Loon approves of this message.
This is Doug Kern. He works as a Statistics Analyst for ESPN in Bristol, Conn. Last month, he stopped in Midland to come to a Great Lakes Loons game. It was the 157th baseball stadium in America where he has watched a game. Kern went to a West Michigan Whitecaps game the next night to bring that total to 158. If you are a baseball nerd (like me or Intern Matt, or almost anybody that works in baseball media, media relations or broadcasting), then Doug Kern is an extremely interesting figure.
The crude Photoshop job above shows where each Midwest League team is located. The team logos that are circled are the ones that Kern has NOT visited. He went to a bunch of MWL ballparks in 2010 after he went to see Target Field in his inaugural season. Kern has been to every current Major League ballpark and 11 that aren’t in regular use anymore, including Veteran’s Stadium in Philly, old Busch Stadium, old Yankee Stadium, Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and Tiger Stadium.
Kern started going to games on three-day weekends and spur-of-the-moment trips. He points out that it’s really easy to get to a lot of parks because there are so many in the Northeast. The Washington D.C. native started rolling through Minor League parks in 2004 and 2005. From The Nest’s loonslivingston has been to 16 current MLB ballparks and nine old MLB ballparks (obviously not as impressive as Doug), so Kern was preaching to the choir when he said that traveling to different stadiums is a great way to explore the country and meet people.
“I’ve always loved traveling,” Kern said. “I wasn’t terribly into baseball when I was little. I grew up outside D.C. I kind of got on the Orioles bandwagon in ’83 when they won (the World Series). My dad was a football fan and I didn’t really get into baseball until after I got out of college. I did stats all the way through high school and college and so I got into baseball that way. I’ve also always been a numbers guy; I score every game that I go to. For me it’s fun to watch when you’re scoring along.”
The Virginia Tech alum listed PNC Park (Pittsburgh), AT&T Park (San Francisco), the new Busch Stadium (St. Louis) and Citi Field (New York Mets) as some of his favorite stadiums. Kern added that it’s tough to rank Minor League stadiums because there are so many different sizes and because they are all so different, even if each has its own charm. He added that most organizations do a good job branding and selling their stadium and their team.
“I liked (Dow Diamond) a lot,” Kern said. “It was easy to find. It’s a lot bigger than some of the other Midwest League parks I’ve been to on this trip. It’s definitely my favorite of the five on this trip. There weren’t any that were dumps. They’ve all been renovated in the last five years. (Dow Diamond) looks a lot bigger than it really is. I had a very good experience. I like the fire pits in the outfield. That’s why I think I enjoy the minors so much; there is so much value. I was sitting behind home plate and I think my ticket was $10.”
“In most minor league ballparks, there’s not a bad seat in the house. You’re right up close and you’re right on top of the action. The seat I was in last night is close to $500 in Yankee Stadium and you can’t even get those tickets. It was $10 to get in, $4 to park and it was ($1 Family Feast Night), so I didn’t pay much for food either. One person can get out of the park for $20. I’ve noticed that about the Midwest; everyone is very friendly and really nice. It’s just a great place to visit.”
The former information technology officer started working for ESPN in 2006 and provides support for Baseball Tonight and ESPN’s NFL coverage. He has worked with on-air personalities like Steve Berthiaume, Karl Ravech, Dave Winfield, Barry Larkin and John Kruk.
Anybody that goes to a lot of baseball games will see their share of great moments. Kern is no exception. He told me about how he saw a game in Toledo 10 years ago that only lasted one hour and 50 minutes, mainly because one team had a perfect game through six innings and the other team had no-hitter through six, though neither the perfect game or the no-hitter was completed. The night after he was in Toledo, Kern went to a game in Pittsburgh that went 15 innings on top of an hour rain delay, ending when Randall Simon led off the bottom of the 15th with a walk-off bomb. Kern decided to go back to PNC Park the next night and saw another 15-inning game, which might be the last time there were back-to-back 15-inning games in the big leagues (per Mr. Kern, who is something of an authority on the subject).
Doug saw Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer all play on the New Britain Rock Cats (just east of Bristol) for a season. He was also at Josh Hamilton’s four-homer game in Baltimore last year, which is more rare than being at a perfect game. A four-homer game has only happened 16 times and a perfect game has happened 21 times in the modern era.
As a relatively young person, I feel like I’m very fortunate to have been to as many ballparks as I’ve been to, the 25 big league parks and countless Minor League parks (to be honest, I’ve never kept track, my dad has, he would know, but I’m not going to text him right now, okay off the rabbit trail). But Doug Kern has lived the dream, seeing the good, the bad and the ugly that American baseball facilities have to offer. We got the chance to pick his brain for a bit and listen to some of his stories. Maybe we’re the lucky ones. There are still a lot of parks that I haven’t seen and I can’t wait to get to the rest of them.
Doug, thanks for coming out to Dow Diamond! Enjoy the rest of your journey through baseball.
Over the last week, your friendly neighborhood Loons blogger went on an adventure, venturing into a vast, post-apocalyptic world known to the layman as Ohio.
Actually, it was a great four days, traveling through Cleveland (the Loons were at Lake County) to Dayton in a 2013 Chevy Suburban with a current Great Lakes All-Star and a former Great Lakes All-Star.
Sunday’s drive was uneventful, except for 20 minutes spent in a monsoon outside of Columbus. Of course, it would happen by Columbus. Ugh. Darn Buckeyes.
Oh and it turns out Joe Winker might be a bit of a hipster. Winker, of Call Me Maybe Fame, introduced me to the song of the summer for next year.
With only one Loon playing in the All-Star Game this year, due to the call-ups of Jharel Cotton and Carlos Frias, the 2013 edition was more about the trip itself and the events surrounding the game.
Sunday was an adventure, as I wanted to find a place to watch Game 5 of the NBA Finals. I stumbled upon (and by stumbled upon, I mean, looked up on Google Maps) a nice bar called Lucky’s, which provided me with some excellent Fish and Chips and a great beer called Curmudgeon, which is incidentally from Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids.
The Midwest League spared no expense, putting us up in the Crowne Plaza, which included a mini-frig in our rooms and you can put six packs of bee….soda in it.
Monday night featured a block party and a concert from a Jimmy Buffett cover band. I have no words.
The lead-up to the actual game on Tuesday included a Home Run Derby that featured Joe Winker’s younger brother, Jesse, who was hitting in front of his home fans in Dayton. Jesse is the No. 7 prospect in the Reds farm system. The younger Winker did not disappoint, leading all hitters with 10 homers and leading the Eastern Division to a victory in the Derby.
With baseball luminaries Joe Morgan, who I accidentally interrupted during one of his conversations with a member of the Dayton front office, and George Foster in the house, along with a “celebrity” that made the blogger a little sick, the 49th edition of the Midwest League All-Star Game did not disappoint.
The West took an early lead, scoring two runs in the second inning. The East scored four in the fifth to regain the lead and added another in the seventh.
With the end looming, the West got their first three runners on in the top of the ninth. This was the point where the writers on deadline started to get nervous. It didn’t help that certain people (might have been me) made a glib comment about going to extra innings after the first two guys got on base.
Cedar Rapids shortstop Niko Goodrum (surprisingly not signed to an endorsement deal by Captain Morgan) hit a two-run single and Kane County outfielder Bijan Racemacher scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, the East got runners to the corners with one out. Dayton shortstop Zach Vincej beat out a double play to keep the game alive and with two outs, Lansing outfielder Dalton Pompey hit a 3-2 pitch up the middle to score Brandon Drury to win the game.
Loons All-Star Tyler Ogle went 0-for-2, with a strikeout and a groundout, but had two solid at-bats, working a full count in both of his plate appearances. See Ogle’s postgame interview here, along with a photo gallery from the game here.
All in all, it was a great trip. Thanks Dayton for an excellent Midsummer Classic. See you next year in Comstock Park!
The 2013 Midwest League All-Star Game is now just one week away. Next Tuesday, June 18, the best that the Midwest League has to offer (that are not injured or promoted) will gather in Dayton, Ohio for this year’s version of the Midwest Midsummer Classic.
The Loons are sending two players to Dayton: Carlos Frias and Tyler Ogle. They had a third in Jharel Cotton, but he has been sent up to Double-A Chattanooga. From the Nest will have more coverage next week on the actual game and festivities. For now, let’s take a look at the city of Dayton itself.
Almost anybody that has driven from Michigan to Florida along I-75 has gone through Dayton, a city sometimes known as the “birthplace of aviation” because the Wright Brothers, two of the city’s more famous denizens, did something with making airplanes or something. But there is more to Dayton than just people passing through on their way to warmer climates.
Dayton was founded in 1796 and has been built around the Great Miami River in central Ohio. It’s the sixth largest city in Ohio, but with almost 800,000 residents in the metropolitan area, it has the fourth biggest metro area in the state.
Dayton has produced a lot of people that went on to success, fame and fortune. Along with the Wright Bros, the city has produced Roger Clemens, Chris Collinsworth, Kirk Herbstreit, Brady Hoke, Dan Patrick and Martin Sheen, along with countless others.
Even though the population of Dayton has been declining since the 1960s, it turns out the Dayton is pretty vital to the economy of Ohio. Site Selection ranked it as the No. 1 medium-sized metropolis in the U.S. for economic development in 2008 and 2009. Bloomberg Businessweek has said for several years that Dayton is one of the best places in the country for the college grads looking for a job (Intern Matt in a few months). The biggest industries in Dayton are aerospace and aviation technology, exports and healthcare.
Mike-sells, the oldest potato chip company in the U.S. is in Dayton. The city also hosts the “First Four” of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament…March Madness to the layman. Dayton has hosted more tournament games than any other active venue. That’s as good of an excuse as any to play “One Shining Moment,” one of the staples of the tournament and one of my favorite things to watch every year.
The University of Dayton and Wright State are both in the city. Dayton’s mascot is the Flyers and Wright State is the Raiders. UD is the large private school in the state and has the only accredited law school in the area. Wright State has the only medical school in the area. Sinclair Community College in Dayton is also the largest community college at a single location in Ohio. Forbes ranked Dayton as the 10th best metro area in America for higher education in 2009.
One of the questions on our “Get to Know Your Loons” feature this season is what is each players favorite city to go on road trips. Every single player thus far has said Dayton, Ohio. Even though it’s in Ohio (lol jk), players in the Midwest League love going to Dayton. Fifth Third Field is top of the line, Dragons fans pack the place every night (seriously, every night) and the city is fun.
It’s worth making the trip next week if you can find a couple tickets. If not, From the Nest will be there every step of the way. Or fans can always keep up by checking in on any one of the Loons social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). See you in The Gem City next week!
We’re already nearing the end of May and schools will soon be out for the summer! The Loons season is in full swing at Dow Diamond and many of you may be thinking of coming out to a game for the first time in 2013.
Before you do come out, FTN wants to tell you about a few things that you may not have seen at Dow Diamond in past Loons seasons.
Nothing says summer time better than a Summer Shandy at a ball game. This season, the Loons are offering a wide-array of new beverages around the stadium. One place you will be able to get these drinks is at the new “Leinie Lodge.” Adirondack chairs and corn hole games are located on the concourse along the first-base line near Lou E’s Lookout at the Leinie Lodge, where you can enjoy some bottled Leinenkugel’s beer, maybe with some souvenir peanuts.
MAC MAC MAC GONE
Sure, everybody loves a hot dog or bratwurst at the ballpark, but how about a different American classic to change up your baseball palette. At the “Mac Mac Mac Gone” stand located behind Section 107, the Loons offer macaroni and cheese as a main dish which is sure to excite both young fans and long-time visitors to Dow Diamond. But it doesn’t stop at just plain mac n’ cheese; we’ve got some flavors that will throw your taste buds for a loop, including BLT, Pizza and Veggie, Chicken Enchilada and Lobster (!). You’ve got to try it!
With so much happening at Dow Diamond during a Loons game, wouldn’t it be helpful if everything you needed to know was all in one place? Now it is with the new free Loons Boomaphone App for Apple and Android devices. You can customize the app so it fits your baseball experience. Promotions, player stats and bios, or contests, whatever it is that you like, the app can give it to you. You can also participate in things happening during the game. Guess winners, sign-up for contests and even get coupons sent right to your phone. Using Twitter, fans call also send photos, answer trivia questions and request a song to be played by the Loons production staff! This is the ultimate tool that every Loons fan should have.
A lot of sporting events has a 50/50 raffle. With the help of the Michigan Baseball Foundation, so do the Loons. But instead of going home with just a couple hundred bucks (pshaw), you’ll have the chance to win a whole lot more than that if you’re chosen as the participant. During the bottom of the sixth inning at each Loons home game, you’ll hear public address announcer Jerry O’Donnell introduce the contestant for the Miller Lite Grand Slam Inning. If the Loons get the bases loaded in that inning, and someone hits a grand slam, the lucky participant will take home $5,000! You can sign up at guest services along the first-base line, or on the Loons Boomaphone App.
Growing up in the household that I did, it was inevitable that I was going to like sports. Now, did I think I would end up working for a baseball team? Not exactly.
I’m Matt and this season, I have the opportunity to be involved with Los Angeles Dodgers Single-A affiliate, your Great Lakes Loons. I’ll be your Communications Intern for the summer. Now, I’m from Grand Rapids, but as a senior at nearby Central Michigan University, I’ve begun to adopt the Loons as my hometown team.
What I hope to tell you all about is the stuff that you don’t normally hear. There won’t be quotes from our manager or players. This is me, telling you what I always wanted to hear about a baseball team. It will be what you don’t get a chance to see. An inside look at what happens in the underbelly of Dow Diamond and how everything gets done at the Loons.
For me, things began with the nerve-racking interview process, just as it does with any job. You have the bearded gem that is Chris Mundhenk, our Vice President of Marketing and Entertainment, and the hard-to-read Steve Livingston, our Communications Manager, sitting across the conference room table from you. You want the job, and you need to do everything in your non-physical power to tell them that.
Luckily, after a couple of interviews and an anxious weekend of waiting, I was able to answer a phone call that had some good news on the other end.
I had been with the team no more than a handful of days and we were in the midst of our preseason crunch before the 2013 season was to get underway. At this point, you want to learn as much about the team that you can in as little time possible.
I was introduced to what seems like hundreds of people, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll remember one or two at the most. Chris and Steve walked me through the hallways underneath the stadium, by the batting cages (which made me have flashbacks of spring break during high school before the baseball season started), and up to the suites where I would be working for the summer.
It was a little overwhelming at first, trust me.
But, I also began to realize that a baseball organization is not much different than any other place you might work. People debate whether country music is listenable, you hear a conversation about how Michigan is going break down Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and you might even get lucky when your boss buys you pizza for lunch on a Friday. Everyone is a person just like anywhere else. Sometimes, when it comes to sports, no matter the level, we tend to forget that.
It’s only been a month since I’ve come on board, but I have loved every minute of it. Baseball has been a big part of my life since I was a little kid. I never thought I would have the chance to actually work for a team, but here I am.
AND DON’T FORGET! Be sure to interact with us here in the nest, on Facebook and on Twitter. We all want to hear from you. What do you want to know about the Loons? What about Dow Diamond? Anything at all about us, you be sure to let us know.