Loons Year in Review: 2011

In hopes of creating some kind of Loons tradition, From the Nest has decided to once again present its faithful readers and Loons-lovers everywhere with a ‘Year in Review’ post. The Loons 72-67 overall record might not be as sparkling as those turned in from previous years and, of course, missing the playoffs was a bummer, but 2011 truly did give us some spectacular highlights along the way. It’s those special summer days at Dow Diamond we want to remember. So nestle into a comfy chair somewhere with a laptop and your nicest nog, and let From the Nest take you back to remember the season that was, 2011.

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LOONS

In January of 2011, the Great Lakes Loons received word that their three-year manager Juan Bustabad and his trusted mustache both received well-deserved promotions to Rancho Cucamonga. Congrats again Busty! As a result, the Great Lakes Bay Region started mentally preparing for a new skipper to lead the Loons team in the upcoming season. The man taking over was John Shoemaker, mustache-free.

After a quick look to Shoemaker’s bio in the Dodgers media guide, which revealed a Camelback Ranch Coordinator with more than 30 years in the organization (detailed here), we knew the 2011 Loons would be in good hands.

To ease into the managerial transition, the Loons invited the skipper we affectionately came to know as ‘Shoe’ out to the park in January. The timing was perhaps a little cruel given the weather, but he ablidged.  After being fitted into a Loons jersey he took the floor and promised a fun season of Loons baseball ahead. And that it was!

The Top 10 Loons Games of 2011
For a detailed recap of the top ten games (listed below), click the link above.

1. ‘Akins’ Moonshot Winner’ – 7.21
2. ‘Loons Use the Force’ – 8.20
3. ‘A Slamming End to the Season’ – 9.4
4. ‘No Regular Human’ – 7.22
5. ‘Patterson’s All-Star Delivery’ – 6.18
6. ‘One for All the Mothers’ – 5.8
7. ‘Tolleson’s Last Trick’ – 5.11
8. ‘Lou E’s Big Top Loontacular’ – 7.23
9. ‘Third Time’s A Charm’ – 5.21
10. ‘Reigning in the Rain’ – 8.2

The Best Nicknames in the Clubhouse

1. ‘Viper’ – Steve Cilladi
2. ‘The Bodyguard’ – Raul Burgos
3. ‘Pistol’ – Pete Budkevics
4. ‘Red’ – Red Patterson
5. ‘Neon Leon’ – Leon Landry
6. ‘Cheesy’ – Angel Sanchez
7. ‘Boz’ – Jesse Bosnik
8. ‘Goldy’ &  ‘Gouldy Locks’ – Garrett Gould
9. ‘El Capitan’ – Christian Lara
10. ‘Shoe’ – John Shoemaker
11. ‘Z-Lee’ or ‘Money’ – Zach Lee
12. ‘Doe’ – Steve Domecus
13. ‘Big Mike’ – Michael Pericht
14. ‘Big Chris’ – Chris Jacobs
15. ‘P-Money’ – Preston Mattingly
16. ‘Yung Joc’ – Joc Pederson
17. ‘Deano’ – Blake Dean
18. ‘ Hendo’ – Chris Henderson
19. ‘Tolly’ – Shawn Tolleson
20. ‘Pevs’ – Andrew Pevsner
21. ‘Monty’ – Bret Montgomery

Notable Loons Fads for 2011:

While the team submitted a great movement towards the resurgence of uniform stirrups socks, 2011 was more-so identified as the ‘Year of the Mullet’. The origins trace back to February 14, when the Loons promotional staff officially announced that ESPN Hockey Analyst Barry Melrose would be making an appearance at Dow Diamond as a part of MidMichigan Health’s Red Wings Legends Series.

The revolution didn’t really take hold until Loons pitchers Garrett Gould and Ryan Christenson decided to grow the rugs themselves, reaching their performance peak on the mound at the Midwest League All-Star Game (highlighted here). The circle was finally complete on Thursday, August 25 when Mr. Melrose was photographed with his fan club after throwing out the first pitch. Here he is with Bret Montgomery, Garrett Gould and Andrew Pevsner.

Loons Fashion Stats:

Continuing the style thread, the Loons introduced a fourth home jersey to their wardrobe in 2011. These Dodger-blues were worn at every Tuesday home game throughout the season as a part of the Loons ‘Dodgers Route of Champions Nights’. The Loons went 1-5 on the six nights they wore the blues.

Looking to expand our reach to the fashion bloggers, we decided to keep tabs on the other jerseys as well. Here are the stats. The Loons played their best wearing their original home digs, the whites, finishing with a 26-18 record. The next-best jersey color was the alternate red jersey, introduced with the third logo in 2010, finishing the season at .500 with a 6-6 record. In third were the black BP jerseys at 3-5, which makes the newest blue button-ups the fourth-place finisher in 2011 at 1-5.

Going the extra step, our crack team of researchers came up with the following stat: which starting pitcher did the best in each of the four home jerseys. The findings are as follows: Angel Sanchez, 5-1 in white; Garrett Gould, 1-0 in blue; Ryan Christenson, 2-0 in red; and Red Patterson, 2-0 in black.

I’m not saying that team managers should coordinate their jerseys according to who their starting pitcher is, but in a way, that’s kind of what I’m saying. Moneyball.

Similarly, in the three games the Loons wore special wristbands (pink on Mother’s Day, yellow on Armed Forces Day, and green on Not-Quite-Halfway-to-St-Pattys Day) the team was 3-0. The team holds all-time wristband record of 4-0. I think this is enough data to push through my request for a season of 70 unique wristbands. Fingers crossed.

Celebrating Five Years

On August 26 of 2006, the Great Lakes Bay Region was first introduced to the Great Lakes Loons team name, logos, merchandise and team ambassador: Lou E. Loon.

Prior to the game on August 26 of 2011, the team announced the beginning of a year-long 5th Anniversary Celebration. The announcement was complemented with the unveiling of the Loons 5th Anniversary marks (pictured), the plans of creating a 5th Anniversary Loons team (as selected by the fans), and other yet-to-be-revealed special announcements. The Loons will continue the celebration into the 2012 season.

The Heart of the Loons

While winning baseball games is one way the Loons can achieve great results, the best way is by creating regional economic development and supporting local youth organizations through grants, which is the central mission of the Michigan Baseball Foundation.

In 2011, the Michigan Baseball Foundation and the Great Lakes Loons awarded 37 grants totaling $105,108 to local non-profit organizations. This brings the four-year total to $405,698 distributed to 12 different counties of the Great Lakes Bay Region through 125 grants.

The Loons have also partnered with sponsors to give back to the region through unique game-related efforts. For additional information on the Michigan Baseball Foundation, click here.

The Face of Winners

Finally, we’ll end the ‘Loons’ portion of this super-post the way we wish every Loons game would finish: with shaving cream pies!

I love how, after his walk-off and unavoidable pie pursuit, Nick Akins took a moment to sign autographs before heading in for the night (bottom left).

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FANS

Many times, the late-inning rallies that lead to walk-off wins and shaving cream pies are prompted by our great Loons fans, who in the spirit of the game, chant rally cries and urge on the team. But while our more-focused fans are keeping their eyes on the outcome of game, their kids are the ones out discovering the real fun at Dow Diamond.

Believe it or not, this water-park environment featuring swim trucks and flip-flops isn’t Michigan Adventure or Zehnder’s Splash Village, but rather the splash zone at Dow Diamond on Super Splash Day, presented by the Midland Community Center. And sure enough, this little one has a lock-down on one of the best seats in the house.

It’s not everyday you get to meet one of baseball’s legends. But this summer, Dodger-great Tommy Lasorda payed a special visit to Dow Diamond, where this little girl got a picture she would cherish forever. Mostly because it would allow her to never forget how good that blue cake icing was.

These talented young baseball prospects participated in the new-to-2011 Loons Summer Baseball Camps. The campers received two days of baseball instruction from Loons manager John Shoemaker and Loons players before being recognized on the field with their fresh new tees. For more info about the Loons Summer Baseball Camps, contact Patti Tuma at 989-837-BALL.

Spider-Boy meets his idol on Super Hero Day at Dow Diamond. Spider Man went the extra mile to make the moment a bit more special by autographing his young protoge’s neck. He may also have been showing him how to properly fashion his mask so that his identity is never revealed. Except by mom.

Following a few of the Loons games this season, fans were greeted by the hollowed-plastic rat-a-tat of the Chicago Bucket Boys. Again, our youngest fans knew exactly how to maximize the experience: by hot-stepping to the beat!

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DOW DIAMOND

Home of the Loons and one of the Great Lakes Bay Region’s most-visited summer destinations, Dow Diamond is a place we all consider home. Built in 2006, the park is always changing, and here are the most recent additions.

Introducing the Great Lakes Reserve, presented by Chemical Bank.

Construction on the Great Lakes Reserve, presented by Chemical Bank, were announced on August 26th in conjunction with the Loons 5th Anniversary Celebration. The Reserve is Dow Diamond’s first major capital improvement that encompasses the entire suite level, featuring a full-service bar (pictured) that serves as the centerpiece. Improvements like the Great Lakes Reserve are made possible through the continued support of fans attending Loons games and special events at Dow Diamond, as well as individuals and organizations supporting the Michigan Baseball Foundation. For a fun photo album displaying the transformation of the area, click here.


Another addition in 2011 was one coordinated by Dow Chemical, who built the Dow Founder’s Garden just outside the stadium near the Rail Trail in order to commemorate the legacy of company founder Herbert H. Dow. The garden is open to the public during normal park hours and is touched by park lighting at night. Here are a couple of photos.

In October, the visitor’s clubhouse at Dow Diamond was transformed into a Michigan Blood donation center. While the clubhouse is only a temporary location, the Michigan Baseball Foundation, the Dow Chemical Company and Michigan Blood announced a partnership to create a permanent donation center at the park. Construction will begin in 2012.

We started the season with five former Loons on display in the Route of Champions Hallway next to the Loons clubhouse. By the time the season concluded, there were 12. Joining the wall in 2011 was Loons slugger Jerry Sands (’10), outfielder Trayvon Robinson (’07), shortstop Dee Gordon (’09), and pitchers Javy Guerra (’09), Rubby De La Rosa (’10), Josh Lindblom (’08) and Nathan Eovaldi (’09). Congrats guys!

Also, a very special congrats to the first former Loon to reach the big leagues, Clayton Kershaw, who won the 2011 N.L. Cy Young Award for his 21-5 record, 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts. For more on his great achievement, see here. And if you didn’t catch it, he made FTN’s year-end header.

Notable 2011 First Pitches

First Row (L to R): 109-year-old local Violet Smith on Opening Day (more here); Loons Booster Club President, Chuck Servinski; Dollar the Squirrel from Chemical Bank; Sgt. Kyle Hollinshead; 1962 N.L. MVP Maury Wills. Second Row: National Guard Specialist David Schultz; cross-country anthem singer Joe Price (who visited 100 parks this summer); Dodger-great Steve Yeager; 100-year-old local Hazel Waymus; Red Wings Legend Darren McCarty (who took part in a Loons BP session). Third Row: Dave Prybyski, in honor of his father Dan Prybyski, a Loons employee and Midland Community Leader; the Nouvel Catholic Cougar; WIOG’s Demas; Red Wings Legend and ESPN Hockey analyst Barry Melrose; boy scout Logan Severance. Fourth Row: Emperor Palpatine, backed by Darth Vader; Red Wings Legend Mickey Redmond; the OU Twirler Megan McGeary; Santa Claus; Dodger-great Ramon Martinez. Fifth Row: twin cornea recipients, Madison and Malia Nichols; US Navy Chief Marty Thompson; visitor Fernando Popking; Loons pitcher Ryan Christenson’s sister; the Amazing Spider Man (a lefty).

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PROMOTIONS

In part of our summer-long efforts to have fun at the park, we’re always looking for new ways to encourage a smile. Lucky for us, the Loons promotions department are doctors when it comes to prescribing good times. Here were 2011′s new on-fields.

First up is Smitty’s Sumo Smackdown presented by Smitty’s Iron Works. A simple contest really, just be the sumo wrestler with the best smackdown (as judged by the audience) to win. A tip for future players: flexing pre-smack actually goes a long way in establishing your fan base.

The Tri-County Equipment Gator Races were a promotional hit this season, putting wannabee racers into the seat of a youth-size 12-volt, two-speed gator racer. For the promo, contestants race around the cones in the outfield, swap out the keys with their partner in waiting, and then head down the stretch. I think the best races were those taken off the beaten path.

Ahh…the always hilarious J.E. Johnson Pony Races, featuring star race ponies: Sandy Coldfax, Heater, and Oprah Winfreeze. Not every race features a contestant winning by a nose, but you can always anticipate at least one horse breaking a leg and one contestant eating some grass.

Another interesting on-field took place near the end of the 2011 season. Eight contestants battled in feats of strength throughout the night, before the last one standing took on local gym owner ‘Smitty’ in a gator pull from the outfield to first base. Using his natural height as leverage, Kevin Ramsey of Port Hope, defeated Smitty for the grand prize: a year-long membership to Smitty’s Iron Works. To be fair, Smitty had the outside lane, a heavier load, and less need for a gym membership.

One of our favorite parts of promotional theme nights is the opportunity it provides our staff and fans to dress up in costumes. Here are the Top-Five Costumes from 2011.

#5. While it may be an incredible task to lift an A-frame above your head, the No. 5 spot goes to Marketing & Promo intern Matt Hoffman for his homemade costume of Underdog (on Super Hero Night).

#4. The Scooby-Doo Mystery Crew (on Halloween Night), as played by Marketing Promo intern Drew Piescke, Group Sales Manager Jessie Olpere, Matt Hoffman again (who just loves dog costumes), and Communications Manager and team blogger Alex Wassel (face-time at last!).

#3. Loons staffer and Lou E. Loon’s best friend Amanda Beson as Mariyln Monroe (on Hollywood Night).

#2. Director of Corporate Partnerships Emily Schafer as the Bearded Lady (on Circus Night) accompanied by Tiger Boy Drew Piescke.

#1. Loons section leader Colleen Fodo as Jim Tressel after his forced resignation and the Loons Assistant GM of Retail Operations and Guest Services Ann Craig as ‘Snooki’s mom’ (on Halloween Night).

Notable Goofy Head Shots from the Video Board

Another perk to theme nights is that they often create the opportunity for our Assistant GM of Production and Entertainment, Chris Lones, to create funny head shots that not only use advanced Photoshopping, but also clever twists on player names. Having all intentions to select a Top 5, there were just too many good ones from which to choose. Therefore, here’s a collage. Click the image to make larger.

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WHY RAINY DAYS AT DOW DIAMOND SHINE

The following photos are From the Nest‘s effort to once again help debunk a common misconception in Minor League Baseball, which is: if the weather is poor, the experience will be too. I implore that is NOT the case at Dow Diamond! Check it out.

One Loon who doesn’t retreat to the dugout during rain delays is Lou E. Loon. Instead, the big bird is always looking for ways to best share these unique moments. Just remember to bring a bigger umbrella if you want to stay dry too.

For being a water-dwelling bird, Lou was quite embarrassed when he slipped on the wet grass one Sunday afternoon while trying to chase one of the Loons players with a loaded water-cannon. After a quick precautionary check-up with the Loons Athletic Trainer Pete Houdek, Lou was back on the chase.

Believe it or not, after this 20-minute torrential downpour that was mixed with hail, the Loons were able to finish their Sunday May 22 afternoon game against the South Bend Silver Hawks. In 70 home games last season, only one game was rescheduled due to relentless rain.

Besides watching Lou E. thrive in the wet environment, rainy days provide other rare sights that are quite entertaining. At first, the players will try and continue play through the lighter initial rain. Then if things pick up, fans will witness the always adventurous tarp pulls. And then finally, the grounds crew uses their magical powers to return the field to a playable condition.

Every so often, Lou will soak his target. Then he runs away a happy bird.

When it’s below freezing, the rain looks a little different. This photo was taken in March, far too close to the season for our liking. Nevertheless, the Loons grounds crew quickly got to work removing the snow and had the field in tip-top shape for Opening Day.

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MISCELLANY

Categories are nice, but some photos just don’t lend themselves to such organization. Therefore here is a catch-all section to corral the outliers.

You can’t create a super-post without using a picture of the great expert of team motivation, Rall E Camel. So here is the ungulate, making his way down Main Street at the Opening Day Parade.

Fond of nests, Lou E. looks confused as ever when it comes to helping these kids pitch a tent for the Boyscout Sleepover Night. Luckily some Eagles Scouts were on hand to get the job done.

During the Loons preseason Meet and Greet at Big E’s, it became a difficult task to pull infielder Blake Dean away from the hunting game in the corner of the bar.

You never know who you might see walking around the concourse at Dow Diamond. Here is Lou E. with NBA star Jason Richardson. I’m not sure if Jason requested this photo or not, but he is holding the rubber chicken.

The pair of pictures here display shots from the field. First is Loons manager John Shoemaker, accompanied by a patriotic Farm Bureau Bat Kid. The second is a fun shot of the Loons promotions interns slinging Loons tees to the beckoning crowd.

During a Loons game, left-handed pitcher Ryan Christenson takes comfort in this rubberized dugout totem.

At first glance, it appears that Loons first baseman Chris Jacobs has just slugged the opposing Fort Wayne player. But really Jacobs collided with the TinCap after going up for a high toss to first base.

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Well. That about does it. Wraps her all up. In retrospect, another great year of entertainment turned in by the Great Lakes Loons. Thanks for reading and…

Still craving more from the Loons? Check out the 2010 edition of this post here.

4 Comments

Pingback: Fractions, Reflections, and Farewells « Ben's Biz Blog

Good Job………

Great post! Being a Dodger fan it’s fun to see where some of our future stars may come from.

I like your site. Thanks for your note from Twitter. I had trouble reopdnsing with an e-mail, so I thought I’d respond here. Where did you get your link/logs for facebook/twitter/rss and e-mail? I’d like to do something similar on my site sfdodgerfan.com. I’m also curious how you do with your google ads. Please e-mail at scott@sfdodgerfan.com. Thanks.

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