Loons Year in Review: 2012

lhif

For the third consecutive year, Loons blog From the Nest has wrapped its final gift of the holiday season in this ‘Year in Review’ super-post. The following scroll of lists, photos, and animated gifs (new this year!) will take you back to your favorite seat at Dow Diamond, highlighting all the special memories from 2012 and the moments you may have missed. So sit back and get your pointer finger ready to descend this triumphant post (which looks beautiful on mobile/iPad devices btw) as we give one final round of applause to the year that was, 2012.

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LOONS

The team entered the season in the middle of its 5th Anniversary Celebration, which launched in August 2011. Perhaps not wanting to out-do the Loons teams before them, the 2012 squad turned in a modest overall record of 67-73. The mark ranked 4th all-time in team history, led by outfielder Scott Schebler (pictured) who logged the most games played in a single season by a Loon. More records here.

Loons12

The Top 10 Loons Games of 2012

A detailed recap of the most exciting Loons home games of the season (listed below).

1. ‘Rain Dancing for Rallies’ – 5.27
2. ‘Akins Echoes 2011′ – 8.7
3. ‘Sanchez’s Spotless Seven’ – 7.2
4. ‘The Sweet Sixteenth’ – 5.16
5. ‘Joe’s Birthday Bash’ – 8.28
6. ‘The See-Saw Slugfest’ – 8.23
7. ‘Win Number Five-Zero’ – 7.25
8. ‘Dickson Delivers’ – 8.13
9. ‘Shut Outs & Sell Outs’ – 9.1
10. ‘Slugging the Luggies’ – 5.27

Notable Loons Fads for 2012:

bullpen

Silly bands? Stirrup socks? Mullets? Not this year. The Loons kept it pretty straight-forward when it came to leaning on style to improve their game. Instead, it was the Loons relief pitchers who took care of the club’s superstitions, transforming their bullpen area into an ever-growing shelter for baseball totems.

It started innocently enough, with Ryan O’Sullivan and company naming themselves the ‘Loon Squad’ and creating the black bands and the Lotsa Fun Looning It acronym. Petey the penguin was next to arrive, who would appear when the first reliever entered the game. The ‘pen would place the plush totem over a baseball to signify Petey protecting the ‘egg’ or the zero on the scoreboard.

After that, there was no turning back. Upon the departure of founding Loons Squad member Jason West, the boy statue emerged as a tribute. Many of the Loons said the statue resembled West. Then other obscure objects appeared like the apple-looking plush on the Powerade can above, to which we have no explanation. And finally, the Disney Princess backpack doubled as the perfect totem tote.

Celebrating Five Years:

During the season, as a part of the 5th Anniversary celebration, the Loons announced the 5th Anniversary All-Time Team, which was assembled via fan vote prior to the season. The team included a stellar line-up, like the first big-league Loon, Clayton Kershaw (who also became the first Loon to write a book in 2012), Midwest League MVPs Dee Gordon and Kyle Russell, and our favorite mustachioed manager Juan Bustabad. The team was recognized with banners on the outfield speaker poles and with this poster giveaway, presented by F.P. Horak.

att

In addition, the Loons production staff created Top Ten highlight reels from each of the Loons first five seasons. Here is the video for 2010 (the year From the Nest debuted).

For videos of the other four years visit here.

Bracket Busters:

While the 2012 Loons did not make the playoffs, two Loons did spend part of the summer competing in a different kind of tournament bracket. Minor League Baseball’s front office must really love the college basketball postseason, because their brainchild ‘Moniker Madness’ follows the same model, pitting 64 minor league players with funny names against each other until one is crowned champion via extended fan voting periods.

bracket

This year, the Loons were represented by Texas Tech product Duke von Schamann, who qualified as a one-seed in the Farmer Works bracket. He highlighted the lowercase ‘v’ in his name to beat out Staten Island’s Danny Oh in the first round and Sacramento’s Kila Ka’aihue in the second, but the Schamann couldn’t escape the force that was Rock Shoulders. Nevertheless, Duke can hold his head high after making it to the Sweet 16, knowing that he lost to the eventual champion. Congrats Mr. Shoulders. Click here for the full bracket of names.

The other Loon making the cut for some friendly bracket-busting was non-other than Lou E. Loon! MiLB.com debuted Mascot Mania this season and Louis had some tough competition. The Ambassador of Fun made quick work of his first round opponent, Indianapolis’ Rowdie, before taking down Lexington’s Big L. In the Sweet 16, Lou knocked out the West Michigan Whitecaps River Rascal to advance to the Elite 8. Unfortunately that’s where the road ended for everyone’s favorite bird, who lost to Beloit’s Snappy D. We’ll get ‘em next year Lou. Here’s the bracket.

Joe Winker, the Loons Hero:

CMM

It was the song of the summer and you better believe that the sweet sounds of Carly Rae Jepsen would have resounded at Dow Diamond all season without Joe, but probably only once per game, and in rare cases, sometimes not at all. You see, Loons All-Star first baseman Joe Winker came through in the clutch for the 259,160 fans that came to a Loons game this summer by designating ‘Call Me Maybe’ as his walk-up song for the year.

The bold move, which received a lot of flack from his teammates, guaranteed that the song would play at least three times per game (which was not enough in April, just right in June, and probably a little worn in August). Nevertheless, the song selection is one that deserves a lot of credit, and for that Joe Winker, YOU are the Loons hero of the year. Congrats sir.

Celeb Status:

votto

The white buffalo occasions of minor league baseball are when a prominent star of Major League baseball picks up the pine at your minor league ballpark. And while no former MLB All-Stars came through Dow Diamond on rehab assignments this season, the Loons did get to go toe-to-toe with one Joey Votto (talking with manager John Shoemaker above) on August 29 & 31 in Dayton. The Loons held Joey Bats to one hit in four at-bats over the two-game stretch, but the big leaguer did draw two walks and netted a sacrifice fly.

fsdgirls

So Dayton may have gotten to see Joey Votto, which is pretty cool and all, but we know what they didn’t get to see: the Fox Sports Detroit girls! That’s right, Alison and Lauren made their first outing to Dow Diamond this summer and actually only visit sports venues in Michigan. Sorry Ohio, but not really. Look for these two again in 2013.

mccarty

The Loons have found their way to the national spotlight in each of the last three years, first gaining momentum from comedian John Caparulo on Late Night with Chelsea Lately in 2010, then the Violet Smith phenomenon of 2011, and now the Loons mark has graced the highly reputable cable television network, TruTV. Prior to the 2012 season, our friend and former Red Wings instigator Darren McCarty was seen repping his Loons hat on the popular show, Hardcore Pawn.  While they blurred out the logo in the segment, no one can deny his enthusiasm for the Loons. Or fair trade. Watch the clip here.

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DOW DIAMOND

DowDiamond12

There she is, six seasons down and still capable of striking a pose that takes your breath away. Dow Diamond has hosted nearly 500 baseball games in its first six years and has held 600+ events. In 2012, Dow Diamond received the title of Michigan’s Best Ballpark in this ranking by web publication Stadium Venture, beating out the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park.

dow-diamond-reserve

But the fun part about Dow Diamond is that it’s always changing as it serves as the Michigan Baseball Foundation’s main avenue in which to stem economic growth in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The 2012 season was the first allowing fans to enjoy the Great Lakes Reserve presented by Chemical Bank, constructed over the offseason. The upgrade made use of the Loons upstairs space, converting the area into 24 additional seats, sliding glass doors, and a full-service bar acting as the centerpiece.

solar

On October 22, the Great Lakes Loons announced plans to enhance the facilities and operation’s sustainability efforts, issuing forth a goal to reduce water usage, energy usage and waste by 50% by the year 2020. Partnering in the initiative are sustainability leaders The Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning Corporation, who have selected members of their operations to assist the Loons as they brainstorm sustainable ideas to activate at Dow Diamond as they move towards their ambitious goal. Loons fans can track the team’s annual progress here.

blood-opening

In conjunction with opening week of the season, Michigan Blood became the fourth business (after MBF, Loons, and ESPN 100.9-FM) to open office space at Dow Diamond. In a partnership agreement with MBF, the Great Lakes Loons, and the Dow Chemical Company, Michigan Blood opened up a donation center at the park, replacing the long-time center on Dow’s campus. The blood center, located on the third base side of the stadium’s exterior, is open weekdays year round and accepts walk ups.

demo

And as of December 3, construction has started on Midland’s ‘East End’ development, which will serve as Dow Diamond’s newest neighbor. The first phase will feature a 212,612-square-foot, four-story building that will include business offices, a wellness center, medical space and restaurants. The project plans to have tenants move into the new building in the first quarter of 2014. Watch the construction as it happens on this webcam, updated every 12 minutes.

Kiss the Rain:

curling

As Billie Myers once said, “Kiss the rain / Whenever I’m gone too long”, which is the exact mentality Loons fans take when the rain appears and sends the players into the clubhouse. The fans aren’t discouraged, but embrace the weather, because they know how much fun Loons rain delays can be! And this year’s game on May 27, ranked above as the best game of 2012, can also claim the title of best rain delay ever. If you haven’t seen the video, do yourself a favor and just press play.

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PROMOTIONS

If baseball is the peanut butter, then onfield promotions are the jelly of every minor league baseball operation, and we here at the Loons are always trying to think of the next greatest in-between-inning loontacular. This year, we added a couple to the fold along with one big surprise from Arizona.

leps

This season, the promotions team rediscovered the effortless fun of ‘Angry Birds’ and decided to manifest the popular smartphone game in a little promotion called: Launchin’ Leprechauns, presented by Bennigan’s. It worked very much the same way as the mobile game, but instead of birds, one fan and his two frightening leprechaun friends would shoot lucky charms at the nearby tower, with the hopes of knocking off the pot of gold at the top.

hamster

Much to the delight of Loons fans everywhere, the hamster balls returned to the soft field at Dow Diamond for the first time since 2009, inflating for the Bucks Run Hole in One Challenge. Two contestants started in the outfield and raced to the the pin near home plate. The first to sink their giant golf ball in the cup won a great prize from Bucks Run Golf Club and the Great Lakes Loons.

It’s Rall E Time!:

It all started with this video of a box and a dangerously believable press release (seriously, we got a call from the coast guard).

A series of four more videos followed, chronicling Lou E.’s attempts to keep a lid on the situation, as the packing instructions specifically stated not to open until the Loons Opening Day.

Finally on Monday, April 9, the box was paraded through downtown and dropped on the field just before the national anthem. Because Lou E. was the most curious about the box’s contents, we let him do the honors.

RallEintheBox

Immediately there were questions about how a camel would survive in the northern Michigan climates and why he was given a Loons jersey to begin with. Those origin stories, along with some of the best Rall E photos from his first week can be found here. But here are some other great picks from 2012 featuring Lou E.’s newest friend.

pin the tail on Rall EFor Lou E.’s birthday, all of his local friends took turns pinning the tail on Rall E Camel.

Rall E in a tent

“Always Be Prepared.” So the scout motto goes, and this future Eagle Scout is not taking any chances as he packs Rall E into his tent, knowing very well the seven-foot tall dromedary will deliver some quality laughs during the Loons annual Boy Scout Sleepover.

rall-and-rallDuring his daily trip to the grounds crew area to move around some dirt and dream of the desert, Rall E was surprised to come across this little guy, reinforcing the belief that everyone wants a Mini Me.

Rall-E-friendship

Camels like it hot and dry, which isn’t always the forecast in Michigan. Luckily for Rall E, pitcher Ryan O’Sullivan came ready this summer with an umbrella in the bullpen for special moments like this one, which spawned a ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ poster giveaway presented by F.P. Horak. But some of the other pitchers wanted in on the fun, prompting one more photo shoot with Matt Shelton, featuring a special note from Rall E, offering up the phrase of the summer.

Dressing the Part:

Finally, one of my favorite parts of the year-end superpost is going back through all of the theme night photos and staff costumes to create this list of Top Five costumes from the year. Enjoy!

white tiger

#5. While I don’t usually go for the store bought costumes, resting close to seven feet above the ground, the stoic face of this white tiger get-up, as worn by Marketing and Promotions Intern Brock Haymaker (on Circus Night), is undeniable. Well played.

Chesire Cat

#4. Director of Communications Alex Wassel as the Cheshire Cat (on Halloween Night). The blogger has some bias.

costume3

#3. Promotions Manager Matt Hoffman and Marketing and Promotions Intern Andrew Kreger as nerds (on Nerd Night).

adventureland

#2. Director of Communications Alex Wassel as the Games Games Games Guy (or circus carny) from Adventureland (on Circus Night). Now I know, this might appear to be excessive blogger bias, but the fully-functional prop of a turtle-racing carnival game is well worth allowing this costume, and blogger, to get some extra recognition.

batman & robin

#1. Now that Lou E. Loon has his friend Rall E Camel, the full gambit of hero and sidekick costumes await. This year, the two dressed as Batman and Robin (on Superhero Night), much to the pleasure of the several junior crime-fighters in attendance.

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MISC

And now here is the catch-all section as we round third and head towards home in this year’s superpost.

from the heli

Every year on Chemical Bank’s Raining Money Night, a helicopter descends on Dow Diamond to release 2,000 one-dollar bills. This year we wised up to the process and sent our fearless promotions manager up in the air to snap this picture of our favorite sports venue. Pretty neat.

songco-bob

In a pineapple under the sea, Loons outfielder Angelo Songco introduces Baby Songco to Spongebob Squarepants, who was visiting Dow Diamond courtesy of Charter Communications.

louRace

Lou E. Loon reacts to the bugle call from the scoreboard with his racing stance, extra perky after completing his beer-cup tower on top of the dugout.

chicagoboyz

Before they hit the field, the acrobatic troop known as the Chicago Boyz were busy practicing during the game in the shelter area underneath the seating bowl. Our photographer Nick Anderson (responsible for all the photos here) captured the action from below.

balloon-hat

We love our fans. And we love this guy! And his super elaborate balloon hat. The only way this picture could have been better is if his dome was covered, but we’re guessing the people behind him in the upper deck were having trouble seeing the field.

ok

It’s like the Midwest League All-Star MVP O’Koyea Dickson knew something was up, smiling as Reggy the Purple Party Dude mimicked his on-deck ritual pregame with his french-fry hair and a boogie on his nose.

fireworks

One of the best pre-firework entertainment troops that came through Dow Diamond this summer were the high-flying Chicago Boys. Here they are just finishing their acrobatic flips as the Loontacular begins.

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ONE CHAPTER ENDS, A NEW ONE BEGINS

And now, I’ll conclude this year’s piece with a bit of sad/exciting news. With the new year comes new opportunity for your faithful Loons Blogger LoonsWassel; an opportunity that will have me leaving Midland to return to my home state of Tennessee. Indeed, after three years and 100 blog posts on the nose, I will be taking my pen to new endeavors in Minor League Baseball.

Not to fear though Loons fans, From the Nest will continue on, charting the team’s progress and other Michigan curiosities with the same amount of gusto. It just won’t be me behind the wheel. Nevertheless, I trust you’ll be in good hands going forward.

To all the FTN readers, I want to say thanks for all the likes, links, comments and reblogs. This is LoonsWassel, signing off.

salute

2 Comments

The high-light of the year would have to be the Fox Sports Detroit Girls being in Midland! I wish we would have made it to that game. We were at one game against the Whitecaps, though! All the best with the Titans, too.
-Mike

http://minoringinbaseball.com/2012/07/04/were-tiny-were-toony-were-all-a-little-loony/

Wondering if anyone is going to pick this blog back up now that Alex is gone. Kershaw named starting pitcher for the Dodgers for Opening Day…I think that’s good news!
-Mike

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