Results tagged ‘ Lou E. Loon ’

Giving Thanks For a Memorable 2014 Loons Season

Dow Diamond 6,191 RecordWith Thanksgiving upon us, it’s time to shift the focus of this blog from the serious and not-so-serious elements of baseball to even more important matters: We’d like to give thanks.

What follows is a semi-complete list that this blog and the Loons are grateful for. It can never be fully complete, because to list everything and everyone could make for a small novel. Of the many listed here, many more are just as deserving.

So, here’s just an overall ‘Thanks!’ to everyone who has supported our team and efforts in the past year – and years – and know that you’re in our hearts and minds as we enjoy this week of thankfulness.

First, we’d like to give thanks to the 230,019 fans who attended Loons home games last season. You’re the most important piece of a large puzzle, and one of the highlights of 2014 was welcoming our 2-millionth fan to Dow Diamond.
Another fan shot

- Thank you to our social media friends; as of this writing that includes over 6,000 followers on Twitter and over 25,000 on Facebook. We’re always looking to add more!

- Thanks to Loons pitchers, who had a team-record 1,256 strikeouts, which meant a total of $6,280 was donated by Deloitte to K’s for Kids organizations throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.

– A big shout-out of thanks to George Spelius, who retired as president of the Midwest League after 28 seasons. He leaves behind a league that’s strong and vital as ever.

- Thanks to Loons manager Bill Haselman and his coaches, Bill Simas and Johnny Washington. They were always accessible, always patient, even after the tough losses. And they molded a young team that remained in playoff contention right up to the final day of the season.

- Thanks to our grounds crew, masterminded by the incomparable Nick Wolcott, who keep Dow Diamond’s playing surface and surrounding grounds gorgeous. Nick’s field was covered in snow in March, but looking as good as ever by Opening Day.

Loons staff (2)- Thanks to the hundreds of seasonal employees who make every home game possible. A homestand is like hosting a party for several thousand people, several nights in a row, yet it comes together seamlessly thanks to the hard work and energy of the great people who work here every summer.

- Thanks to the City of Midland, an ideal host and partner of this franchise. It’s ranked among the best minor league baseball cities for a reason.

- Thanks to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who’ve been with us for the start and will be with us for at least another two seasons. You’ve sent us a host of future stars, including the likes of three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and 2014 All-Star Dee Gordon. Here’s to a great future.

Lou E Loon- Thanks to the one and only Lou E. Loon, our iconic mascot who attracts a never-ending flock of followers. And to watch him work away from the park – say, in an elementary school classroom – is priceless.

- Thanks to our Voices of the Loons, Brad Golder and Jerry O’Donnell. A Loons game wouldn’t sound the same without Brad describing the action and Jerry’s entertaining and informative P.A. work.

- Thanks to the construction crews for their work in getting West Michigan’s beautiful Fifth Third Ballpark ready for Opening Day following a devastating fire last winter. And it provided the perfect venue for the 2014 Midwest League All-Star game.

- Thanks to the two area leagues who allowed us to stage our “Little League Takeover,” a popular event in which we get to re-create the fun and magic of an actual Loons home game on a smaller scale.

- Thanks to Mother Nature, who sent us only one rainout all season. Yes, it was a cooler than normal summer, but we got all 70 home games in with almost no disruption of the schedule.

Alfonso for blog- Thanks to all the celebrities who were part of Dow Diamond’s entertainment and promotions schedule of 2014. Interacting with Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ was a highlight. A former baseball player and all-around good guy, he warmed up for his first-pitch duties by playing catch in our indoor batting cage, then took a few swings off the batting tee. Fun times.

- Thanks to all of our National Anthem singers and performers who so expertly set the stage for the night ahead. That includes David Kennedy, who’s booming voice and delivery may stay still be ringing over Dow Diamond. The man makes you stop and listen.

- Thanks to the colleagues who sit closest to me: Amber Ferris, Ann Craig, Dave Gomola and Chris Mundhenk. A day never goes by without a few laughs, good-natured teasing, and comments which become potential punch lines.

- Thanks to all the young ballplayers who showed up for our clinics and camps throughout the season. We hope to see you here again in 2015!

- Lastly, but not least, thanks to all of our families and friends, whose support is our lifeblood. May you have a happy, and safe, holiday season.

Bruce Gunther

Loons Fans Top 25 Moments of 2013

Top-25-Moments

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:

Zooperstars---June-2325. 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-offAfter 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.

Mascot Mania

22. Fireworks Loontaculars, powered by Dow CorningFireworks 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.

Capellan-480-321. Jose Capellan’s 6-RBI nightJeremy 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.

SB-Series

Garvey and Taylor both had three hits in a 15-1 win over South Bend on June 8.

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 BankDuring 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-StarLoons 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 appearanceThe 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.

Loons win - Three Rivers, Ayre Rhinehart, Garber, FP Horak, JE Johnson, The H, Michigan Blood, Dow, Chemical Bank, Marriott, Consumers, TV 5, SVSU, Big E's, Fisher, Miller Lite, Warner Norcross & Judd (5)

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.

Julio-Urias-start---July-37. Julio Urias’ start on July 3The 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 debut16-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 NightThe 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.

Loons-clinch---Aug-293. Loons clinch third playoff berth in franchise historyWith 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 HamThe 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.

Corey-Seager

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.

#MascotMania 2013

Mascot Mania

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.

2012-Mascot-Mania-bracket

Last summer, Lou E. Loon, the Loons’ Ambassador of Fun, made it to the Elite 8.

louRaceThe 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.

fsdgirls

Lou E. Loon approves of this message.

Best Opening Day Moments

The Loons Opening Day Celebration Presented by Consumers Energy is just eight days away. Major League Baseball starts their schedule on Sunday night when Matt Harrison and the Rangers head to Minute Maid Park to play Bud Norris and the hapless Houston Astros. The Voice of the Turtle is about to be heard in our land.

There have been a lot of great Opening Day moments through the years, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. Let’s start with the five that just missed the cut:

Honorable Mention

Ruth-Pipp- Fresh off two World Series appearances, the Yankees opened a brand new, start-of-the-art facility against the Boston Red Sox. Babe Ruth hit the first of his 259 home runs at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees won 4-1. Ruth hit third that day. Extra credit to whoever can tell me the Yankee great that hit fourth (hint, it was not Lou Gehrig).

- Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened on April 6, 1992 with a 2-0 Baltimore win over Cleveland. The opening of Camden Yards has affected baseball for the past two decades. It was the first retro-classic ballpark and has influenced every Major League stadium that has been built over the last 21 seasons.

Randy-Johnson- In Boston’s 1998 home opener, Randy Johnson came into Fenway Park and dominated the Red Sox for eight innings. The Big Unit struck out 15 and held Boston to two runs on two hits and the Red Sox trailed 7-2 going to the home half of the ninth inning. Then the Mariners bullpen imploded. Facing four pitchers in the ninth, the Red Sox crawled back into the game. Trailing 7-5 with the bases loaded, All-Star Mo Vaughn smoked a 0-2 pitch, sending a Paul Spoljaric pitch deep into the right-center field stands for a walk-off grand slam.

- The American League claimed Major League status in 1901. Of the eight charter franchises, the Detroit Tigers are the only team that is still in their original city and has kept their original name. Their first game in the AL was a classic. Detroit trailed 13-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Doc Casey lead off with a double and eventually Pop Dillon hit a two-out double to drive in the game-tying and game-winning runs to complete the greatest comeback in a storied history on the franchise’s first day.

Snowman-in-CLE

- In one of the most unique Opening Day moments in recent memory, the Cleveland Indians did not play their schedule home opener with the Seattle Mariners in 2007. In fact, they didn’t play a single game in what was supposed to be a four-game set because a snowstorm came in off Lake Erie and made the surface at Jacobs Field Progressive Field (it’ll always be The Jake to me) unplayable for over a week. The next series against the Angels was played at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Now for the top ten, including some great moments for Loons fans…

10) Ken Griffey Jr. goes yard in his return to Seattle

Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the most talented baseball players to come along in the last fifty years. He was certainly one of the most dominant players of the 1990’s and was a fan favorite in Seattle for over a decade. Griffey hit 417 of his 630 home runs as a member of the Mariners and won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves manning center field at The Kingdome.

Then on February 12, 2000, Griffey was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he spent the majority of his next nine seasons. After being dealt to the White Sox at the 2008 trade deadline, he returned to Seattle as a free agent for the 2009 season. As somebody who grew up in the 90’s as a Griffey fan, but not actually a Mariners fan, I can only imagine the jubilation of that fan base when Junior announced that he was coming back to Seattle. Then in his second at-bat as a Mariner in almost a decade, he sent a Francisco Liriano pitch deep to right field at The Metrodome in Minneapolis, sending Mariners fans into a frenzy over 1,600 miles away. Griffey followed that up a week later by getting a single in Seattle’s first home game of 2009.

9) Rall E. Camel debuts at Dow Diamond in 2012

It started when a mysterious box arrived at Dow Diamond. Then Lou E. Loon found said box. The saga continued with the escape, search and recapture of the contents of the mysterious box. On Opening Day last season, April 9, 2012, Rall E. Camel officially became a member of the Loons family.

Rall-E-Camel

8) Three home runs on Opening Day (three times)

Watching a player hit three home runs in one game is somewhat rare. Those games don’t come along very often. They happen even less on a big stage: postseason, All-Star Game, games on national television and Opening Day. But it has happened three times on Opening Day and all three times have taken place within the last 25 years. Surprisingly, none of the players to accomplish this are anywhere near getting into Cooperstown.

Three-HRs

The first player to hit three dingers on Opening Day was George Bell in 1988. Bell was fresh off winning a MVP in 1987 (beating Alan Trammell in a really close, something that my father’s generation of Tigers fans is still bitter about) and had hit 47 home runs the year before. Against Brett Saberhagen, who had already won one Cy Young in 1985 and would win another in 1989, Bell hit two deep home runs to the deep part of left field and hit another that was a line drive down the left field line.

The other two players to go yard on Opening Day are Tuffy Rhodes and Dmitri Young.

In case you were wondering…no, I had not heard of Tuffy Rhodes either until I starting doing research for this blog post. Rhodes was a rarely used outfielder who spent the majority of his career with the Astros and Cubs. He hit 13 career home runs, eight of which came in 1994 the season which will not be named. Three of those eight home runs were on Opening Day. Rhodes led off the bottom of the first against Doc Gooden by putting a 3-2 pitch over the fence in Wrigley. Rhodes hit two more home runs off Gooden, one in the third and another to lead off the fifth inning. Tigers fan favorite Dmitri Young also went deep three times at Comerica Park in 2005, hitting two off Jose Lima (RIP Lima time) and another off Mike MacDougal.

7) Presidential first pitch: every year since 1910

Presidents-opening-day

William Howard Taft, the 27th President of these United States, started a great tradition in 1910 when he threw out the first pitch of the season, tossing it from the stands to Washington Senators ace and Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. Since that time, there has been the good (W.), the bad (George H.W. Bush) and the ugly (FDR). But it’s been a long-standing tradition that is a great part of Opening Day. Barack Obama threw out the first pitch in 2010 at Nationals Park just nine days before the 100th anniversary of Taft’s first Presidential first pitch.

6) Bob Feller tosses no-hitter in 1940

Bob-FellerThe “Heater From Van Meter” broke into the majors in 1936, making his debut at the age of 17. He was an eight-time All-Star and likely would have won 300 games if he had not missed three-plus seasons in his prime to serve in World War II. Feller played before the Cy Young Award came into existence, but he was arguably the most dominant pitcher of the 1940’s and would have won a few before he retired. Rapid Robert is also the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day. Despite pitching in 47-degree weather at Old Comiskey Park, Feller shut down the White Sox and did not allow a hit on the way to a 1-0 Indians victory.

5) Loons begin inaugural season

After all the preparation that went into bringing a team to Midland and building a state-of-the-art facility, the Loons finally took the field. The first game in team history was on April 5, 2007, when they played at the South Bend Silver Hawks, winning 10-3. Future Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was on the hill to start the game for the Loons and another future big leaguer, Brett Anderson, started for South Bend. Trayvon Robinson, Josh Bell and Carlos Santana all had multi-hit games as the Loons picked up victory No. 1 in team history.

Loons Year in Review: 2010
The Loons had their inaugural home opener on April 13, 2007 in front of a capacity crowd of 5,454. Future Major League pitcher Steve Johnson started and gave up four earned runs on six hits as the Loons fell to the Lansing Lugnuts, 6-2. Robinson and Preston Mattingly each had one hit in the loss. Despite losing that day, it was the first of countless games at Dow Diamond that have provided memories for thousands in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

4) Hank Aaron ties The Babe at 714

Aaron-Ruth

Hammerin’ Hank came into the 1974 season with 713 career home runs, just one back of all-time career home run leader Babe Ruth. The off-field stress that Aaron and his family went through in pursuit of this record has been well documented. On top of that, hitting 700 home runs is really tough to do*.

There was a school of thought that said that Aaron should sit out the opening series at Cincinnati and try to tie the record at home in Atlanta. Aaron played that first series and wasted no time in tying the record. In the first inning, he took Jack Billingham deep, hitting a home run to left-center field to tie the Sultan of Swat. Aaron broke the record four days later in the Braves home opener.

* – unless you take steroids…allegedly

3) John McSherry dies on the field in Cincinnati

This is not a top moment in that it is an inspirational moment; just that it is a memorable event and stands out among Opening Day incidents.

McSherryJohn McSherry started as a National League umpire in 1971. He umpired in two World Series, eight 10 NL postseasons and three All-Star Games. He was the home plate umpire in Cincinnati in 1996 as the Reds were playing host to the Montreal Expos. Seven pitches into the game, McSherry called a timeout, said some words to Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee and then moved slowly toward the Reds dugout. He then signaled for the second base umpire to assist him, but stumbled and collapsed before help arrived. McSherry died of a massive heart attack within the hour.

The game was called off. Controversial Reds owner Marge Schott didn’t help matters when she voiced her displeasure with the decision, saying “Snow this morning and now this. I don’t believe it. I feel cheated. This isn’t supposed to happen to us, not in Cincinnati. This is our history, our tradition, our team.”

2) Baseball returns

We already mentioned that season in the mid-1990’s that shall not be named, when a player strike and consequent work stoppage led to the entire MLB postseason being cancelled. It was one of baseball’s darkest hours. It took the game years to recover. Attendance wasn’t the same for over a decade.

That recovery started on Opening Day in 1995. On April 25, baseball was back. It wasn’t pretty at first. Really, it wasn’t pretty for a while. Fans booed. Fans protested. Replacement players and umpires were used. It was ugly. But the important thing about 1995 is that baseball was back. And it’s been back ever since.

Aside from the drama of the strike and baseball returning, there were great baseball moments in 1995: Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games-played streak, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson both had dominant Cy Young seasons, and the Tom Glavine pitched a one-hit shutout in Game Six of the World Series to secure the Atlanta Braves only title of the decade.

1995-season

1) Jackie Robinson

I think this almost goes without saying. The integration of baseball is probably the single biggest innovation in the last century. It has allowed thousands of players to pursue their dream of playing in Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson was the first black player to play Major League Baseball since the 1880’s and along with Larry Doby in the American League, broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues.

Wearing No. 42, Robinson made his MLB debut at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on April 15, 1947 and baseball was never the same. There were two reasons that Robinson was perfect for his role and was able to make a bigger cultural impact than other black players that would have been in his situation. The first is that he was an impact player right away and had a Hall of Fame career. That showed the American public right away that African-Americans could play baseball at an elite level and that they had to have them in the Major League. The second reason was the way that Robinson handled all the hate and bigotry that came his way. He was an absolute gentleman, when he could have lashed out at those who didn’t accept him, and for that, the game of baseball is eternally grateful.

Jackie-Robinson

So that’s it. Those are my favorite moments from Opening Day in the history of Major League Baseball. But the beauty of baseball is that there are moments in the future that are not on this list yet. Maybe even something special that happens this season. We’ll know soon enough. Major League Baseball starts on Sunday. The Tigers open on Monday, as does former Loon Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. The Loons open on Thursday, April 4. This is best time of the year folks. Say it with me. Baseball. Is. Back.

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

New to the Flock…or Herd?

One week ago Monday, the Great Lakes Loons welcomed a new member to the family. Wearing a red alternate Loons jersey over his brown furry pelt, Rall E Camel burst out of the ‘mysterious box’ and into the hearts of the several Loons fans around the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Barely into the season, Rall E is already starting to show off some of his curious camel customs. Fortunately, we had a camera handy.

One of the most excited members of the Loons staff is Lou E. Loon, who has spent the last five years palling around with a rubber chicken. Now Lou can finally shoot the breeze with someone who speaks his language.

Here Rall E runs into trouble on the playground slide at Lou E.’s Lookout, presented by MidMichigan Health, his chin hooking him at the top. Lou climbed the structure and showed Rall the proper way to slide: head first.

For those wondering about Rall E’s origin, it all dates back to one game in 2009. Having exhausted all means of sparking a Loons rally, there was still one last video clip in the production vault. The following ‘Rally Camel’ clip was played on the video board and lo and behold the team rallied. Throughout the year the clip was played in late-game situations and every time the team would rally for the win. Rall E was born.

The Latin American players have really taken to Rall E’s pregame antics. Here he is loosening up with Loons second baseman Jesus Arredondo. Like Rall E, Arredondo is entering his first season of professional baseball in the United States.

Rall E’s hump is perfect for storing water in the hot days of summer, but it also doubles as a perfect way to carry Loons players. Carrying Rall E however is still a rather awkward procedure.

Finally here is Rall E reaping the rewards of his rally call, high-fiving Loons players after the win.

Of the seven Loons home games last week, three of them resulted in rallies to victory, sparked by the aural dronings of one Rall E Camel. The Loons return to Dow Diamond on April 25. Stop by to see our newest friend!

Loons say ‘Ohhh Boy!’

The following collection of images is from a recent Loons outing at the Big Boy in Midland. When these guys aren’t jacking home runs, they’re slammin’ burgers. Warning: Hunger may strike by the conclusion of this post. Enjoy!

Here is the Los Angeles Dodgers number two draft pick from 2010, Garrett Gould, feeling right at home with his burger on deck. Next up is ‘Pistol’ Pete Budkevics, who ate straight bacon throughout the duration.

Loons catcher Steve Domecus is ready to dive in, but needs some sugar for his coffee first. On the right we have Loons infielder Jesse Bosnik and pitcher Bret Montgomery just grabbing a seat.

Love how Big Boy has decorated the room with all of our old giveaway posters! See Kershaw staring down from above at his future teammates.

Here Loons infielder Blake Dean signs off on this young boy’s little league jersey.

And of course everyone’s favorite Loon was there! Lou E. got a gold star for not breaking any dishes. For even more photos, check out the photo album on our Facebook page!

Not much has changed has it? Still a place of burgers and smiles.

The 10-Game Homestand

On Sunday, June 6, the Loons concluded their longest homestand of the season. A 10-game stretch filled with entertainers, fireworks, goats, bikes, a little rain, and a Loons record of 6-3 against their opponents. Here is a photo summary of the past week-and-a-half’s fun at Dow Diamond.

game1of10.JPGGame One: Several fans were in attendance for Friday night’s Fireworks Loontacular, powered by Dow Corning. Here, Loons fans hold up K-cards after each strikeout, as part of Deloitte’s K’s for Kids Program that benefits five local organizations by donating $5 every time a Loons pitcher throws a strikeout this season.

game2.JPGGame Two: Reggy the Purple Party Dude seduces one of the umpires in between one of the innings of Saturday’s game. Reggy also clowned around in the stands, on the field, and in the dugout.

game3of10.JPGGame Three:St. Charles Marching Band plays the National Anthem to kick off Family Fun in the SUNday. After the game, kids in attendance were allowed to run the bases at Dow Diamond.

game4of10.JPGGame Four: Eight randomly selected families from the crowd participate in round one of the Picnic Olympics. Though everyone at the park had money on the Johnson family, the brackets was busted due to rain showers.

game5of10.JPGGame Five: After a long series of High School Spirit Nights, the judges gave Midland High School the Top Prize. There to accept the award from Lou E. was Principal Mike Frazee and Student Council Secretary Peter Shahin. It was also Faith Night at the park and $1 Family Feast Night, presented by Chemical Bank.

game6.JPGGame Six:On Wednesday, June 2, it was 4H Night at Dow Diamond. Several different booths were on display on the concourse and prior to the game there was a goat milking competition on the field.

game7.JPGGame Seven: The first bobblehead night of the year had Loons staffers giving away miniature Cecil Fielders. June 4 was the first of a six-part Tigers Legends Series presented by MidMichigan Health. Up next is the Mickey Lolich appearance on June 17.

game8of10.jpgGame Eight: The Amazing Christopher returned to Midland on Friday and instead of his village people entourage, AC made his special tribute to the King of Pop.

game9of10.JPGGame Nine: The hogs ran wild on Saturday night, which was Biker Night, presented by the Midland Community Center. Near the end of the night was another MBS Ball Launch.

gamerain.JPGGame Ten: After the Pre-Game Youth Clinic, presented by Farm Bureau Insurance, a special appearance was made by the Diamond Kings, who made their 2010 debut to N’SYNC’s ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’.

Have you made it out to a Loons game this year? If not, why not? Dive In!

What’s New at Dow Diamond?

Have you made it out to a Loons game this season? Well in case you’re one of the few that haven’t, here’s a little teaser.

Loe.ELasorda.JPG

Dow Diamond recently added these three retired numbers beneath the press box railing of the upper deck. They look even better when you’re at the park, so come on out and show your Loons baseball spirit. Dive In!


No. 2 Tommy Lasorda
, No. 47 – The Dow 47 Building, No. 42 – Jackie Robinson

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