Tagged: Great Lakes Loons

Shirts I’ve Collected

Last week, I blogged about the six caps I’ve bought during my travels around Major League and Minor League Baseball.

This week, I want to continue the sports-centered wardrobe theme and talk about some of the shirts I’ve bought and received through stadium giveaways. As I’ve said, I don’t buy a hat at every park I visit. The same holds true for shirts and other memorabilia. Still, when the price is right and I like the look of something, I’ll add it to my collection.

Dating back to my first baseball road trips for The Ballpark Guide in 2010, here’s what I’ve picked up:

Cleveland Indians – Travis Hafner jersey shirt

This isn’t a traditional jersey shirt; you’ll see that it has Hafner’s nickname, Pronk, on the back. I’m a Hafner fan, and thought this shirt was unique.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats 1

When I visited New Hampshire’s (now called Northeast Delta Dental Stadium) in September 2010, the team was about to play what would be its final playoff game of the season. As such, most of the products in the team shop were on sale. I picked up this T-shirt for under $10.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2

I got this one for around $10, too. Not bad for a Nike product, and I like the look of it.

Great Lakes Loons

When I watched the Great Lakes Loons play in May 2011, I visited the team shop during a long rain delay. This shirt was priced way less than other comparable products, so I bought it. What I didn’t notice at the time is that the logo is significantly closer to the left sleeve. (Hence the price reduction.) Still, I like this shirt because it’s one baseball shirt that isn’t gaudy.

West Michigan Whitecaps

Speaking of gaudy (in a good way, of course), this bright red Whitecaps shirt featuring their logo is eye catching. Most of the shirts I’ve gotten are white, so this one stands out in my closet.

Fort Wayne TinCaps

Perhaps partly influenced by my amazing visit to beautiful Parkview Field, this TinCaps shirt is one of my favorites. I like its design and the fact it uses the MiLB logo in a prominent spot. Plus, who doesn’t like angry apples?

Lake County Captains

I wasn’t around to see Lake County win the first half of the Midwest League championship in 2010, but I liked this shirt enough to buy it in 2011.

Delmarva Shorebirds

I’m a big fan of this simple Shorebirds T-shirt by Nike. I like Delmarva’s logo and the simple design of this shirt.

Baltimore Orioles 1

When I was in B-More, I was lucky enough to attend a game with a T-shirt giveaway. The T-shirt this day was J.J. Hardy.

Baltimore Orioles 2

Last summer, Chevrolet heavily promoted the Volt at MLB stadiums, including Camden Yards. If you signed up to receive Chevrolet marketing material, you got a free T-shirt. Count me in! And, if you wanted to sign up multiple times, you’d get multiple shirts ….

Washington Nationals 1

A couple days after I was in Baltimore, I was in the nation’s capital over the July 4 long weekend. The Nats gave away American flag-themed T-shirts at the gate.

Washington Nationals 2

Just like in Baltimore, Chevrolet had a kiosk promoting the Volt. I managed to get, uh, a few of these shirts, too.

Binghamton Mets

On July 4, I stopped in Binghamton to see the B-Mets battle the Portland Sea Dogs before an impressive fireworks show at NYSEG Stadium. During the game, I picked up what’s become one of my favorite items — a B-Mets pullover. These are the shirts the players wear during BP, in the dugout and while warming up. It’s awesome.

But what about game-used items? You’ll just have to check back tomorrow for some goodies that fall under that category.

Another Autographed Ball

Last week, I posted photos and short blog entries about four different autographed balls I obtained during my most recent ballpark road trip.

Today, I realized I still haven’t posted pictures of the ball I got signed during my visit to Dow Diamond to watch the Great Lakes Loons play back on May 22. If you haven’t read about that memorable trip, here’s my blog post about it.

On this ball, I got a total of eight different signatures. I’m not sure about the first two, but the next two in the image below are pitcher Bret Montgomery and outfield Bobby Coyle:

In this image, the sigs belong to 1B Blake Dean and another mystery guy:

Here, it’s another mystery guy:

And here, it’s pitcher Andrew Pevsner:

I know, it’s lame to not know a few of the signatures, but given the way players jump from team to team in the Minor Leagues, figuring these guys out is difficult. At least two of the guys whose signatures I obtained are no longer with the Loons, and it’s a huge task to go through the team’s transactions to see if a name lines up with one of these autographs.

That said, I’d love to know which guys I have. Does anyone out there know?

Finally, here’s one last image of the ball, alongside the giant Loons collectible cup I bought during my visit:

Hopefully, you’re not sick of seeing signed balls yet. But if you are, I’ve got a treat for everyone either tomorrow or Friday. It’s not signed, and it’s not a ball, but it’s definitely awesome. I’ll say game-used, and leave it at that … for now.

** UPDATE **

A couple hours after posting this entry, the Great Lakes Loons got in touch with me for information about the mystery autographs.

They tell  me the top autograph likely belongs to 2B Bryant Hernandez and the next one belongs to pitcher Michael Drowne.

The bottom sig on my second image above likely is that of Chris Jacobs or Chris Henderson, while the image below the “China” marking is former Loons closer Logan Bawcom.

A couple notes: Since I got Drowne’s autograph, he was sent down to the Pioneer League’s Ogden Raptors.

Bawcom, meanwhile, after putting up an impressive 4-1 record with 14 saves and 56 Ks in just 45.1 innings pitched with the Loons, was promoted to the California League’s Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

Thanks to the Loons for the reply. They were awesome to deal with when I visited Dow Diamond, and I definitely hope to get back there some day.

Great Lakes Loons – May 22

I’d never been as far north in Michigan as Midland, which is in the Great Lakes area. That would change today. I checked out of my hotel in Lansing in the middle of the morning, and began the drive to Midland, home of the Great Lakes Loons and Dow Diamond. Like the Lugnuts, the Loons play in the Midwest League. They’re the A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers and they were playing the South Bend Silver Hawks today.

The drive up to Midland was picturesque — lots of small towns and forests, similar in many ways to Canada. Midland itself is a pristine town. The major industry in town is Dow Chemical, and you can quickly tell the Dow family has a lot to do with the town’s image. Many different places — libraries, community areas, gardens, etc. — are named after the Dow family.

Speaking of Dow, I got to Dow Diamond about three hours before game time. There was a kids’ baseball clinic taking place on the field, so there was lots of activity around the ballpark. I opted to go to a nearby grocery store and buy some food for a picnic, and ate on the grass in front of the stadium, just to the left of the batter’s eye:

After lunch, I bought my ticket …

… and began to walk around the stadium’s exterior. Dow Diamond has several solar panels to harness the sun’s energy, which I thought was neat. I believe it’s the first ballpark I’ve seen that does such a thing, and since they were installed, the panels have generated roughly 127,000 kilowatt hours:

The place in which I ate lunch was actually the rear of the stadium. I think. When I walked around to the other side, there was another gate, but this was only for season ticket holders. There was also a huge team store, but it was closed until the gates opened:

At 1 p.m., the gates opened and I rushed in to see a picturesque ballpark. One of my favorite features is  the two fire pits in the outfield concourse:

Before walking around too much, I watched Loons starter Gustavo Gomez warming up. This was his first start of the season, and I imagine he was hoping to improve his 12.00 ERA. (He didn’t.)

Yesterday, I saw the Lansing Lugnuts impressive kids’ play area. Dow Diamond’s was different, but equally impressive. It was play structure-style instead of inflatable slides and such, but it would soon be full and the kids looked to be having a great time:

In the above photo, you can see Dow’s chemical plant in the distance.

The park also features free Wi-Fi, so I tuned into a few minutes of the Blue Jays game while I was waiting for the Loons game to start:

Can you say, baseball nerd?

The Loons soon came onto the field and began signing. This picture makes it look like the players are part of a synchronized signing team:

Wherever you looked, there were ties to the LA Dodgers, despite being so far away from California. Here’s a banner on a light pole and a party deck named after Tommy LaSorda, who was on hand when Dow Diamond opened:

In the first inning, I was standing on the concourse behind first base, watching the action. I noticed a historical plaque, so I turned to look at it …

… and learned that Dow Chemical’s headquarters stood adjacent to the ballpar …


A heard a bang right behind me, and half turned to watch a foul ball fly past me and over the fence. An usher told me it was extremely close to hitting me, but I wasn’t worried about that — I was worried about getting the ball. A maintenance guy picked up the ball, which had landed in a service area below. And, after three tries to throw it up to me, he finally got it far enough:

It might be hard to tell, but it’s got a major scuff on the right side, which is where it skipped off the cement. And, this was my first game ball of 2011! (I had previously gotten a BP ball in Toronto and a bullpen ball in Lansing.) Anyway, back to the plaque that almost cost me an injury. When Dow’s headquarters was demolished, the bricks were saved, ground into dust and used to build Dow Diamond’s warning track. A neat historical tie to the community.

Because of my pre-game picnic, I didn’t get a meal at this ballpark. I did, however, get a freshly squeezed lemonade in a Loons cup:

Is it just me, or does the loon look flirtatious or smug? Maybe a little of both.

Pretty soon, this was the sight overhead:

And suddenly, the rain came. After a few minutes of sprinkling, an all-out storm hit the area:

The hail was nearly as large as marbles, and though everyone had gathered in the concourse, people were still soaking wet. Then, as quickly as it came, the rain left again and the sun came out. The field was in a bad way, however:

The PA announcer declared that the grounds crew would fix the field and the game would resume, and I spent a few minutes chatting back and forth on Twitter with someone from the Loons head office. I had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me, but I stuck around, hoping to see the conclusion of the game. The grounds crew did a great job getting rid of all the standing water, but after 1.5 hours, there was still a lot to be done, and I made the decision to hit the road. This was the first ballgame I’d ever left early, but there was no guarantee the field could even be salvaged, and I had a long drive ahead.

Of course, the game was resumed about 30 minutes later, and Great Lakes lost 10-7. I saw the bulk of the action, though. Gomez struggled heavily in his first start, giving up three hits, four walks and six earned runs in just 2.2 innings. The outing upped his ERA to 15.88 — ouch!

I listened to a bit of the Loons game on the drive out of town, and made it to Grand Rapids around dinner time. Tomorrow I’d see the West Michigan Whitecaps take on the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

First road trip booked!

As I write this, I’m still debating going to Syracuse in the morning for the Chiefs game against Rochester at 2 p.m. It’s a big driving commitment, but I’m anxious to get one game under my belt in 2011. Plus, as you may have read here, I’d like to get a bit more information about Alliance Bank Stadium before I write its official guide for my website, TheBallparkGuide.com.

But, whether I go to Syracuse tomorrow or not, I’ve got my first major baseball roadtrip planned.
It’ll be 12 games in 12 days in nine different ballparks. Here’s what my itinerary looks like:
Thursday, May 19: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Friday, May 20: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Houston Astros
Saturday, May 21: Lansing Lugnuts vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods
Sunday, May 22: Great Lakes Loons vs. South Bend Silver Hawks
Monday, May 23: West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Fort Wayne TinCaps
Tuesday, May 24: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Wednesday, May 25: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Thursday, May 26: Toledo Mud Hens vs. Durham Bulls
Friday, May 27: Fort Wayne TinCaps vs. Great Lakes Loons
Saturday, May 28: Lake County Captains vs. West Michigan Whitecaps
Sunday, May 29: Erie SeaWolves vs. Reading Phillies
Monday, May 30: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
Some miscellaneous notes about these games:
– I’m going to three Jays games in this roadtrip because they’re my favorite team. I’m pumped to see three different opponents in Toronto in these three games.
– I’m ultra excited to watch the Lansing Lugnuts, the A affiliate of the Jays. One of my favorite (and Canadian!) prospects, Marcus Knecht, is ripping it up for Lansing this season. As you may have read, I met him and got his autograph last summer in Auburn. The Lugnuts are giving away bobbleheads at this game, too. The player’s identity is a mystery, but given that it’ll probably be a current Jay, I’m excited.
– I don’t know much about the Great Lakes Loons, which are the A affiliate of the Dodgers. But they play at a ballpark called Dow Diamond, which looks neat in photos I’ve seen. They’re also in northern Michigan, which is new territory to explore.
– I’ve seen the West Michigan Whitecaps profiled on a couple different food-related shows and websites, thanks to their gigantic Fifth Third Burger. It’s ridiculous. Will I try to eat it? You’ll just have to keep reading the blog to find out.
– I love Detroit. I’ve only been there once, but I liked what I saw of the city. I’m stoked to visit Comerica Park, one of the most beautiful MLB stadiums in my opinion. I’m also staying at the Greektown Casino, which looks amazing and is just a short walk from the ballpark.
– Toledo has one of the best parks in all the Minor Leagues, so I’m anxious to check it out.
– Fort Wayne is the farthest I’ll visit for a ball game this season … as far as I’ve planned so far, anyway. The TinCaps play at Parkview Field, which was build in 2009, making it one of the newest parks in the Minors.
– The day after the game in Fort Wayne, I’ve got a pretty long drive all the way to just east of Cleveland, to watch the Lake County Captains.
– A day later, I’ll be a bit closer to home, in Erie, PA. The SeaWolves game will be just the second AA game I’ll attend. (The first was last fall in New Hampshire.)
I’m also thinking about some sort of keepsake to get at each new stadium. A cap? A T-shirt? I’d love to get caps from each stadium I visit, but I’ve already got enough hats I don’t wear. Any good ideas what I should get from every new ballpark?
I’ve also got a 10-plus day roadtrip planned for June, another for August and a shorter one in September. Please bookmark this blog and keep checking my website throughout the summer