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West Michigan Whitecaps

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[edit] Whitecaps Historical Biography

The West Michigan Whitecaps began play in the Midwest League in 1994 when the Madison Muskies moved to the Grand Rapids area. Prior to the introduction of the Whitecaps, there had not been a professional baseball team in Grand Rapids since 1954, when the Grand Rapids Chicks of the AAGPBL disbanded. Originally the Single A franchise for the Oakland Athletics, the Whitecaps quickly found a home in West Michigan. The Whitecaps name simultaneously makes reference to the importance Lake Michigan to the economy and culture of West Michigan, and harkens back to the appearance based team nicknames of baseball's earlier days, as well as rekindling the tradition of the Michigan City White Caps who played in the MWL in the 1950's. The West Michigan Whitecaps have play their home games at Fifth Third Ballpark (previously known as Old Kent Park), a 10,500 seat stadium in Comstock Park, MI, just outside the city limits of Grand Rapids.

In 1980, a columnist for the Grand Rapids Press wrote an article inquiring why Grand Rapids could not have a minor league team. At that time the Detroit Tigers AAA affiliate was the Evansville Triplets who were located in Evansville, IN, just over half the size of Grand Rapids. This article sparked interest in creating a Grand Rapids team. In 1984, a group of West Michigan-based businessmen began pursuing a Minor League team for the city. In 1986, negotiations to bring a team to local Wyoming, MI fell through, and the Grand Rapids area remained without a franchise. West Michigan Baseball Development, INC. was formed in 1987 in an effort to more aggressively pursue a West Michigan Franchise. The following two years saw a surge in progress. West Michigan Baseball Development began negotiations to build a 12,000 seat stadium in Wyoming and the company procured the Wausau Timbers of the Midwest League in partnership with a Chicago-based group. The Timbers were moved to a newly built 3,600 seat facility in Geneva, IL where they became the Kane County Cougars. The Geneva facility was meant to be a temporary home for the team as negotiations and construction were completed in the Grand Rapids area. However, the Cougars quickly became one of the top franchises in Minor League Baseball and the ownership abandoned their plans of moving the franchise to Michigan. In 1992, West Michigan Baseball Development began negotiations with the Madison Muskies. The following February it was announced that the Muskies would move into Old Kent Park a new construction in Comstock Park. The Whitecaps played their first home game on April 12, 1994, defeating the Burlington Bees 5-2. That year the West Michigan Whitecaps broke the 1949 Denver Bears' Single A single season attendance record of 463,039 with an attendance of 475,212, and made their way into the Midwest League playoffs. The Whitecaps continued to break the Single A attendance record for years to come.

In 1996, the Whitecaps won their first Midwest League title. The following year, Dave Borkowski threw the team's first no-hitter, a 6-0 victory over the Kane County Cougars. The Whitecaps finished that season with a record of 92-39, the best in all of Organized Baseball, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. 1997 was the first year of the Whitecaps' affiliation with the Detroit Tigers. The following year, the Caps defeated the Rockford Cubbies to win their second MWL title. In 1999, the Tigers made their first appearance in West Michigan since 1953 in an exhibition game against their Single A affiliate. The Caps lost 5-2 in front of a record crowd of 11,006 fans. That year the Caps failed to make the post-season for the first time in team history, but were named Baseball America's Class A Team of the Decade.

On June 10, 2000, Tommy Marx threw the Caps' second no-hitter, defeating Kane County, 8-0. Four days later Calvin Chipperfield threw the third, also defeating the Cougars, 2-0. The West Michigan Whitecaps again won the Midwest League tile in 2004, 2006 and 2007.


[edit] Year-by-Year Record

Year Affiliation Record Finish Manager Playoffs Hitting coach Pitching coach
1994 Athletics 74-65 6th/2nd Jim Colborn Lost 1st round
1995 Athletics 67-69 8th Jim Colborn Lost in 2nd round Bert Bradley
1996 Athletics 77-61 3rd Mike Quade League Champs Bert Bradley
1997 Tigers 92-39 1st Bruce Fields Lost in 1st round Skeeter Barnes Brian Allard
1998 Tigers 83-57 1st Bruce Fields League Champs Skeeter Barnes
1999 Tigers 68-72 10th Bruce Fields
2000 Tigers 88-52 1st Bruce Fields Lost in 1st round
2001 Tigers 65-72 8th Brent Gates
2002 Tigers 83-57 2nd/1st Phil Regan Lost in 2nd round
2003 Tigers 67-73 3rd/5th Phil Regan
2004 Tigers 69-70 5th/1st Matt Walbeck League Champs
2005 Tigers 73-70 5th/2nd Matt Walbeck Lost in 2nd round
2006 Tigers 89-48 1st/1st Matt Walbeck League Champs
2007 Tigers 83-57 3rd/1st Tom Brookens League Champs Benny Distefano Ray Burris
2008 Tigers 72-65 5th Joe DePastino Lost in 1st round Benny Distefano Mark J. Johnson
2009 Tigers 81-59 3rd (t) Joe DePastino Lost in 1st round Mark J. Johnson
2010 Tigers 62-77 11th Joe DePastino Lost in 1st round Mark J. Johnson
2011 Tigers 70-69 7th Ernie Young Ben Oglivie Mark J. Johnson
2012 Tigers 72-68 6th Ernie Young Scott Dwyer Mark J. Johnson
2013 Tigers 69-70 7th Larry Parrish Scott Dwyer Mike Henneman
2014 Tigers Andrew Graham Nelson Santovenia Mike Henneman

[edit] Championships and Honors

[edit] External Link

West Michigan Whitecaps Baseball

Current teams of the Midwest League
Eastern Division
Bowling Green Hot Rods · Dayton Dragons · Fort Wayne TinCaps · Great Lakes Loons · Lake County Captains · Lansing Lugnuts

South Bend Silver Hawks · West Michigan Whitecaps

Western Division
Beloit Snappers · Burlington Bees · Cedar Rapids Kernels · Clinton LumberKings · Kane County Cougars · Peoria Chiefs

Quad Cities River Bandits · Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Detroit Tigers minor league affiliates
AAA Toledo Mud Hens International League
AA Erie SeaWolves Eastern League
A-Advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers Florida State League
A West Michigan Whitecaps Midwest League
A Short-Season Connecticut Tigers New York-Penn League
Rookie GCL Tigers Gulf Coast League
Rookie Academy DSL Tigers Dominican Summer League
VSL Tigers Venezuelan Summer League
Franchise   Former Affiliates

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