West Michigan Whitecaps

From BR Bullpen


Team History[edit]

historic logo

The West Michigan Whitecaps, of the Midwest League and briefly in High-A Central, resulted from a local newspaper columnist wondering in print why Grand Rapids, MI, could not have professional baseball. The Detroit Tigers farmhands play their home games at LMCU Ballpark in Comstock Park, MI - just outside Grand Rapids.

In 1980, the Grand Rapids Press published a piece inquiring why Grand Rapids could not have a minor league team. At that time, the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate was the Evansville Triplets, who were located in Evansville, IN - which is 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 nearby 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, and 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 their ownership abandoned their plan to move 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 a new stadium in Comstock Park that would open as Old Kent 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 MwL playoffs. They continued to break the Single A attendance record for years to come.

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 All-American Girls Professional Baseball League disbanded.

Originally the Single A franchise for the Oakland Athletics, the Whitecaps quickly found success in West Michigan. The nickname simultaneously refers to the importance of Lake Michigan to the economy and culture of West Michigan, and harkens back to the appearance-based team nicknames of baseball's earlier days. It also rekindles the tradition of the Michigan City White Caps, who played in the MwL in the 1950s.

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 next year, they defeated the Rockford Cubbies to win their second Midwest League 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.

MLB's 2021 Minor League Reorganization raised the 'Caps, and most of the MwL, one level.

The Whitecaps play Copa de la Diversión Hispanic biennial engagement campaign games as Calaveras de West Michigan (West Michigan Skulls).

Year-by-Year Record[edit]

Year Affiliation Record Finish Manager Playoffs Hitting coach Pitching coach Other coach
1994 Athletics 74-65 5th Jim Colborn Lost 1st round N/A Gil Patterson
1995 Athletics 67-69 8th Jim Colborn Lost in 2nd round Rich Juday Bert Bradley
1996 Athletics 77-61 3rd Mike Quade League Champs Gil Lopez Bert Bradley
1997 Tigers 92-39 1st Bruce Fields Lost in 1st round Skeeter Barnes Brian Allard & Steve McCatty
1998 Tigers 83-57 1st Bruce Fields League Champs Skeeter Barnes Steve McCatty
1999 Tigers 68-72 10th Bruce Fields Tim Torricelli Joe Boever
2000 Tigers 88-52 1st Bruce Fields Lost in 1st round Brian Saltzgaber Joe Georger
2001 Tigers 65-72 8th Brent Gates Brian Saltzgaber Joe Georger
2002 Tigers 83-57 2nd/1st Phil Regan Lost in 2nd round Tim Hyers A.J. Sager
2003 Tigers 67-73 3rd/5th Phil Regan Barbaro Garbey A.J. Sager
2004 Tigers 69-70 5th/1st Matt Walbeck League Champs Tony Jaramillo A.J. Sager
2005 Tigers 73-70 5th/2nd Matt Walbeck Lost in 2nd round Tony Jaramillo A.J. Sager
2006 Tigers 89-48 1st/1st Matt Walbeck League Champs Tony Jaramillo A.J. Sager
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 Benny Distefano Mark J. Johnson
2010 Tigers 62-77 11th Joe DePastino Lost in 1st round Luis Quinones 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 82-58 3rd Andrew Graham Lost in 1st round Nelson Santovenia Mike Henneman
2015 Tigers 75-64 5th Andrew Graham League Champs Phil Clark Mark Johnson
2016 Tigers 71-65 6th Andrew Graham Lost in 1st round Edgar Alfonzo Mark Johnson
2017 Tigers 91-45 1st Mike Rabelo Lost in 1st round Mike Hessman Jorge Cordova
2018 Tigers 69-70 9th Lance Parrish Lost in 2nd round Mariano Duncan Jorge Cordova John Vander Wal
2019 Tigers 49-90 16th Lance Parrish John Vander Wal Willie Blair Eddie Dennis
2020 Season cancelled
2021 Tigers 58-62 7th (t) Brayan Pena Bill Springman Willie Blair Kevin Guthrie
2022 Tigers 72-59 5th Brayan Pena C.J. Wamsley Dean Stiles Nick Bredeson
2023 Tigers Brayan Pena C.J. Wamsley Dan Ricabal Tim Garland

Championships and Honors[edit]

External Link[edit]