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Midwest League 1996

West Michigan Whitecaps

Midwest League Playoff Champions

Joel's Lugnut Summer


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This page profiles the 1996 West Michigan Whitecaps, a Single-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics and a member of the Midwest League.


This essay previewed the last 1996 series between the Whitecaps and the Lansing Lugnuts. It was intended to highlight the team's strengths, and was written from the perspective of a Lugnuts fan.



Two games, one in each ballpark. Friday's game is this season's last scheduled meeting between these teams.


The Whitecaps are affiliated with the Oakland Athletics and are locally owned by Grand Rapids businessmen.

The Whitecaps have recently opened an Official Whitecaps Page. Joe Hulsebus maintain[ed] an excellent Whitecaps webpage [now gone]. There's information about the team on a page maintained by Oakland A's [well, there used to be]. There's also a National Association page for the team. There [was] a picture of Old Kent Park in this collection by Kevin Marsh. Finally, Dustin Schubert's [lamented] Single-A Ballparks page has [make that had] a review of Old Kent.

Here's an oddity from WoodRadio's webmaster Tim Lux [long gone].


Manager is Mike Quade (#16). Coaches are Bert Bradley (#17, pitching) and Gil Lopez (#13).


MWL Fan's Guide

The Ballpark

Old Kent Park holds the single-season attendance record for both the Midwest League and Class A baseball overall. The Whitecaps draw about a half-million fans annually.

Old Kent's a pretty, suburban ballpark, next to the Grand River, with lots of inexpensive parking on the grounds. There's really no better place to watch a game; it's only an hour or so from Lansing and I highly recommend a trip. The newly-expanded ballpark seats about 10,000 fans (2,500 of those on the lawn). The playing field is symmetrical; 327 feet down the foul lines and 402 feet to dead center. It tends to favor pitchers and especially penalizes power hitters, according to the STATS Minor League Handbook.

As with our park: Buy weekend tickets far in advance. The place routinely sells out.

Directions: On US-131, north of Grand Rapids at exit 91 (West River Drive). If you are heading north, the highway exit leads directly to the ballpark entrance.


The Team

All-Stars: Duane Filchner (OF), Chris Nelson (P)

Statistics quoted are include the game on Tuesday, August 13.

The Whitecaps won the Eastern Division's first half title with a 38-30 (.559) record, three games ahead of the Wizards. Their current 30-22 (.577) record is sufficient for a four game division lead. They aren't doing this with mirrors, neither are they doing it with their bats; they're doing it mainly with excellent pitching. Their hitting is unexpectedly weak.

The Athletics' Rookie team at Scottsdale won the Arizona League last season with a .661 won/lost percentage. The core of that team is now playing for the Grand Rapids squad.

No player stands out on offense. Second baseman Dane Walker is having a solid, but hardly exciting, season (.277; 85 runs, 100 walks). Third baseman Jon Valenti and catcher Ramon Hernandez have some power, while outfielder Duane Filchner leads the team in RBIs. Outfielder Mario Encarnacion's stats suggest he'd be really a dangerous hitter if he'd learn to hit good pitching. Outfielder Jose Soriano is the center fielder I like best in our division blest with strong center fielders, but he's only an average hitter. Several Whitecaps are threats to steal; especially watch Encarnacion, Soriano, Walker, and infielder Eddie Lara.

Oakland imposes severe pitch limits on its farmhands, so the Caps use their pitchers differently from most MWL teams. That said, the pitching is generally excellent. The staff is well-balanced and virtually every pitcher can make the hitters look bad. Scott Rivette, Andy Smith, and Todd Abbott are having fine seasons, as is reliever Robert Kazmirski. Kevin Mlodik is now second in the MWL's ERA race. Rivette and Mlodik are near the league strikeout lead, and reliever Todd Weinberg has a wicked strikeout pitch. The staff in general has good control, good tools, and tends to take command of the game. If it had a serious offense, this team would be really difficult to defeat.


West Michigan
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West Michigan
1996
Overview



The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

Disclaimers:
This website is a private project and has no official relation with or sanction from the Midwest League or Minor League Baseball.
The opinions expressed on this page are mine, and are worth about that.


Copyright © 1996-2010 Joel Dinda
Some Rights Reserved.