Your Local Baseball Team: The West Michigan Whitecaps
The West Michigan Whitecaps are a minor league baseball team for Grand Rapids. The team was created in 1994, because the Madison Muskies needed a new location, and chose Grand Rapids. The Whitecaps play in the Midwest league. Just as the Griffins feed an NHL team, the Whitecaps feed the Tigers, an MLB team from Detroit.
Grand Rapids had a gap from 1954 to 1994, where they did not have a baseball team. This all changed with the Whitecaps moved in to the city in 1994. They call Fifth Third Ballpark home, and it seats 10,500 fans. Fifth Third Ballpark was previously known as Old Kent Park. In actuality, getting a baseball team for the Grand Rapids area was not an easy task. It took years of lobbying, business transactions, and negotiations before the team was able to play its first home game against the Burlington Bees. There was even a point in time when Grand Rapids had a team lined up, only to have them back out and become a team in Illinois.
The Whitecaps started the career off on a good foot, and have continued winning ever since. 1996 marked the first Midwest League Title won by the Whitecaps, just two years after their opening season. The franchise attendance record of 547,401 people was also set in 1996. 1997 was also a historic year for the franchise. Pitcher Dave Borkowski threw the first no hitter that the Whitecaps had ever recorded, with a victory over the Kane County Cougars. The score was 6-0 to the Whitecaps. Another huge event in Whitecaps history, 1997 was the first year they became an affiliate team for the Detroit Tigers. Previously, the MLB team affiliated with the Whitecaps had been the Oakland A’s. Just one year after becoming the Tigers’ affiliate team, the Whitecaps won their second Midwest League Title.
The 2006 season saw a lot of successes for the Whitecaps as well. The seasoned was wrought with greatness as Cameron Maybin hit 2 grand slams, and Michael Hernandez hit for the cycle twice. A cycle is when a batter hits a single, double, triple, and home run in a game. Doing this one time is considered amazing, but twice is simply astronomical. The Whitecaps won their 4th Midwest League Title by beating the Kane County Cougars. After the 2006 championship season, the Whitecaps won another Midwest League Title the following year, completing a back to back championship run. 7 years went by until the Whitecaps won the Midwest League Title again. (2015)
A Family Outing
This season, the Whitecaps are struggling a little bit with a record of 21-52. Don’t let the current record deter you or your loved ones from coming out and having a fantastic time! The season is only about halfway through, and there is plenty of time for the team to improve their record, perhaps even make the playoffs. The Whitecaps have new and favorite events throughout the entire season, so there is fun for everyone. Many times, the events thrown at Fifth Third Ballpark include free giveaways, such as hats, bobble-heads, and more. Themed events such as Star Wars night are a family favorite as well. This year, Star Wars night is on June 29th. The 4th of July BBQ is one of the most popular events of the season, with hot dog specials, and an amazing fireworks display after the game for everyone to enjoy!
Kid Centered Events: FANomenal Fridays
On Friday home game nights, the Whitecaps like to have FANomenal Fridays. These events are kid centered and have a different theme every week. The themes range from Pokemon night, to princess night, to Bob the Builder night. Each game features a free giveaway, activities, and half off hotdogs and drinks for the kids. This Friday is Harry Potter night, which features activities such as wand building, drinking butterbeer, and getting your favorite characters’ autographs. Harry Potter night even features a golden snitch scavenger hunt before the game. Make sure you check the website to stay up to date with what new events and themes are coming down the pipeline, and plan ahead.
Fun and Affordable
Not only does Fifth Third Ballpark and the West Michigan Whitecaps team work together to deliver a fun experience, but they also make sure its affordable. Tickets usually only are between $9 and $17, $9 being lawn seats and $17 for premium box seats. Kids under 2 years old are always allowed in for free. If you are having a night out with some other adults and want a VIP table for 4, the price for that is $120. The tables are located behind the plate by the luxury boxes. Group rates are also available if you have a large party with you. Often the savings range from about .50 to $1 per ticket. Parking for Fifth Third Ballpark is $7 for cars and regular family vehicles, and $10 for buses. No matter what your reason for coming to the ballpark are, the Whitecaps always are a great way to spend your day or evening.