Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kalamazoo Growlers: Chest-Bumping Bear

Kalamazoo mascott Barlee the Bear chest bumps with Growler catcher Ryan Lidge, of Notre Dame, before an August 2014 game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
The Kalamazoo Growler mascot seems pretty cool. At least he can execute a good chest bump. His actual growling, I would assume, might leave something to be desired.

I visited Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field early last month as part of my trip back home to Iowa. I got to see the hometown Growlers take on the visiting Madison Mallards in some end-of-season Northwoods League action.

The purpose of my stop was to interview visiting Madison manager Donnie Scott, then get some pictures to go along with that interview. His was my 74th overall player interview, but my landmark 75th interview posted. (Scott's interview)

But I also got to see a game and a ballpark that opened in 1963. It was an interesting field in that it is oriented the wrong way. Instead of being put so the sun set behind the stands, and out of the way of batters, the field is oriented so the sun sets in right field.

The sun sitting in right also made for some unusual shadows cast as the pitchers delivered to the plate.
Watching the Growlers at Homer Stryker Field. At bat is Thomas Hook. (G21D Photo)
This was actually Kalamazoo's first season in the Northwoods League and there was a good crowd on hand. Judging by Baseball Digest's rankings of collegiate league attendance, Kalamazoo did pretty good for itself this year, drawing more than 2,200 fans per game. That's good for seventh best among more than 100 collegiate teams nationwide.

The highest average attendence by far? Scott's Madison Mallards. The Mallards averaged more than 6,100 fans per game, nearly twice the second place La Crosse Loggers, also a Northwoods League team.

In his interview, Scott said the game played in the Northwoods League reminded him of the way baseball used to be, when he was coming up in the minors.

Down the right field line the fan walkway goes above the visitor's bullpen. That allowed one of the Mallard pitchers to pass the time playing a friendly game of keep-away with a couple local kids. That was kind of cool.

Then, of course, there's Barlee the Bear. Barlee seemed friendly to both Growlers and Mallards alike. As seen in the photo above and some below, he chest bumped, high-fived and low-fived his way through the Growler lineup. He even greeted Scott warmly with a hand slap. Not very growler like.

Too many pictures from my trip to Kalamazoo:
The front entrance of Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Madison Mallard players during warmups. No. 48 is Tim Black, of Central Michigan, 0 is Matt Thaiss, of the University of Virginia, 2 is Charlie Naso, of Illinois. (G21D Photo)
Homer Stryker Field. Note the bullpen under the walkway. (G21D Photo)
The Madison bullpen before the game. No. 28 is A.J. Bogucki and No. 42 is coach Zeke Zimmerman. (G21D Photo)
A sign on the walkway to the stands. (G21D Photo)
Mallard Logan Regnier, of Central Michigan, practices his swing. (G21D Photo)
Barlee coming for Mallards manager Donnie Scott. He wants to low five. (G21D Photo)
Barlee and Growler Jesse Puscheck, of Canisius College. (G21D Photo)
Barlee and Karl Sorensen, of St. Cloud State. (G21D Photo)
And Barlee and John Brodner, of Wright State. (G21D Photo)
Mallard Michael Handel, of Minnesota, at bat. (G21D Photo)
Mallard Connor Marabell, of Jacksonville, on the base paths with Donnie Scott coaching third. Note the shadows. (G21D Photo)
Mallard pitcher Nathan Hoffman, of Madison College, on the mound. Note his shadow. (G21D Photo)
Growler L.K. Thompson at bat. (G21D Photo)
The sun going down in right. (G21D Photo)
Nathan Hoffman through the fence behind home plate. (G21D Photo)
Who wants a T-shirt? (G21D Photo)
Mallard reliever TIm Black passes the time by playing keep-away with a local kid. The ball would be caught and returned. (G21D Photo)
Moon rising over Stryker Field. (G21D Photo)
The statue and the sky. (G21D Photo)

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