WYOMING, MICH. - Baseball is back in West Michigan.
"I'm excited just like everybody else is," says new Whitecaps manager Mike Rabelo.
The West Michigan Whitecaps have assembled and are ready to take on the Midwest League hunting for another title. The 2017 edition features several new faces but a style we have grown used to.
"I think it's going to be about the same" says Rabelo, "I don't see us knocking down the walls at Fifth Third but we got some guys that can run they are going to go first to third, we're going to steal. They're going be fun to watch for sure."
They will also know how to pitch. The Whitecaps are loaded wuth the Tigers' best young arms, including Opening Day starter and #5 prospect in the organization, Kyle Funkhouser.
"He's got good stuff," says Rabelo, "All you have to do is watch him throw and be like 'Ah, I get it.'"
Pitching and defense are how you win at this level with a park as big as Fifth Third.
"It is a big ballpark," says Funkhouser, "I have seen how it plays but the wind was blowing in the last two days so that was nice."
For some of the new 'Caps, they know nothing about Grand Rapids, while some have been here before.
"I used to come to Whitecaps games as a kid with my grandpa, he used to be a roving catching instructor for the Tigers," says rookie first baseman Blaise Salter, "I think id been here in the early 2000s."
Then some are making a return trip to play, never a goal for a player with dreams of working his way to the big leagues.
"It's not an easy game. It's a humbling game sometimes, things don't go the way you want but every single day it's a game of adjustments," says Whitecaps outfielder Cam Gibson, "I thought I'd end up in Lakeland and I didn't end up in Lakeland so I'm going to play my best game here and give 100% here, it doesn't matter what jersey I'm wearing."
From sunny Lakeland, Florida to blustery Comstock Park, the Michigan weather greets the team with the worst but the team should be built to handle it.
"We can't control the weather but the good thing is we got a lot of guys that played in the Big Ten, a lot of Canadian born players and these guys are pretty tough," says Rabelo, "The snow is not going to effect your Cam Gibsons, your Robsons and your Salters."
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