The Midland based Great Lakes Loons opened their fifth season in the Midwest League on Thursday evening April 7, 2011 at the Dow Diamond. Their opponent would be the Midwest League defending champions the Lake County Captains. Team President Paul Barbeau had been planning for this Opening Day over the entire winter coming up with a very interesting and lively event. Part of the festivities included a lively parade through downtown Midland with many of the businesses taking part in the promotion. The parade included several cars of Great Lakes Loons players tossing out candy and autographed Beach Baseballs to the youngsters in the crowd. The parade also included a couple of marching bands and classic cars and the World Famous Rall-E-Camel walking the parade route. Vendors even provided free hot-dogs, bottled water and popcorn to all.
Directly in front of the Dow Diamond a Party Tent was erected that included refreshments and a live band performing prior to the game. There was a long line waiting to get in the Dow when the gates opened one hour prior to game time. The fans were excited to see the Loons return to start the baseball season after an exciting 2010 season which saw the Loons reach the second round of the playoffs. President Paul Barbeau explained "That the Loons want to provide families with an enjoyable and affordable time at the Dow Diamond."
With an almost entirely new cast of players for the 2011 season new manager John Shoemaker wanted to get the season started and find out what type of team that he will have. Shoemaker has spent 35 years in professional baseball all with the Dodger organization. In describing what he expects for the upcoming season "We are not going to talk about winning it is going to be expected." The Los Angeles Dodgers have stocked the Loons with some of the top picks in the 2010 draft to start their professional careers right here in the Great Lakes Bay region.
One of the top picks will be 19 year old Zach Lee a hard throwing right- handed pitcher from Texas. The 6 foot 3 inch rhp will remind the Loons fans of the another first round pick that played for the Loons in 2007 Clayton Kershaw who already is the staff ace for the parent club Dodgers. The first round pick Lee signed for a Dodger record bonus 5.25 million dollars to start his professional career. The organization can see many similarities between him and Kershaw. The rest of the roster is stocked with 4 other high draft choices by the Dodgers from the 2010 draft. The best of the bunch should be Leon Landry left-handed hitting outfielder. The Loons were also able to have a well known former MLB player selected to serve as the hitting coach for 2011 in Lenny Harris who also was on a World Series champion. The Dodgers have done an excellent job in these 5 seasons in stocking the Great Lakes Loons with some very knowledgeable coaches.
The Loons also had 109 year old Violet Smith throw out the opening pitch to start the 2011 campaign. The Great Lakes Loons will have a few minor changes this season with the start of night games in the month of April starting at 6:05p.m. and then moving to 7:05p.m. beginning in May. All Sunday games have been moved up one hour starting at 2:05p.m. Dollar Night will now be on Wednesdays featuring 1 dollar hot-dogs, pop and ice cream bars. Many promotions are planned through out the entire season with the popular "Red Wings Legends" series being offered this year. All box seats at the Dow Diamond are only 9 dollars and all lawn seats are just 6 dollars.
Now to the Opening game for the 2011 season with the Lake County Captains (defending Midwest League Champions). The Captains jumped all over Red Patterson for a 6-0 lead after two innings. Playing in cloudy conditions and mid 40 degree temperature might have an effect on Patterson. Manager Shoemaker said that "Patterson threw real well in Spring Training deserved the start and will improve once his good stuff comes around." The Loons bats were very quiet during the first game of the season in dropping the 13 -3 contest. It will take the fans a while to get use to the new and upcoming players again this year just as it has in the past. The Loons will have a tough time improving on Minor League Baseball's best record 90- 49 in 2010. It should be an interesting summer at the Dow Diamond as the Great Lakes Loons play their 70 game home schedule and strive to qualify for the Midwest League playoffs.