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May 22, 2006 - Image 16

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-05-22

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16 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 22, 2006



Grand Ro
ast Tuesday night, the Michi-
gan baseball team met Notre
Dame in a familiar, yet unfa-
miliar, ballpark.
That sentence sounds confusing, I
know. But give me a minute, and I'll
explain. You see, the game wasn't
played in South Bend or
Ann Arbor. Instead, for
the 11th time in the last
12 years, the two storied
schools faced off in what
is dubbed as the "Baseball 7-
Bash" at Fifth Third Ball-
park in Grand Rapids..
As a Grand Rapids
native, I've always known
-about the game but I've K
never attended. But on1
Tuesday night, I decided W
to venture out to the home Th(
of the West Michigan
Whitecaps (a Detroit Tigers'
minor-league affiliate) and watch the
Wolverines battle an old foe in Notre
Both teams came into the game
with more than 30 wins on the year, a
chance to win their respective confer-
ences and a shot at making an NCAA
The game would have been attrac-
tive enough with just those storylines.
But for me, the fact that the game was
being played in Grand Rapids proved
to be the icing on the cake.
Even though the Wolverines gutted
out a 3-1 win in less than ideal playing
conditions, the real victory for the uni-
versity came with the opportunity to
showcase itself to West Michigan.
Stuck halfway between Detroit and
Chicago, Grand Rapids gets dismissed
by many as a small-time, second-rate
city. But in reality, it's just a city lack-
ing a true sports identity. Chicago
has the Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls and
the Cubs/White Sox. Detroit has the
Lions, Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers.
Both cities have Big Ten universities
within a 45-minute drive from their
respective downtowns.
The Grand Rapids area doesn't

pis:my hometown
have a Division I university or any big
league teams that call it home. (The
closest Big Ten school to Grand Rap-
ids is the sad excuse for a university _
known as Michigan State.) I've even
had people tell me that I couldn't call
myself a fan of any of the Detroit
teams because Grand Rapids is too far ; '

I'll admit it's not the
best city in the world
or even comparable to
much larger cities such
as Chicago or Detroit.
But it still has its merits.
And as the second-largest
city in Michigan, it can't
be dismissed as just a
EVIN gathering place for farm-
ers. I even bought the
subpar EA Sports Arena
e Sixth Football 2006 just to own
Man a videogame with Grand
Rapids in it.
And here's why it's so important
that the "Baseball Bash" continues
to come to Fifth Third Ballpark.
For most of the Grand Rapids com-
munity, attending a Michigan sporting
event is a daylong trip. With roughly
a two-hour drive both ways, those
who want to go to the Big House or
Crisler Arena have to make the effort
to travel across the state to watch the
But once a year, Michigan athletics
come to them.
Sure, there has been a hockey
NCAA regional and the Women's
Big Ten tournament. But those
events came and went. The Michigan
baseball team has faithfully returned
every year.
And even though this year's game
was the lowest-scoring contest in
"Baseball Bash" history, it still gave
Grand Rapids a chance to enjoy the
spotlight. For an area that lacks a
true major-college affiliate, Michigan
coach Rich Maloney and the Wolver-
ines gave the scattered Michigan fans
in West Michigan a chance to come
out to the ballpark and enjoy a Wol-
verine victory, especially one over a

Continued from Page 15
installed last season to allow the
team to play against its biggest
rivals in sport's most reverent
atmosphere - baseball under the
Still, the team wouldn't go any-
where without good coaching and,
oh yeah, he's not too bad at that
himself. If the last two weekends
have been any indication, its that
this team, more than any other,
has truly grasped the concept of
Maloney ball: aggressive base
running, stealing and bunting in
situations that call for swinging
away, impeccable defense, consis-
tent pitching and timely hitting.
Sure, those are the tools for all
successful ball clubs, but Malo-
Continued from Page 14
distractions, questionable calls and
mind games all weekend.
But Ritter only let her frustra-
tions seep through a few times yes-
terday, responding with shock to
some hotly contested calls.
"My energy gets to me some-
times," Ritter said. "Umpires aren't
perfect; they don't always make the
right calls. There were a couple of
pitches that I thought were strikes
that I had thrown."
Ritter made it obvious she dis-
agreed, but these glimpses of mor-
tality were brief and when crunch
time came, Ritter was ready. With
Michigan batting first, the team
counted on Ritter to keep hard-hit-
ting Oklahoma at bay through the
bottom of each inning.
"Jennie Ritter's been the most
consistent performer on our team
all year" Hutchins said. "We rely on
Jennie Ritter ... She's all guts and
heart. I believe that's why she won a
national championship last year."
When the Wolverines couldn't
break the scoring stalemate in

Rich Maloney has continued to
bring Michigan to Grand Rapids.
rival like Notre Dame.
The win was an exciting one, and
the Wolverines put on a show for the
Grand Rapids area.
First baseman Nate Recknagel hit an
RBI double in the first and a homerun
in the sixth inning. Starting pitcher
Michael Powers threw seven innings of
one-run ball and put the Irish down in
order in five of them. And West Michi-
gan witnessed it firsthand.
I've been told that people from
Grand Rapids suffer from short-person
syndrome. When confronted with that
theory, I had to agree. Any chance I
get, I stand up for the city I've hailed
as home for the 20 years of my life.
And if you still think Grand Rapids is
the 5-foot-2 distant cousin to the 6-foot-
5 kids like Detroit and Chicago, I don't
care. I'll just be in my room building the
Grand Rapids Rampage into a power-
house in my new video game.
- Wright can be reached at

ney has done a masterful job at
maximizing his team's talent and
getting his players to buy into the
concept of a team.
His system works. It's not
always pretty, but it works.
The dream has finally become
a reality for Maloney, and he has
done it his way, with his type of
players and his brand of baseball.
There's no crying in baseball?
There isn't a real man in the
world who wouldn't have cried
on that field while receiving a
congratulatory hug from his wife
other for winning his first Big Ten
- Bosch wanted to cry for picking
Michigan tofinish sixth in the Big Ten.
Instead, he'll just watch "A League of
Their Own" for the 30th time. He can
be reached at hectobos@umich.edu.
regulation, Ritter provided three
strikeouts in the bottom of the sev-
enth to push for extra innings. She
went on to break her own Michigan
record for strikeouts in a game,
fanning 19 batters total.
In Friday's game against
Youngstown State, Ritter's steady
strength in the circle and some
offensive heroics from Giampaolo
helped open the regional tourna-
ment with a 4-0 victory.
The same duo kept the shutout
streak moving on Saturday in a
nine-inning 1-0 clash with Okla-
homa. While Ritter held the Wol-
verines in the game, Giampaolo
delivered her second game-win-
ning hit of the postseason to break
the chain of zeros that stretched
across the scoreboard.
After two hard-fought games
against Oklahoma, another battle
awaits Michigan in next weekend's
Super Regional in Knoxville, Tenn.
Ready to avenge last year's Wom-
en's College World Series elimi-
nation is eighth-seeded Tennessee
and All-American pitcher Monica
Abbott. The Wolverines ended the
Volunteers' season en route to the
2005 national championship.

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