Traverse City Beach Bums
First season: 2006
Years in league: 2006-present
Ballpark: Wuerfel Park
Following the 2004 season Traverse City, MI received approval to join the Frontier League in 2006. Construction continued on Wuerfel Park, which was completed in late summer 2005. The only question was whether the city would receive an expansion team or an existing team would relocate.
That question was answered on July 1, 2005, when it was announced that John and Leslye Wuerfel had reached an agreement to purchase the Richmond Roosters and move them to Traverse City. Read the team's press release and the reaction from the local press.
The Beach Bums' inaugural coaching staff carried much FL experience. Manager Jeff Isom previously managed both Canton and Washington to playoff berths. Veteran FL players Jon Cahill and Jared Howton assisted Isom as coaches. Their experience would pay immediate dividends in Traverse City.
A crowd of 5,823 saw the Beach Bums christen Wuerfel Park with a 10-2 loss to Kalamazoo on May 24. It was all uphill from there as the Beach Bums were an overwhelming success both on and off the field.
Righthander Tony Casoli was nearly unstoppable in midseason, putting together a record 35 consecutive scoreless innings en route to a 13-3, 2.44 season and Pitcher Of the Year honors. His 13 wins led the league as did his four shutouts and six complete games. The rest of the rotation was solid if not as dominant. Ryan Gehring, picked up after his release by Evansville, went 7-5, 2.98, while Robbie McClellan went 8-5, 3.31 and Steve Shippey, back from pitching in Australia in 2005, went 8-5, 3.77.
In the bullpen southpaw Jason Furrow (3-2, 2.68) set up save opportunities for Jordan Thomson (10 saves) and sidearmer Hunter Davis (2.65, 9 saves).
The lineup was a blend of Frontier League veterans and talented young players. The Beach Bums began 2006 with the FL's Rookies Of the Year from the previous two seasons. 3B Nick Batkoski (Ohio Valley, 2005) had a solid sophomore season at .291-7-68. OF Kevin White (Richmond, 2004) was traded to Gary of the Northern League for 1B Brad Vericker, who was a solid .294-9-44. Another veteran who contributed mightily was DH Mike Reese, who hit .269 while pacing the offense with 33 steals.
Others adding firepower to the offense were C Clay Blevins (.259) and OFs Doug Garcia (.276) and Nathan Gravley (.284). Speedy rookies anchored the middle of the infield with SS Justin Holmes (.269, 13 steals) and Princeton grad 2B Steve Young (.271, 24 steals).
Traverse City had the best record in the league at the all-star break. They continued to play well in the second half but were unable to fend off a hard-charging Washington team and were eliminated on the last weekend of the season in one of the tightest races in FL history. The team's 57 wins were a record for a first year team and would easily have won the West Division.
Off the field the team was every bit as successful, as Wuerfel Park won kudos from fans and players alike. The local community strongly supported their new team. Fans responded to promotions such as appearances by the cast of "Survivor". The turnstiles at Wuerfel Park spun over 200,000 times as the Beach Bums became only the second team in history to reach that mark, leading the FL in attendance and setting yet another record for a first year team.
(Above) Wuerfel Park under construction, July 2005.
(Below) Wuerfel Park opened to much fanfare in June, 2006.
|Year||Won||Lost||GB||Finish||Attendance||Manager||Playoffs First Round||Playoffs Second Round|
Major Award Winners:
2006 Tony Casoli, Most Valuable Pitcher
Beach Bums Post-Season All-Stars:
2006 P Tony Casoli
Franchise Player: P Tony Casoli (2006) dominated in 2006, spinning a record 35 consecutive scoreless innings and winning 13 games. He was named the league's Most Valuable Pitcher that season.