By Emily Waldon
Let’s take a moment to clear up a giant misconception.
One popular viewpoint has embraced the belief that signing your name to the dotted line of a Major League Baseball contract is the recipe for a life of instant fame, fortune and countless organizations banging down your door with endorsement deals.
This is far from reality.
The choice of committing to a Major League contract also means agreeing to shoulder the rigorous task of proving your worth on a field of seasoned veterans; many of whom have the ability to knock 400 foot home runs and could turn a 6-4-3 double play in their sleep.
It means stepping into an unyielding routine of public appearances, long bus rides and doing your best to drown out the snoring of your teammates as you move from hotel to hotel. It means little sleep, late night meals and being continuously reminded of how thankful you are for the gift of technology to stay in touch with family back home.
The Major League Baseball minor league system is not for the faint of heart. This lifestyle is quick to weed out anyone who has anything less than an undeniable passion for the game. As each season comes around, you are guaranteed to find a group of young men who want nothing more than to excel at the way of life that they have come to live and breathe.
The 2014 season for the Single A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers has proven to be no exception by producing a roster of fresh faces, a new head coach from Down Under and a lanky first baseman who goes by the name of Dominic Ficociello.
Australian native Andrew Graham is no stranger to the West Michigan Whitecaps franchise, having held down the role of catcher during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. He accepted the offer to manager this year’s roster in January and hasn’t looked back since. With a passion for developing the talent in his players, Graham has already shown himself bound and determined to produce a winning season for the fans in West Michigan this year.
One notable newcomer to the clubhouse is 19 year-old Miranda, Venezuela native, Javier Betancourt.
With an infectious smile and youthful exuberance, Betancourt brings a raw talent to this year’s squad. The nephew of New York Mets infielder Edgardo Alfonzo, Betancourt has proven at an exceptionally young age an understanding of the game far beyond his years. Currently leading the team in hits and runs scored, the scrappy middle infielder is batting an impressive .290, while striking out a mere 10 percent of his plate appearances.
Betancourt is just one example of a squad capable of making a strong push in the playoffs this year. Sitting just s few games out of first place in the Midwest League Eastern Division, a strong team chemistry combined with an impressive skill level leave little room for doubt that this team embodies every tool necessary to bring another title back to West Michigan.
Emily Waldon was raised in Howard City and currently resides in Wyoming, Mich. A lifelong sports enthusiast, she also enjoys photography, traveling and bringing a fresh outlook to the world of athletics, both collegiate and professional. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org