GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Michigan Whitecaps held their annual winter banquet Wednesday night, the first big event of the organization’s silver season as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Current Detroit Tiger Nick Castellanos, former Whitecaps manager Phil Regan, and team owners Lew Chamberlin and Denny Baxter were inducted into the Whitecaps hall of fame at the event at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park near Grand Rapids.
Castellanos wore the Whitecaps uniform in 2011, hitting 312 and being named a Midwest League All-Star. Now, he’s one of the best hitters in the Detroit Tigers’ lineup.
“Grand Rapids was my freshman year of college, pretty much,” Castellanos said, speaking with 24 Hour News 8 before the banquet program started. “I just think back of how much I grew, I grew up here, and all of the love and support I got from all of the fans, the city, the ownership of the organization, my teammates.”
He said playing for the Whitecaps and getting so much support helped him gain confidence as a player.
Last season, he racked up 101 RBI.
“I try not to let it satisfy me, to not think like, ‘Oh, I did it, so now I’m going to do it again,’ or take it for granted in that sense,” he said. “We had a guy in our locker room that did it for I think it was 11 straight years or 10 straight years, and when he came up to me and he gave me a hug and he was happy for me and said congrats, I said, ‘What is one to 11?’ And he said, ‘But I started with one, too.'”
Castellanos was referring, of course, to slugger Miguel Cabrera.
Regan, a West Michigan native, spent two seasons as the Whitecaps’ manager.
“A little surprised that they have me here after only two years,” he joked with 24 Hour News 8.
He’s now a minor league pitching coordinator within in the New York Mets organization.
Chamberlin, who is also the Whitecaps’ managing partner, and Baxter, the CEO, brought baseball back to West Michigan in 1994.
“I have some letters, especially from when we were trying to raise money,” Chamberlin said of working to start up the Whitecaps. “We went to everybody. Denny and I were selling a dream. When you’re selling a dream, there are folks who say, ‘I get it. I’ll take a chance.’ There’s a lot of folks who say, ‘No, thanks.’ I have a few letters I received from potential investors that sent me a letter years letter and said, ‘Dumbest mistake I ever made.'”
That’s because the Whitecaps have flourished.
“What we always said was that we wanted the Whitecaps to become part of the fabric of the community,” Chamberlin said. “We wanted to see it become generational and we’re seeing those things. We see kids who came in 1994 that were 8-year-olds that are coming with their kids.
“More than anything, it’s seeing how much fun everyone has,” he continued. “We’re having fun. The players are having fun. The fans are having fun. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Also during the event, the Whitecaps introduced new manager Lance Parrish, who was named to the position in November. He is a former catcher for the Tigers and most recently was the manager of the Tigers’ Double-A Erie (Pennsylvania) SeaWolves.