WINNER: Joe Chamberlin
ORGANIZATION: West Michigan Whitecaps
In a year that saw live sports become a distant memory, the West Michigan Whitecaps found a way to make headlines without even throwing a pitch.
With the minor leagues on hold in 2020 and Major League Baseball restructuring its support for the lower levels, it was a summer of uncertainty for the Whitecaps. But when the smoke cleared late in the year, the Whitecaps were promoted to Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, leaving behind its Tigers’ Low A designee status it held for the last 24 seasons.
“We’re thrilled for our fanbase,” said Joe Chamberlin, CEO of the West Michigan Whitecaps. “It means West Michigan will see a higher level of baseball talent, which translates to the opportunity to see more Detroit Tigers prospects, along with Midwest League rival prospects and more fun for the fans!”
Tigers General Manager and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Al Avila reportedly said Spencer Torkelson, the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2020, should see some action in West Michigan this summer.
The announcement is a result of Major League Baseball’s restructuring of the Minor League Baseball player development system. Class A-Advanced affiliate is below the Tigers’ Triple-A and Double-A development system.
The Whitecaps team will be made up of young players, some of whom are promoted from the Tigers’ Single A team, the Lakeland Flying Tigers. The players will be honing their baseball skills by playing a full season each year from April through September in Minor League Baseball’s Midwest League.
“The Whitecaps have been standout partners for us and do a great job ensuring our players are in the best position for growth and development to become impactful contributors to our organization,” Avila said. “I’d especially like to thank Lew Chamberlin, the club’s executives, state and local government officials, and the West Michigan community for their passion and commitment to this great sport.”
Click here to read about the other winners of the 2020 Newsmakers of the Year.