The West Michigan Whitecaps and first year skipper Joe DePestino are ready to defend the Midwest League Titles the team won in 2006 and 2007. This year's roster features six players from last years squad, and one from the 2006 title winning team.
Returning from last years team are pitchers Lauren Gagnier, Ramon Garcia, Kelvin Cedano and position players Audy Ciriaco, Jordan Newton, and Joe Tucker. Cory Middleton comes back to play outfield for the 'Caps, after playing third base two seasons ago.
West Michigan also welcomes one of the best hitting prospects in the Tigers' organization in Ronnie Bourquin. He hit .325 with the Oneonta Tigers of the NY-Penn League in 2007. Bourquin was drafted by Detroit in 2006 after earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors with Ohio State.
Aslo joining the 'Caps from Oneonta are Justin Henry and Chris Carlson. Henry, a second baseman, batted .340 last season in 67 games. Carlson, a first baseman, was named Oneonta's MVP in 2007 after slugging 10 home runs, 51 RBI's, and .291 average in 72 games.
The 2008 West Michigan roster will also host some local talent. RHP Andrew Hess (Kalamazoo) played for Univ. of Michigan, and LHP Jon Kibler threw for Michigan State in 2007 after transfering from Dundalk Community College in Maryland. Kibler was named Gulf Coast League Tigers Pitcher of the Year in 2007. The outfield will sport a Grand Rapids native in Casper Wells. Casper is in his fourth season in the Tigers' organization and hit 9 homers and 47 RBI's in Oneonta last year.
Of the 25-man 2008 Whitecaps roster, six won the MWL Title with West Michigan in 2007, one in 2006, and fourteen played for Oneonta's Stedler Division Title winners last season. Another exciting season and title run may be in the cards for 2008 as well.
Baseball fans can get a look at this year's team as they take on Grand Valley State in an exhibition game at 5/3 Park tonight. The players and coaches will be available after the game for autographs.