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'Michigan Battle Cats
19952002'
Battle Creek, Michigan
[1]

Team Logo

[2]

Cap Insignia

Class-level
  • Class A
Minor league affiliations
Major league affiliations
Name
  • Michigan Battle Cats
Ballpark
Minor league titles
League titles 2000
Division titles 1995 (first half),
1998 (second half),
1999 (second half),
2000 (second half),
2001 (second half),2002 (first half)

The Michigan Battle Cats began playing in the Midwest League in 1995 and called C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek, Michigan home. It was the first team from the Midwest League to play in Michigan. The franchise had previously been located in Madison, Wisconsin in 1994 where they were called the Madison Hatters. Prior to that the team was located in Springfield, Illinois and was known as the Springfield Cardinals. Upon moving to Battle Creek the team initially sought the name Battle Creek Golden Kazoos to help create a regional tie-in with the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, but legal disputes led to the adoption of the Battle Cats moniker. The team became known as the Battle Creek Yankees beginning with their affiliation in 2003 with the New York Yankees, and again changed names and affiliations in 2005 and became the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays. In 2007, citing declining attendance, the team moved to Midland, Michigan and became the Great Lakes Loons.

Some notable alumni include Shea Hillenbrand, Roy Oswalt, and Carl Pavano.

By September 1994, the city of Battle Creek had committed to stadium improvements in order to bring the Madison Hatters franchise to their city. C.O. Brown Stadium had been constructed in 1989 for amateur baseball, and it was substantially improved prior to obtaining the Midwest League franchise. After temporarily being known as the Battle Creek Golden Kazoos, the team adopted the name of Michigan Battle Cats. The team agreed to become an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox (the Madison Hatters had been affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, but St. Louis switched its Midwest League affiliate to Peoria.

The league also reorganized its 14 franchises from two divisions to three and adopted a three-round post-season playoff including first- and second-half winners from each division plus wildcards. Michigan played in the Eastern Division. The league's records recognize both the winner of the post-season playoffs and the team with the highest overall season record as champions.

In 1995, their first season, the Battle Cats won the first half division championship with a 36–32 record, while their second half record of 39–31 left them one game behind the Fort Wayne Wizards. Their overall season record of 75–63 was fourth in the league. In the first round of playoffs they beat Fort Wayne two games to none, and in the second round they defeated the West Michigan Whitecaps two games to one. In the championship round, however, they were swept in three games by the Beloit Snappers. Battle Cats manager DeMarlo Hale was named the league's Manager of the Year. Shortstop Donnie Sadler hit .283 with 9 home runs, led the league in runs scored with 103, and was named to the post-season all-star team. Pitcher Carl Pavano went 6–6 with a 3.44 earned run average and 138 strikeouts. The team's attendance, 171,794, was eighth in the 14-team league and a marked improvement over the Madison Hatters' attendance of 69,060 the year before.

The 1996 season was less successful, as the Battle Cats finished in fourth place in the five-team division in both the first and second halves, with a 31–38 in the first half and 29–40 in the second half. The only player from the 1996 team who went on to a long major league career was their weak-hitting shortstop, Rafael Betancourt (who hit just .167); he would later find success as a relief pitcher.

In 1997 the Battle Cats went 38–31 in the first half, but that was only good for second place, 11 games behind West Michigan. In the second half they dropped to fourth place with a 32–36 record. They nevertheless qualified for the playoffs as a wildcard team, but they lost in the first round to the Lansing Lugnuts two games to one. Second baseman Jim Chamblee hit .300 with 22 home runs and 73 runs batted in and led the league with 112 runs scored. First baseman Shea Hillenbrand hit .290 with 3 home runs. Pitcher Chris Reitsma went 4–1 with a 2.90 earned run average and 41 strikeouts.

In the first half of the 1998 season, the Battle Cats went 36–36 and finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division. In the second half, though, they improved to 43–25 and won the division. For the overall season they finished tied for second place in the standings for the entire league, four games behind the West Michigan Whitecaps. In the playoffs the Battle Cats lost to West Michigan in the first round, two games to one. Manager Billy Gardner, Jr. won the league's Manager of the Year award. Shea Hillenbrand moved to catcher and hit .349 with 19 home runs, leading the league with a .546 slugging percentage

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