Play Ball

March 15, 2004
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With baseball’s spring training season fully underway, and the Tigers not resembling anything near a contender, it’s time to look at West Michigan’s bevy of business hardballers and see where they would fit in on the diamond.

This lineup may not win you many games in your fantasy league, but it’s done all right for economic development in the local region.

First you’ve got to find a strong starting rotation, which is the backbone of any team.

Street Talk gives you these starting hurlers, who are very adept at pitching.

PeterSecchia. The former U.S. ambassador and staff ace can pitch just about anything, and as witnessed by his recent dustup with a would-be kidnapper in Seattle, he’s not afraid to throw inside when the situation warrants. The right makeup for a No. 1.

DavidFrey. The Grand Action co-chair throws strikes every time out. You know exactly what you’re going to get each time he steps to the mound. Isn’t afraid to come right at the target and give it his best shot, as long as it helps the team. A real money player.

JohnWheeler. The Rockford Construction CEO has a crafty delivery. You never know what angle he’s coming from. Great pickoff move, too. Has the ability to use several pitches effectively.

TimWondergem. Gotta have a junkballer in the rotation to complement the flamethrowers and the Wondergem Consulting president fits the bill. Throws anything up there and can pitch forever.

The long reliever’s slot goes to SteveWilson. The CVB president always mops up after the starters and can follow directions to the letter. Very handy to have around.

The closer’s role goes to the aptly named BirgitKlohs. The Right Place’s CEO nails ’em down every time. Uses a string of super fastballs and a brash, upfront manner to ring up competitors. Perfectly suited to finishing.

The team’s catcher will be RogerBergman, the mayor of Grand Haven. He’s caught a lot of flak from the business community recently, but now he’s calling a good game.

First base will be handled by DavidVanAndel. Tall and rangy, the VAI CEO has plenty of power and can hit to many fields (including cancer research, education, biotech, etc.). Has a big contract but is learning on the job and playing the position well.

The double-play combo is GeorgeHeartwell and DavidMorren. When playing well together, the duo is unstoppable and should be able to get to everything. Kent County Chairman Morren handles the shortstop duties with better range. Grand Rapids Mayor Heartwell is a stay-at-home second sacker who guards his turf well. Both are still searching for their power strokes, but both have shown some pop at the plate and good decision-making skills in the field.

The hot corner will be manned by none other than Smilin’ JackBuchanan. The guy has handled more screamers in the past 18 months than any infielder in the league. The Blue Bridge Ventures CEO is a free swinger at the plate but very difficult to get out. Just keeps coming at you. Excellent at fouling off pitches he doesn’t like.

The outfield is all-star caliber. They’re all heavy hitters and cover plenty of ground. StanWisinski, of S.J. Wisinski and Co., is planted in center. He’s the captain of the outfield and calls everything he can get to. He’s flanked by BobGrooters, president of Robert Grooters Development Co., in right, and BillBowling, founder of Grubb & Ellis/Paramount Properties, in left. Collectively, these three cover more territory than any trio of outfielders in the league. Plus, they’re all veterans and it’s very difficult to get anything past them.

West Michigan’s DH is KevinKabat, president of Fifth Third Bank-Western Michigan. Kabat wields the biggest stick on the team and is judicious with his at-bats. Works the count deep. Sees the field very well.

The team needs some role players, too, and there’s no shortage available.

JohnLogie is one of those experienced players who can fill in at any position. Is scrappy and has surprising power to all fields. Range has diminished recently, but still a player to be reckoned with.

SteveHeacock, the Ideasphere CFO, also plays many positions. A middle infielder by trade, Heacock also can pitch in a pinch and has seen time as a long reliever.

The manager of this team is LewChamberlin, owner of the Whitecaps, simply based on his baseball and business acumen. Is quiet, but knows how to get the most out of everyone.

Owner DanDeVos comes from a long line of players. Has won championships as an owner in the past and expects nothing less from this group. Also has international experience.

If you didn’t land a spot on this year’s team, don’t worry — spring training rolls around every March.

  • Just when U.S. Rep.PeteHoekstra thought he was in the clear. Now the Federal Prison Industries reformer has another potential hurdle to clear. Word has it that MarthaStewart is about to sign on as a design consultant/pitch woman for FPI … for the next 2 to 5 years. Can you imagine the delightful new fabric designs FPI would suddenly begin producing for its prison-made modular office panels?

  • A contributor to this edition’s focus section, John L. Rzepka (pronounced “ZEP-ka”) of Tax Resolution Specialists Inc., says the Treasury Department proudly reports that the IRS’s accuracy rate in answering callers’ questions has improved tremendously — from 57 percent in 2002 to 73 percent last year.

That’s improvement.

What grade does a high school student get if 27 percent of his Algebra test answers are wrong?

You get ISO thoughts, too. Would Riviera Tool, GR Spring & Stamping or Autodie be anything but memories if their customer satisfaction rates were 73 percent?     

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