COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. -- Francisco Cordero, Robert Fick and Brandon Inge will be inducted into the first class of the West Michigan Whitecaps Hall of Fame later this month.
The trio will be honored in a ceremony at the Whitecaps Winter Banquet on Jan. 21, and Fick will be returning to Grand Rapids to attend the banquet for the awards ceremony.
Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson will be the featured speaker at the banquet, which is underwritten by Varnum Attorneys at Law and will be held at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids. Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski and Whitecaps Manager Joe DePastino will also speak and proceeds from a silent and live auction will go to the Whitecaps Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program and the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a silent auction of sports memorabilia and other items, followed by dinner, a live auction and the featured program. The banquet presentation will also include the induction of the inaugural class of the West Michigan Whitecaps Hall of Fame, with Fick on hand to accept his induction award.
The creation of the Hall of Fame was announced last spring and fans voted online from a list of 15 former Whitecaps players and managers. The winners were determined by a committee that included front office members, local media personalities and a fan, as well as the fan votes.
Eligible candidates in the player and coach categories must have been out of the organization for a minimum of five years. Players were judged over the individual's entire career with an emphasis on his achievements while with the Whitecaps. Candidates were also judged on their impact on the community, character, sportsmanship and integrity. Fans and front office personnel were also eligible for nomination.
Fick and Cordero led the 1997 Whitecaps team to a 92-39 record, the best in all of professional baseball. Fick's name still dominates the current Whitecaps record books -- the first baseman/catcher holds 12 of the team's 28 individual batting records, including batting average (.341), doubles (50, also the current Midwest League record), on-base percentage (.429), slugging percentage (.566), hits (158), total bases (262), runs (100), extra-base hits (69), OPS (on-base plus slugging; .995), intentional walks (11), runs-per-game (.82) and longest hitting streak (32).
Fick is also tied for third in team history with 16 home runs, is fourth in RBIs (90), is tied for ninth in walks (75) and is ninth in walk-to-strikeout ratio (1.01). He was the league's MVP and was named a post-season All-Star.
In the Majors, Fick has played catcher, first base, outfield and DH over the course of 10 seasons. He broke in to the Majors with the Tigers in September 1998, playing in seven games and hitting three home runs.
He played in 15 games for the Tigers in 1999 and earned the distinction of getting the last hit at Tiger Stadium, a monster grand slam on Sept. 27, 1999. He was named to the 2002 American League All-Star team as a right fielder, signed with Atlanta for the 2003 season, played for Tampa Bay in 2004, San Diego in late 2004 and 2005, and the Washington Nationals in 2006 and 2007. He has a lifetime .258 batting average with 69 homers, 116 doubles and 324 RBIs. Fick did not play baseball in 2008. He is scheduled to play for Italy in the World Baseball Classic in March.
Cordero posted a 6-1 record and a 0.99 ERA in 50 games as the Whitecaps' closer, earning a team and Midwest League record 35 saves. Eleven years later, the team record still stands, with no Whitecaps pitcher having come closer than four saves away from breaking that record. Cordero was dominating on the mound, walking just 15 while striking out 67 and was named as a Midwest League All-Star.
Cordero broke into the Majors with the Tigers in 1999, pitching in 20 games and posting a 3.32 ERA in relief. He was traded to Texas in the fall of 1999 in a blockbuster deal involving nine players that brought Juan Gonzalez to the Tigers. He was dealt to Milwaukee in '06 and then signed with Cincinnati before the 2008 season. Cordero was an All-Star in 2004 and 2007 and holds a career 31-31 win-loss record and 211 saves with 606 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA. He has pitched 576 relief innings in 542 games.
Inge caught for the Whitecaps in 1999, hitting .244 with 54 runs, 86 hits, 25 doubles, nine homers and 46 RBIs in 100 games. He was named as the best defensive catcher in the Tigers farm system by Baseball America with a .990 fielding percentage, 703 put-outs and only five errors. Inge was a leader on the field and in the clubhouse for the Whitecaps and gave much of his free time to community appearances.
Inge has played his entire eight-year Major League career with the Tigers since his debut in April 2001. He's logged 992 games, 772 hits, 96 home runs and 410 RBIs with a career batting average of .237. He posted career highs of 27 home runs and 83 RBIs in 2006 and hit .353 in the 2006 World Series.
Inge has caught, played third base and the outfield during his career and is slotted as the 2009 Tigers starting third baseman, where he is considered one of the best in the Majors defensively. He boasts a career .995 fielding percentage behind the plate and .958 at third base.
Two ticket options are available for fans interested in attending the event. Corporate tables include 10 tickets to the banquet, 40 raffle tickets and preferred seating, and are $850 each. Individual tickets are $75 per person.
Raffle tickets are $5 each or five for $20. Those unable to attend but willing support the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball program may sponsor a volunteer for $100 or sponsor a child for $50.
The deadline to purchase tickets to the banquet is Monday, Jan. 12. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Whitecaps at (616) 784-4131.
Fans should note that the Winter Banquet is not an autograph event. Although patrons are welcome to bring cameras and take pictures with Tigers guests, outside memorabilia is not allowed into the Banquet and autograph collecting will not be permitted.