The flight of the Loons - the Great Lakes Loons - surfaced as the top sports story in the Tri-City region.
The team, a Class A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Midwest League, made their debut Friday, April 13 . . . and they never looked back. Fans around mid-Michigan flocked to beautiful Dow Diamond in Midland. In fact, their total attendance of 324,564 ranked them fifth amongst Midwest League teams in terms of total attendance and average attendance. They had 30 sellouts during their inaugural season.
However, the product on the field didn't mirror the team's front office spectacle as they finished 57-82 for the season. Along the way they committed 227 errors, the most in the league. Two players - Preston Mattingly and Trayvon Robinson - each had 119 strikeouts during the season (and they aren't pitchers).
It took the Dodgers exactly one day to fire first-year manager Lance Parrish, the former Detroit Tiger catcher and local fan favorite. The organization has yet to name a successor.
Other sports highlights from around the area (in no particular order) include:
* Nouvel Catholic Central captured its second consecutive state championship in football. The Panthers knocked off Blissfield 12-7 to capture the Division 6 state title, thus becoming the first team in Saginaw County history to win back-to-back state championships in football since the playoff system was enacted in 1975 by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Coach Mike Boyd's Panthers, who graduated 27 seniors a year earlier, barely qualified for the playoffs with a 5-3 record. They finished 10-3.
* Saginaw Valley State University unceremoniously sacked head football coach Randy Awrey when an internal investigation fingered the coach for allegedly violating NCAA rules. One of the violations included Awrey's bartering for campus housing for his two sons (both played football for the Cardinals). SVSU Athletic Director Mike Watson escorted Awrey out of his office and the nine-year coach - through his attorney Roland Jersevic - denied any wrongdoing. Among the self-imposed penalties was the forfeiture of all league wins in 2005 and 2007. Awrey would thus have 13 victories taken away from him. He still owns the most wins in SVSU history with 63.
* The front office carousel for the Saginaw Spirit hockey team continued in 2007 as Donald Edwards was named the team's general manager. The team first named Sheldon Ferguson as its GM but Ferguson backed out for personal reasons. Edwards then hired former Plymouth Whalers assistant coach Todd Watson as its head coach - the team's fifth coach in six seasons of play. Bob Mancini previously held both the coach and GM positions for the Spirit.
* Saginaw High School won its fourth Class A boy's state basketball championship when the Mighty, Mighty Trojans spanked Detroit Redford and Mr. Basketball winner Corperryale Harris 79-57 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
* For the first-time ever, the Saginaw Spirit hockey team selected a hometown player during the 2007 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection draft when they selected Swan Valley High School sophomore Brad Walch in the fifth round. Saginaw chose the 16-year-old defenseman with the 82nd pick of the draft.
* Officials from TheDow Event Center and SMG Management announced the arrival of a new indoor arena football team. The Saginaw Sting, owned by Mike Johnson, will play in the Continental Indoor Football League as an expansion franchise. Home game will be played at TheDow beginning in March of 2008.
* Old time baseball is back in Saginaw as the Saginaw Old Golds' vintage baseball team made its debut in August. Local historian
* Tom Mudd and baseball aficionado Richard Curry joined forces to get the team - a replica of Saginaw's first professional baseball teams of 1883-84 - off the ground. Harold Campau serves as the team's manager and Campau is looking to put together a 14-game season in 2008. The team plays its home games at Ojibway Island.
* Over 700 people attended the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame's induction banquet in November to help usher in the Class of 2007 at the Horizons Conference Center. Making the grade this year were basketball standouts Annette Babers and Paul Dawkins, football stars Terry Eurick and Sam Sword, track star Charles "Whitey" Hlad, hockey pioneer Wren Blair, golfer Stan Murphy, football coach George Ihler, along with the 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1991 Nouvel Catholic Central boy's state championship basketball teams. Their plaques will join others from the first five induction classes which are permanently displayed at Saginaw Valley State University's Jack Ryder Center.
* Collecting Saginaw County Athlete of the Year honors for 2007, as voted upon by the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame, were Arthur Hill High School's Darquavis Tucker and Nouvel Catholic Central's Tim Ryan. Tucker, a 6-5 guard/forward, finished second for the state's Mr. Basketball award. He took his cage talents to DePaul University. Ryan, meanwhile, was a three-sport standout for the Panthers, excelling in basketball, football and baseball. He is attending Oakland University on a baseball scholarship. In basketball, Tucker and Ryan were named Player of the Year by the Associated Press in Class A and Class C, respectively.
The 2007 Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame Inductees included hockey coach Wren Blair and golfer Stan Murphy