Bummin' Around: The Beach Bums who stayed

·6 min read

Jun. 10—TRAVERSE CITY — Three-hundred eighty-eight players donned Traverse City Beach Bums jerseys in the franchise's 13 years.

Four stuck around.

So a little bit of the old Traverse City Beach Bums live on in Traverse City.

With the former Frontier League independent minor-league baseball team purchased by Joe Chamberlin and turned into a Northwoods League college wood-bat league three years ago, Beach Bums logos no longer grace the now renamed Turtle Creek Stadium.

But some essence of the team's 2006-2018 run remains.

Four players from the franchise chose to make the Traverse City area their home after their playing days.

Mike Epping, Ken Knudsen, Michael Shreves and Kendall Patrick still live in the area to this day.

Patrick serves as operations manager for the Pit Spitters, the third-year Northwoods League franchise that now occupies Turtle Creek Stadium, the same place he played for four seasons (2015-18) in Beach Bums blue and yellow.

During those years, he caught for Michael Shreves and Ken Knudsen. He met Knudsen prior to the pitcher's arrival in Traverse City, hitting a game-winning home run off the reliever to snap a 1-for-37 slump when Knudsen threw for the Schaumburg Boomers in 2016.

"We lost touch when the Beach Bums dissolved," Patrick said, "and then reconnected over the years."

Mike Epping (2008-09) doesn't know the other three, but the Frontier League all-star centerfielder now runs a successful insurance company in Charlevoix.


When the Beach Bums ceased operations and morphed into the Pit Spitters, former Bums manager Dan Rohn reached out to Patrick about sticking around to give baseball lessons along with Knudsen. That's when he saw how the Pit Spitters operated.

"I like the energy and what they were doing," Patrick said.

He stuck around with the Pit Spitters, serving as a jack-of-all-trades during the 2019 Northwoods League championship season. He'd replace damaged wall pads, cup holders and chair slings.

"Next thing you know, I'm wearing a Superman costume on super hero night," Patrick said.

In the Spitters' league championship game against the Eau Claire Express, the team needed an emergency bullpen catcher because some of the team's backstops needed to head back to college.

Patrick, who started the day working the parking lot, signed a one-day contract and helped warm up TC's pitchers in the eventual championship victory.

"God bless (manager) Josh (Rebandt)," Patrick chuckled. "He had pitchers up every inning."

He had to change out of his catcher's gear into a polo shirt and pants for postgame festivities, once his contract was up.

The following season saw a full-time job as facility maintenance coordinator, taking over as operations manager last November.

The South Dakota native played college ball at Michigan. His sister lives in Pennsylvania and brother in Canada.

"I don't know what my parents did, but they did a good job of getting kids to fly the coop," Patrick said. "The way the town treated me, it just felt right to stick around."

MIKE EPPING (2008-09)

The elder statesman of the quartet, Epping did lessons with former Major League catcher Doug Mirabelli after retiring from playing after the 2009 season.

That led to a State Farm executive whose child Epping had coached saying that he should look at going into insurance sales because of his demeanor. He lived in Traverse City for a year before moving to Charlevoix and eventually Petoskey.

The 37-year-old Epping opened up his own State Farm office in Charlevoix in July of 2011, and quickly rose to become one of the company's top sellers.

"I loved the area," Epping said. "I grew up in the country in Oklahoma. I ended up hitting a grand slam with a career opportunity."

Epping hit .261 with 19 home runs, 113 RBIs, 10 triples, 46 doubles, 92 walks and 90 stolen bases in two seasons with the Bums.

KEN KNUDSEN (2017-18)

The current Traverse City West junior varsity baseball coach played in the Alaska League in 2013 prior to a two-year stint in Traverse City.

"That's one of the reasons I fell in love with TC," Knudsen said. "Minus the mountains, it had the same outdoorsy feel."

The 28-year-old took over the Titans JV coaching gig last year, although that season was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. West head coach Matt Bocian had T-shirts made up boasting of an "undefeated" 2020 season for the Titan program.

Knudsen had college league experience with the Chugiak Eagle River Chinooks, who are similar to the Pit Spitters, and the Bryant College grad met his future wife Brittany toward the end of the 2017 Beach Bums season.

He returned home to Atlanta for a job, but the relationship endured that distance.

"Everything kept taking the next step," Knudsen said. "When I came back up for the 2018 season, we decided I wasn't going to go back to Atlanta. I was chasing fool's gold and didn't want to miss the boat with her."

Following the 2018 season, Knudsen took a job as a lifeguard and trainer at the Traverse City YMCA. They were married Aug. 8, 2020, and are expecting a boy this August.

"It's a tourist town technically, but the community is awesome," Knudsen said. "I still run into people who recognize me from my playing days. That was one of the things that did it for me."

Knudsen roomed with Kendall for road games, and a portion of the team — Knudsen, Will Kengor, Luke Lowery and Orlando Rivera — met up in Orlando last August for the funeral of former Beach Bums outfielder Alexis Rivera.


Similarly to Knudsen, Shreves stayed in Traverse City in large part because of love.

He met his wife Kayla while playing in Traverse City, and the two married last September.

Originally, he thought he'd find a physical education job around Traverse City, but that instead turned into a gig in publishing business development with Hagerty Insurance.

Patrick was Shreves' catcher for all three seasons in Traverse City, and Shreves and Knudsen pitched out of the same bullpen for a season.

The 30-year-old Shreves still does lessons for players ages 10 through high school.

"It's nice to be around the game and not be out of it completely," Shreves said. "It's great to do it at your own pace."

Shreves played in the Northwoods League for the Wilmar Stingers for a little over a season.

"It was the first taste of what baseball every day is like," Shreves said. "You get to play with guys from all over the country and from bigger schools. It's bus rides, baseball and friends, so it's tough to beat."

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