Lansing’s minor league franchise hits quarter-century mark
Lansing baseball fans were all set for the start of a special Lansing Lugnuts season in mid-April. It was going to be a grand season of celebrating the team, which had its first home opener 25 years ago in what was then Oldsmobile Stadium.
Unfortunately, “play ball” turned into “stay home” because of the coronavirus pandemic known as COVID-19. At the time of this writing, the question of a 2020 season, as well as other planned summer events, was up in the air.
With the delayed season opener, fans are getting a taste of what life in downtown Lansing was a quarter-century ago before the minor league Class A team arrived on the scene.
At that time, city officials prioritized building downtown Lansing into an entertainment magnet, and the ballpark has proven to be a strong current of fun.
Lugnuts General Manager Tyler Parsons said the stay-at-home order was issued long before players reported to the Lansing clubhouse.
“They were not in Lansing yet and were down in spring training,” Parsons explained. “On our end, we understand that public health and safety is the paramount priority, and we support any decision when the time is right. We’ll be ready for baseball.”
Scott Keith, president of the Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority that oversees management of Cooley Law School Stadium, said the delay has prevented basic ballpark preparation.
“All events through April 13 have been canceled or postponed. The pandemic has also delayed the de-winterization of the stadium,” Keith said. “Currently MLB and MiLB have not provided a definitive date on opening day.”
As part of the 25-year anniversary, the front office developed a new logo celebrating the team’s long stint in Lansing. Parsons also said fans had a voice in what four Lugnuts from the team’s history should be commemorated. The GM said an online vote took place in March and the quartet of former ’Nuts and giveaway dates are:
The stadium proved to be a key element to the downtown entertainment scene. Other businesses popped up around the stadium as well as condos and apartments.
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor commended the positive effect the team and stadium have had on the city.
“The city of Lansing stands strong in support of the Lansing Lugnuts,” said Schor.
“The investment to bring the Lugnuts to Lansing more than 20 years ago has had a tremendously positive impact on our community. People of all backgrounds and identities continue to join together at games to cheer our hometown baseball team to victory. Not only do the Lugnuts provide affordable, family-friendly fun for our residents and visitors, they also drive positive economic impact in downtown Lansing.”
Keith emphasized the stadium is not only for baseball fans, as many festivals and celebrations are staged there.
“The Common Ground Presents concerts planned for July 10 and 11 are still currently scheduled,” Keith said. “We at LEPFA believe people will be ready to get out and continue on with planned activities once the pandemic has subsided.” Keith said. “Events are still planned starting at the end of April at the Lansing Center, the Lugnuts and stadium events. We at LEPFA believe people will be ready to get out and continue on with planned activities once the pandemic has subsided.”
Tom Trumble said he has been a Lugnuts fan from day one and enjoys baseball at Cooley Law School Stadium.
“I had an interest in the team from the start. It was exciting and a good opportunity to go out and see a good caliber of baseball,” Trumble said. “I just like the baseball atmosphere. The food and everything else are secondary.”
He’s also seen Lugnuts who go on to play in the majors, including recent MLB recruit Guerrero, who was called up from the Lugnuts by the Toronto Blue Jays in April 2019.
“It’s fun over a course of a season to see who develops,” Trumble said. “The only downer is … players like Vlad Jr. who are gone after half a season, and I was really getting into watching him.”