Thursday, February 29, 2024

Oldsmobile ready for Lugnuts

April 5, 2002
Grounds crew workers Ben McCann, left, and Nate Lyster work on building the mound for second base Thursday at Oldsmobile Park, 505 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing. The crew has had problems doing routine work on the field in preparation of Sunday\'s home opener because of the unseasonably cold weather. —

The baseball season has arrived, and Sunday the Lansing Lugnuts will give fans a reason to celebrate.

At 2:05 p.m. the West Michigan Whitecaps will help the Lugnuts kick off their seventh season in Oldsmobile Park, 505 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing.

For Russ Washegesic, the home opener means more than just baseball in Lansing. As the head groundskeeper, Washegesic has been working around the clock to prepare Oldsmobile Park.

“You have to love the game in order to do this job,” Washegesic said. “You really have to be one-half crazy to do this. The grass isn’t as green as we’d like it to be, but I’m a loss for words since we’ve been running around with our heads cutoff.

“We’re just getting ready to start painting, and then we’re going to start trimming. It’s been a real challenge so far with the tough weather.”

Washegesic said by the time players and fans fill the park Sunday, Oldsmobile will be ready to “play ball.”

For right-handed pitcher Steve Ellis, the home game isn’t soon enough. Ellis said he can’t wait to step out on the grass at Oldsmobile.

“It’s going to be real exciting,” Ellis said. “Pretty much all the month of March, all we were talking about is, ‘Come on, let’s get going here. Let’s get our first games going.’”

Catcher Travis Silver said the home opener is the beginning of what could be a great season.

“I’m definitely excited to play again after spring training,” Silver said. “I think we have a really good team this year and I think we’ll do very well this year. We should definitely make the playoffs.”

But Silver knows the home opener is for the fans.

And mechanical engineering senior Mark Kluesner will be attending his second-consecutive Lugnuts home opener. Kluesner said it’s the “thing to do.”

“It’s really exciting to kick off a new season with the crowd and everything,” he said. “I really don’t know how to describe it, but there is just s certain feeling to it - some hometown feeling.”

Of the 25-man roster, only three Lugnuts return from last season. Returning outfielder Mike Mallory said he has no doubt the fans will welcome the 22 new players.

“I think it’s going to be good for the younger guys getting out there in front of the crowd,” Mallory said. “The crowd here really loves their players and it will be a good experience for them.”

Ellis said the team is young, but added it has plenty of talent.

“I don’t think there’s a better starting five than the five starters we have here in Lansing,” Ellis said. “Last year in Boise, we had a record of 50-20. We were rated the short-season team of the year by Baseball America.

“All those five starters are here this year so we have high expectations for those guys, and I think you’ll see as the season gets underway that they’ll win a lot of games for us.”

Lugnuts manager Julio Garcia said the Whitecaps will pose a challenging home opener.

“Last year, they had a good team all the way around,” Garcia said. “They had good pitching and they could score runs. I mean, they gave us fits all year.

“If I were to guess, I’d be pretty sure they have the same kind of club this year that they did last year.”

Silver said he loves the home opener, but said there is a lot more season to be played after the game.

“You have to take the good with the bad the first game because you play a long season where things are up and down,” Silver said. “You just have to stay somewhere in the middle and do the best you can throughout the whole season.”

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