Friday, May 24, 2024

Lugnuts love energy at crosstown game

April 4, 2012
Sophomore left fielder Jordan Keur makes it to home plate ahead of a throw to Lansing catcher Carlos Perez Tuesday at Cooley Law School Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Lugnuts, 2-1, in the fifth annual Crosstown Showdown. Matt Radick/The State News
Sophomore left fielder Jordan Keur makes it to home plate ahead of a throw to Lansing catcher Carlos Perez Tuesday at Cooley Law School Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Lugnuts, 2-1, in the fifth annual Crosstown Showdown. Matt Radick/The State News

For the sixth-straight year, the Lansing Lugnuts will open up the season against the MSU baseball team.

The Lugnuts — the Single-A affiliate of the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays — made it to the Midwest League Championship series last season, a few months after the Spartans won the Big Ten championship.

The annual Crosstown Showdown provides Greater Lansing baseball fans a chance to see two top-of-their-level teams face off at Cooley Law School Stadium. Today’s 7:05 p.m. matchup will provide MSU with a chance to even the series to 3-3, but ultimately gives both teams an extra exhibition game to calm nerves and test strategies and lineups.

“The best thing about it is some of the guys who get to pitch get to get used to the surroundings and the mound in a nonpressure situation, get their feet wet that way,” Lugnuts manager John Tamargo said. “They get a chance to pitch in front of a lot of people and get that nervous energy out of the way, just settle in a little bit.”

Last season saw the professional team downed by the Spartans, 2-1, for MSU’s second win in the series. But the teams get use out of players, using 13 pitchers last season, and in 2007 the teams used 42 players.

Lugnut pitching coach Vince Horsman said the experience playing a nonpressure game to open up the season in Lansing is excellent for the young team.

“It’s a lot of fun, gets the guys up here, gets us an extra game prior to the season,” Horsman said.

“I’ve been here two years, I love it. The players love it. (It’s a) great atmosphere, great time.”

Although the experience is crucial for both teams, the Showdown was started in 2007 to help raise interest in baseball.

According to the Lugnuts media guide, the Showdown has been successful in the quest for interest, with 38,000 fans in five years, including the stadium’s two top draws in 2008 and 2009, both with more than 12,800 people. Each game has had more than 6,000 people, and the average Lugnut attendance is just more than 5,000.

The young Lugnuts — many who didn’t play in college — enjoy the opportunity to get the collegiate experience. And Tamargo thinks the experience for both teams in front of many fans will help them all with their potentially long careers still ahead of them. But he too thinks the draw for interest is important for Michigan baseball.

“It draws a lot of interest from the community,” Tamargo said. “And the crowds are pretty good.”

Pitcher Aaron Sanchez — a 19-year-old first-round draft pick of the Blue Jays — is starting his third minor league season and hadn’t thought of it as more than just another game before this week.

“It’s good for the state of Michigan and Lansing, the crosstown rivalry thing,” Sanchez said.

“And I think it’s fun for the fans and even us. It’s fun to find out what baseball’s like in the state and get to see what (the fans) get to look at all year.”

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Lugnuts love energy at crosstown game” on social media.