Friday, May 24, 2024

MSU excited to play professionals in Crosstown Showdown

April 4, 2012
Senior right hand pitcher Tony Bucciferro throws the ball Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes by 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field during their first game of the three-game series. Justin Wan/The State News
Senior right hand pitcher Tony Bucciferro throws the ball Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes by 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field during their first game of the three-game series. Justin Wan/The State News

Jimmy Pickens considers himself blessed to have played in professional baseball stadiums multiple times since he picked up the game as a kid.

As a freshman out of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Pickens even has had the chance to play in the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park in the Catholic League Championship.

Still, Pickens said he can’t wait to get a taste of his first Crosstown Showdown at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, when he and the MSU baseball team take on the Single-A Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing.

“I’ve never heard of something happening like this in college,” Pickens said. “I’ve never seen a college team get to play a pro team in an event like this, so I’m excited to see what it’s like and enjoy the whole experience.”

Thursday marks the sixth annual Crosstown Showdown, and the Spartans (18-8 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) have won two of the last five meetings, including a 2-1 victory last season. MSU also came away with a convincing 12-2 win in 2009 in front of a stadium-record 12,992 fans.

Head coach Jake Boss Jr., who holds a 2-1 record in the event, said one of the most special parts of the Crosstown Showdown is the support it draws from so many baseball fans in the Lansing area.

“The Crosstown Showdown is the highlight of the year for us, really,” Boss said. “They welcome us with open arms over there, (and) it’s just a great atmosphere. … It’s every kid’s dream to play pro ball, and to get a chance to play against those guys in front of a great crowd and a great atmosphere is something our guys will never forget.”

Thursday’s game lands in a busy portion of the Spartans’ schedule, as MSU is in the process of playing 12 games in 17 days. This week is especially packed for the Spartans, who completed a three-game series with Ohio State on Monday before taking on Eastern Michigan on Wednesday in Ypsilanti, Mich. On Friday, MSU begins a three-game series with Michigan, leaving hardly any time for rest.

Although the timing of the Crosstown Showdown might seem inconvenient, junior second baseman Ryan Jones said it actually couldn’t come at a better time.

“Everybody gets to play, and we just go out there and have fun,” Jones said. “Everything is real relaxed, and it’s a Thursday, so there will be a lot of students out there.”

Another part of what makes Thursday’s game different is that the Spartans will have to use with wooden bats instead of the aluminum ones they use throughout the season. Making that adjustment doesn’t worry Pickens and his teammates, though, as they’re simply looking forward to playing against a team full of players talented enough to be drafted by an MLB team.

“That’s one of the most unique things about it,” Pickens said. “It allows you to not really assess your talent, but put your talent up against major league-type players, which is awesome.”

With two wins in five tries against the Lugnuts, MSU has shown in recent years that the Crosstown Showdown can be a competitive event despite the talent gap found between college and professional teams. And although it doesn’t count toward the Spartans’ record and is more about the experience than anything, Pickens said MSU is going into Thursday’s game the same way it would for any other during the season.

“Like every sport or video game or game with your friends, you always want to win,” Pickens said. “We’re going to go out (Thursday) looking to do that. It’s going to be fun, and we’re going to go out and try to give the fans some entertainment. But hopefully we can walk out with a win and have a good ride home.”

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

Discussion

Share and discuss “MSU excited to play professionals in Crosstown Showdown” on social media.