Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Lansing Lugnuts Experience at Cooley Law Stadium

By
Courtesy of Lansing Lugnuts Facebook
Minor league baseball; it's where a love for the game truly begins. Sure, the bright lights of the big leagues may shine a little brighter, but the minor leagues are where the game is accessible unlike any other level of baseball.

That accessibility is no more apparent than at Cooley Law Stadium in Lansing Michigan; the home of the Lansing Lugnuts, the Single A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

I just so happened to visit the ballpark this past weekend, and here's a review of my experience at Cooley Law Stadium.

Atmosphere

If I had to use one word to describe Cooley Law Stadium, it would be "cozy". The stadium itself is tucked in amongst some buildings in downtown Lansing, and it really gives a nice and cozy feel to the ballpark. 

There were facets of three Major League ballparks that I immediately noticed after I took my seat; Camden Yards, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field. Now I know those are three pretty lofty comparisons, but let me explain.

Cooley Law Stadium has the feel of Camden Yards because of the brick exterior of the ballpark, as well as the brick buildings in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark. It also has an air of Fenway Park with a Green Monster-esque towering left and right field walls.

And finally, the home of the Lugnuts even has a hint of ivy on the right field wall next to the grass, not unlike the outfield walls at Wrigley Field. So Cooley Law really has taken some of the best parts of the most iconic ballparks in baseball and put them into one package.

Had we arrived at the ballpark earlier, I really would have loved to spend more time exploring the surrounding neighbourhood around Cooley Law Stadium, but from what I did see in my travels, it was just a great general atmosphere in and around the park.

Much like my trip to Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, I really got the sense of community at Cooley Law Stadium. By sheer coincidence, I was sitting directly behind Carol Walker; the woman responsible for teaching English to the Lugnuts Latin players.

In addition to that, Carol told me her family actually has taken in players in her home. Including Roberto Osuna, as well as former Lugnuts and current Major Leaguers Henderson Alvarez and Carlos Marmol.


Entertainment

There is no shortage of family involvement at a Lansing Lugnuts game. There was practically something happening every inning to keep the young fans entertained. This includes things like a t-shirt cannon, a hot dog cannon, a fan-lead chicken dance, and even something as simple as singing happy birthday to one young fan.

This is one area which the Lugnuts really excelled at; fan involvement throughout the entire game. Another thing they had was lawn seating just beyond left and right field, so families could sit on the grass and watch the game. Behind them, there were inflatable slides and even a playground for kids to enjoy.

I don't know if this is something that happens across the board at most minor league baseball games, but the Lansing Lugnuts spared absolutely no expense in keeping their fans entertained for a full nine innings.

The game even concluded with a great fireworks show, one that was quite impressive for a minor league ball game. And on Sundays, kids actually get to play catch on the field prior to the game, and they can run the bases after the game, too.


Food and Drink

There are no shortage of culinary offerings at Cooley Law Stadium; the concourse is littered with many different options, including BBQ, gyros, pizza, gourmet hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as your traditional ballpark fare.

My father and I tried some of the gourmet hot dogs; my dad's was a hot dog with pulled pork and coleslaw, while I had the "firecracker" hot dog with chicken, jack cheese and jalapenos. Did I mention they put it in a pretzel bun? All that for only $6 dollars.

The selection of craft beer is excellent as well; my dad and I partook in a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy pictured above, which would be especially refreshing during an afternoon game. We also tried a few brews from the Craft Beer Garden; Pyramid Breweries' Apricot ale and a Frankenmuth ale.

The Craft Beer Garden is its own little patio of sorts, tucked in the corner down the third base line. But there are some tables there for fans to enjoy their craft beer and still have a great sightline of the ballgame.

The beer prices were fairly reasonable as well; $6 dollars for a traditional draft beer, $6.75 for specialty brews, and $7 dollars for the craft beers. With some of the choices, you also get a souvenir Lansing Lugnuts collectable cup.

Not to mention, for those particularly thirsty patrons, the Lugnuts also have a dollar beer night during their Thursday home games. On Tuesdays, it's Dollar Deal Day, where hot dogs, fountain drinks and icecream sandwiches are just a buck.


Prospects

As far as prospects were concerned, I missed a Roberto Osuna start by one night, but I did happen to see a very electric left-handed reliever from Puerto Rico named Efrain Nieves. His fastball touched 95 MPH and struck out four batters in 2.2 innings of work.

Nieves was actually the Blue Jays Rule 5 minor league draft pick from the Detroit Tigers last year, so we'll see if his electric arm will make waves in the organization in the coming years.

Obviously, Roberto Osuna and Daniel Norris are the two big names that everyone will recognize, and deservingly so as they rank two and three among the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects. Osuna already boasts a 8.40 strikeout to walk ratio through his first seven starts.

Parking

Parking was a breeze around Cooley Law Stadium. Had we arrived a little earlier than 10 minutes before game time, we might have been able to park a little closer, but there were ample lots within a one to two block radius of the ballpark.

We parked for just three dollars, and the walk was only a few minutes. Getting out from the game was also fairly easy, as it's just a trip north up North Larch Street.

For those looking to save a few bucks, you can also venture a few blocks further and park on the street for free. But if time is of the essence, I'd recommend just shelling out a couple of bucks and park close to the stadium.


Overall

If you're ever in the vicinity of the southwest corner of Ontario or happen to be in Michigan, then I'd definitely recommend checking out a Lugnuts game. Combining it with another event in the area like a Nascar race or Tigers game, then it makes it totally worth the trip.

For those adventurous Blue Jays fans that plan on seeing all the minor league affiliates, Lansing is a must-visit. Although the talent level at single A is very raw, there is a real sense of a grassroots level of appreciation for the game.

If you're bringing kids to the ballpark, they'll surely have a blast as there's no shortage of things for them to do. The food and drink choices are excellent, and just the overall atmosphere of the ballpark is warm and friendly.

And who knows, you might just catch a glimpse of one of the Blue Jays hot young prospects in action like Roberto Osuna or Daniel Norris.

3 comments:

  1. Great stuff! Last year my girlfriend and I went to A White Sox game to see the Jays play but decided to stop in Lansing to see Sanchez start for them. Great game (it was hotter than hell though, in early July) but a super fun night! They had 4th of July week fireworks that night too.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, the fireworks were excellent. And they started them within minutes of the game being over, great so that families didn't have to wait around too long.

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  2. Mat Duheme, Hunter Slawek, Sameer Kotwal, Josh Mezenberg, Eric Taschner, Jacob Burbank: go jays!

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