Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ballpark adventures: Lansing Lugnuts, Cooley Law School Stadium and the nicest employees ever

Nephew Zack came to spend a day with me at the office, and naturally we needed to finish off a day in Lansing, Mich. by attending a Lugnuts game.

Thomas Cooley Law School Stadium was previously Oldsmobile Park, reflecting the company’s ties to the city and connecting with the automotive theme, including the team’s name.

Now, nitpickers out there will point out that the Lugnuts' logo is technically a screw. This is true. Stop thinking too much and enjoy the game.
Naturally the Gnome of Victory and Celebration came along.
And there is much to like at Cooley, which is nestled just three blocks from the state Capitol and is the center of a revitalized neighborhood of restaurants and apartments, including a new building rising in centerfield that will allow people to watch games from their balcony.

Zack and I walked around the stadium and parked in our seats in the eighth row behind the visitor’s dugout, as our allegiance is with the rival West Michigan Whitecaps.

This is key, because I told Zack it’s always good to know the name of the third base coach. Whitecaps Manager Andrew Graham was manning the spot, and when he scooped up a slow-rolling foul ball and looked to the stands, I yelled “Andrew!” and he tossed the ball to me. We also yelled “thank you,” of course.
Thank you, Whitecaps Manager Andrew Graham!
The Lugnuts, in the Single-A Midwest League, were for years affiliated with the Cubs but have been linked to the Toronto Blue Jays for a while now. The list of former Lugnuts we care about is headed by Noah Syndergaard.
Thor experienced the joys of Lansing before heading to the Big Apple.

Here are some of the highlights:

Ultra-friendly staffers: It’s not that you run into too many grumbling people at a ballgame. Working at a stadium must be fun, especially if you are a fan. But every Lugnuts employee – and I mean every single one – was over-the-top friendly, and not in fake way. Lots of nice conversation, from whether we were enjoying the game or where we came from. I don’t know if this is a team policy or people are just generally happy to be there, but it was very pleasant.

Employees who understand the glory of the Pass-Port program: Zack and I had our books and went straight to the Nuts and Bolts team store. The nice folks had the stamps ready to go, took a practice run to make sure the stamp was right-side up and even paused so we could document the activity. Good job!

Nice statues: There are several outside the stadium, though they are of generic players and fans. Even cooler is the giant lugnut atop a nearby smokestack.

The food choice: It was fair. Again, we’re spoiled by the Whitecaps. But the pizza looked good and the ice cream was plentiful. There was something called a “pulled port parfait” that mixed pork with potatoes. We were not that adventuresome on this evening.
We passed on the pulled pork parfait.

Autograph zone: The Lugnuts have a designated area where players stop by before the game. This sure makes things easier, and if players are coming over, you know you are not interrupting their work. Our Pass-Ports have a page for autographs, and we enjoyed meeting three Lugnuts. This is a brilliant idea.

Good use of the MiLB ap: We were able to use the ap to enter various contests and post photos on social media. We attended a game on “Flat Screen Friday” and Zack was one of nine people to win a television.

Minor grumble: The team has rules against bringing your own food into the ballpark. I like to bring my own peanuts in than overpay at the concession stands. It's not like we're not going to buy other things once we're inside. 
This is Big Lug.
Overall, we watched a good game – the Whitecaps won – and got to meet some nice people and enjoy a fun ballpark. 

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