Great Lakes Loons Take Flight

Posted In: Sports, Local Sports, Great Lakes Loons,   From Issue 636   By: Jack B Tany

26th April, 2007     0

Okay, we first need to talk about the elephant in the room. People from Saginaw and Bay counties have always known Midlanders to be . . . well, snobbish. However, the entire Midland community shattered that myth when they welcomed all visitors with open arms to the Great Lakes Loons' inaugural home game April 13. Downtown Midland was one gigantic tailgate party with food vendors, live bands, flags, balloons, and hundreds of people lining the street and sidewalks along Main Street. The smell of grilled dogs and brats fill the air. And, of course, there were Cracker Jacks.

3:45 p.m. - Both the front and back parking lots at Dow Diamond are starting to fill. A brisk walk downtown reveals local businesses getting into the act by decorating storefronts in baseball themes.

4:00 p.m. - Downtown Midland is rapidly filling up with people . . .all in an extremely festive mood. The parking lot behind 101 Main Street was a party in itself with bands and food. Students from Northwood University were giving away hot dogs and popcorn and a distinguished-looking gentleman in a tan Denali quite hospitable giving away LaBatt Blue beer and glasses of wine (both red and white). And yes, there was a porta-john parked nearby.

4:50 p.m. - Ribbon cutting ceremony at the steps of the main gate in front of 250 people.

5:00 p.m. - Gates open for the first time and fans pour into Dow Diamond. A local band, The Sinclairs, performs for the fans.

6:15 p.m. - The stands are half-full with game time 50 minutes away. But it's noisy with people buzzing around the stands. The Loon Loft is packed with people purchasing Loons' merchandise.

6:19 p.m. - Public Address announcer Jerry O'Donnell begins pre-game festivities by introducing the husband/wife duo of TV-5's Katie O'Mara and TV-12's Terry Camp. They go to a podium situated between the mound and second base and introduce dignitaries such as Congressman Dave Camp and State Rep. John Moolenaar.

6:23 p.m. -
The state-of-the-art scoreboard in right field plays a two-minute video depicting the birth of the Loons.

6:26 p.m. - Long-time Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda is introduced and talks about the solid reputation of the Dodgers' farm system. He also urges the fans to support the Loons.

6:31 p.m. - William S. Stavropoulos, the chairman and founder of the Michigan Baseball Foundation, the brain trust of the Loons, is introduced along with board members, designers and engineer and general manager Paul Barbeau.

6:48 p.m. - The Lansing Lugnuts, the Loons' opponent in the season-opener, are introduced.

6:50 p.m. - The Great Lakes Loons are introduced. The first player to take the field is Parker Brooks. The rest of the reserves are then introduced.

6:53 p.m. - Loons' coaches Glenn Dishman and Garey Ingram and manager Lance Parrish are introduced. They enter from the stands giving high-fives along the way.

6:55 p.m. - The starting lineup of the Loons is introduced, beginning with leadoff batter Trayvon Robinson.

6:58 p.m. - There is a moment of silent for 23-year-old Army Pfc. Levi K. Hoover of Midland who was killed in Iraq.

6:59 p.m. - The traditional National Anthem. I noticed all the men removed their caps, however a number of women never bothered removing theirs.

7:03 p.m. - Tommy Lasorda and six representatives of the board of directors threw out the first pitch to seven Loons' players who were straddling either side of home plate. Five of the seven pitches made it to its intended target.

7:06 p.m. - The two (not four like in the Major Leagues) umpires take the field. Shortly after, Parrish and Lansing's manager Gary Cathcart join them at home plate and review the ground rules.

7:11 p.m. - The Loons take the field for their inaugural season. Loons' starting pitcher Steven Johnson takes seven warm-up pitches. Instead of tossing it down to the second baseman, catcher Carlos Santana promptly throws the ball into center field.

7:14 p.m. - The first pitch at Dow Diamond from Johnson to Chris Gutierrez of the Lugnuts is a strike, which draws a wild response from the crowd at the first-ever Class A minor league baseball game in Midland. Game time temperature was 49 degrees with a brisk wind. He eventually flew out to center field. The sun was going down quickly but the first and third basemen were in the shade while the second baseman and shortstop shielded their eyes from the bright sun.

7:18 p.m. - Dow Diamond's first argument: The Lugnuts' second batter, Scott Campbell, was called out on strikes even though he never swung at the ball. . and the pitch was a ball. The home plate umpire called him out because his foot was out of the batter's box. Cathcart sauntered down from his third base coach's box and joined the argument . . . which he eventually lost.

7:22 p.m. - Lou E. Loon, the Loons' mascot, made his first appearance. He climbed out of the Loons dugout to fire up the crowd and then went into the stands to hug anyone within reach.

7:23 p.m. - The Loons' first batter, Robinson, steps to the plate and promptly strikes out swinging two minutes later.

7:35 p.m. - The Lugnuts tally the game's first run when Travis Snider scored on a double by Sean Shoffit. Two minutes later Shoffit is picked off second on a solid throw from Santana.

8:02 p.m. - With the sacks full, Parrish makes his first pitching change as Francisco Felix takes over for Johnson.

8:13 p.m. - Bridger Hunt delivers the Loons first hit at home when he laced a two-out double.

8:17 p.m. - Between innings was the first sideline promotion, which featured two brothers in a dance contest.

8:58 p.m. - It's the fifth inning and the fans begin the wave. After eight tries, they call it quits.

9:00 p.m. - The second between-inning promotion consists of two people inside of two inflatable balls called the Human Hamster-Ball Race. They rolled from the right-field corner to the first base area.

9:06 p.m. - Francisco Lizarraga of the Loons strokes a one-out single to left with a runner-up to start a rally. After Preston Mattingly delivered a Texas Leaguer to load the bases, Josh Bell reached base on an error to score the Loons first run.

9:21 p.m. - The loudest fan noise yet came when Eduardo Perez of the Loons batted with the bases loaded and had a full count on him. He lofted a fly to center to strand three.

9:35 p.m. - The 7th inning stretch. Despite the chilly temperature, two-thirds of the fans are still in the ballpark.

9:41 p.m. - Another on-field promotion was the Big Boy Build-a-Burger contest where two different people build a human burger loaded with condiments.

9:56 p.m. - The tee-shirt toss was a big hit. Tee shirts were tossed into the stands via hand, slingshot and bazooka.

10:11 p.m. - The Lugnuts record the final out. Final score: Lansing 6, Great Lakes 2. It could have been worse. The Lugnuts left nine runners on base.

10:17 p.m. - A fireworks display, shot from behind second base, begins.

10:25 p.m. - Fireworks end.


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