On the Road: Culinary Concoctions and Concentrated Cuteness in Lansing

Remember that last post I wrote, all of two days ago? It was about the Lansing Lugnuts, and while it featured dozens of photos and 1300+ words it still ended before the ballgame even started.

So, today, let’s pick things up with the ballgame about to start. In Lansing, you KNOW you’re close to that cry of “Play Ball!” when you see this.


Yep! The team’s relief corps was en route to the bullpen, playing “Follow the Leader” the whole way. Here’s a six second excerpt:

Of course, for FAR more “Follow the Leader” content, you can read my eminently worthwhile MiLB.com piece.

With the game about to begin, I ducked out of the stadium itself in order to document its immediate downtown surroundings. I hadn’t had time to do that previously, and adherence to routine and previously established protocol is crucial to the well-being of my perpetually ramshackle operation.



Literal Lugnut!


This was actually taken from outside the stadium, as I did a lap around the premises.


The Lugnuts’ stadium used to be called “Oldsmobile Park,” a fitting moniker for a stadium in a city where Oldsmobiles were actually produced (over 14 million were made in Lansing, per Wikipedia). But GM stopped producing Oldsmobiles in the midst of the crippling 21st-century economic downturn, and, correspondingly, they also stopped paying for stadium naming rights.

The ballpark is now known as Cooley Law School Stadium…


but the playing surface has been named “Jackson Field.”


But the facility is NOT referred to as “Jackson Field at Cooley Law School Stadium,” as these two sponsoring entities must be mentioned independently of one another (violations of this policy are punishable by death).

This all seems a little confusing, and I asked Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler if he agreed.

“I don’t think people are confused,” he replied. “I think they just say ‘Let’s go to a Lugnuts game!'”


My outside wanderings complete, I re-entered Jackson Field at the Facility Formerly Known as Oldsmobile Park that is Now Referred to as Cooley Law School Stadium and — yes! — baseball was indeed taking place.

Let’s go to a Lugnuts game!


Well, heck. Since I’m already up and about and on my feet and all I may as well do some internal wandering as well.




As you can see, it was a pretty sparse crowd on the Wednesday evening that I was in attendance. The team is averaging approximately 4400 fans a game this season, but Jesse said that this is merely the middle ground of Lansing’s all or nothing reality.

“We almost never draw 4400,” he said. “It’s either 10 or 11 thousand or one or two thousand.”

C’est la vie. One of the perks of attending a game on a sparse evening is that there is plenty of room for concourse wandering.


And it was here on the concourse that I met one Keirsh Cochran, a self-described “135 pounds of solid muscle” who, among other things, has inspired the composition of rapturous love songs. 


When I posted my road trip itinerary this past April I put out a call for “Designated Eaters,” as in: individuals who can sample the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. Keirsh responded with both speed and enthusiasm:

I am the Marketing and Community Relations intern for the Fort Wayne TinCaps this season. I have been an avid reader for a little over a year. You are a professional hero of mine, so it would be a lifelong regret if I didn’t apply for the June 26th Designated eater spot. You will be in Lansing. The TinCaps will be in Lansing. I can easily make the trip from Fort Wayne to Lansing. You aren’t making the trip to FW this season, I see this as nothing short of destiny, and when destiny knocks at your door and presents an opportunity like this, you reach out and grab it.

Also as a built in incentive to pick me, I have a pooping cow keychain on my promo room key that I believe came from you.

Yes! The pooping cow! You may (but almost definitely don’t) recall my October 2010 post in which I wrote about visiting the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. During that visit I put 25 cents into this machine, received a pooping cow, and then offered to send this pooping cow to the first person who asked for it.


The Pooping Cow keychain ended up being sent to the TinCaps front office at the request of  creative director Tony DesPlaines, who then bequeathed it to on-field promotions wizard Abby Naas, who then attached it to the key that unlocks the door to the promo supply room.

“So, if someone needs to get into the promo room they ask ‘Hey, can I get the pooping cow?'” explained Keirsh. “It’s one of the things that makes [Fort Wayne’s] Parkview Field Parkview Field.”

Sorry for this absurd tangent, but I love everything about this. The Pooping Cow was purchased in Vegas, brought back to New York, sent to Fort Wayne, and then anecdotally re-entered my life three years later via a professional excursion to Lansing.

Keirsh left the pooping cow back in Fort Wayne, but he didn’t travel to Lansing alone.


That’s his girlfriend Christie Burd. She currently works full-time at a salon, and is a big fan of the TinCaps as well. Of Keirsh, she says that “I fell in love with him at the ballpark.”

Of Christie and Keirsh, I will say that they are adorable. That’s not a word I use very often, and I hope it doesn’t sound condescending, but they are! Here’s Keirsh without his better half, ready for some serious concession stand indulgence. “I’m the Kobayashi of Minor League Baseball,” he claimed.


As mentioned in the previous post, Lansing serves as the base of operations for Professional Sports Catering (which currently handles concessions for 14 Minor League clubs). Food and Beverage director Brett Telder uses Cooley Law School Stadium as a proving ground of sorts, in that branded entities that are successful there might then expand to other stadiums who are PSC clients.

It was a slow night, and Telder was more than happy to give Keirsh (and Christie, and me, and basically anyone who wanted to talk enthusiastically about food) a thorough culinary tour. (As mentioned in the last post, this is a dude with the PSC logo tattooed on his forearm. He is very passionate about his job).

We began at Pies, a new pizza stand.


Telder explained that Pies is a reaction to the thoroughly mediocre pizza served at most Minor League ballparks. At Pies, thin-crust pizzas are baked at 550 degrees for 15 minutes. The result are piping hot, eminently crispy thin-crust creations. Keirsh got one of the day’s specials, a cheeseburger supreme pizza with bacon, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, onions, garlic-infused olive oil and even a ketchup and mustard base.


Now that I’m gluten-free pizza is obviously something that I can’t have, and in all honestly I wasn’t that much of an aficionado even before changing my diet. But this thing looked awesome! Keirsh reported that “When I closed my eyes, it felt like I was eating a bacon cheeseburger.”


We then ambled next door to another new addition for  2013, the Blue Olive.



If it was possible, Telder was even more excited about Blue Olive than he was about Pies.

“We make the hummus on site, drizzle it with olive oil and serve it with chips as well as bread so you can sop it all up at the end,” he said. “It’s about value, and good quality, and food made right before your eyes. It’s all about passion, and I get my satisfaction when I see you eating it because I know you’re going to love it.”

This latest bit of PSC proselytizing occurred as we walked over to his office with an array of Blue Olive platters. From left to right, here’s the hummus platter (for Christie), the gyro (for Keirsh) and the (gluten-free) Greek salad (for gluten-free me).


Have at it, Keirsh!


“That first bite, it’s great, you can really taste the spice in the meat,” he said.

Christie, meanwhile, remarked that “I’m not a huge hummus fan but I really love this, so that says something.”

As for me? I didn’t write down any of my quotes, so let’s assume that I said something along the lines of “I hereby declare this Greek Salad to be awesome, to the extent that it has assumed a near physiological primacy on my personal Maslow’s pyramid.”

I wrote down some of Tedler’s quotes, meanwhile, as he held court from behind his desk.


“You know you’ve made it when you get your own Slushee machine,” said Telder, which you can see there on the bottom right. He’s been a chef for 20 years, coming to the Lugnuts after a stint at Lansing’s now-defunct Cadillac Club. And, yes, as mentioned before he does indeed have a PSC tattoo.

“People ask me ‘Well, what if you get fired?’ And I tell them ‘I won’t get fired.’ I just don’t do that.”

(And, yes, as you can see I smudged up my camera lens at this juncture of the evening).


Christie and I were ready to call it a day on the food front, but the Kobayashi of Minor League Baseball was ready to keep on going. We walked past Burgertopia, where this was the special on offer…


and, oh, yeah, right, we also walked by a baseball game that was taking place…


but we ended up here at Franx, in which “x is substituted for the letter combination of “k-s.” This saves money on signage, as teams are often charged on a per-letter basis.


Keirsh and Christie didn’t even know I was taking this picture (and — look — another Matt LaWell sighting), but STILL they are being adorable. Keirsh has a big old grin as Christie wipes food debris off of his face.

But anyway, here are the Franx offeringx.


Keirsh’s choice:

“It tastes like I took a bite out of a hot dog and then scooped out a chunk of baked potato. It sounds weird, hearing that come out of my mouth,” said Keirsh.

“You’re a chef, you’re speaking my language!” replied Telder.

New BFFs:


Meanwhile, the adorable train kept right on chugging along.


PAUSE! It’s time for a #Cupdate, in which I provide of a snapshot of collectible plastic drinkware so that a small but passionate subset of readers may obsess over it.

Beer on the left, soda on the right:


UNPAUSE! Keirsh and Christie had moved on to dessert.


They opted for a banana split.


As we sat down I perchanced to look up, and reacted with alacrity after noticing with alarm that ball was traveling toward us. This spheroid hurtling through the air had been hit by Fort Wayne’s Alberth Martinez, representing his sixth home run of the season. I retrieved it, I swear, but immediately tossed it to a kid. That’s why no documentation exists.

I do, however, have documentation of this:

“It’s weird. This was our first baseball date because he’s always working,” said Christie.

“This was a really solid first baseball date,” replied Keirsh.

“I don’t think we’re gonna beat this one,” said Christie.

“I don’t think we will,” echoed Keirsh.

And with that they were gone, adorably disappearing into the night. Replacing them was this individual, who I suppose is adorable in his own right.


That’s Craig Wieczorkiewicz, aka “The Midwest League Traveler.” If you’ve enjoyed my Midwest League content so far then bookmark Craig’s blog and follow him on Twitter (@MWLTraveler), as he is a cornucopia of news, notes, and anecdotes related to this venerable Class A circuit. I interviewed Craig as well, but I’m having trouble locating the file and this post is hitting the 2000 word mark so that is unfortunately going to have to wait for another day.

And while all this was happening, the home team secured the victory.


Cue the theme song! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!

It was almost time to leave, but not before one last goodbye to my pals Jesse, Slavko, and “Sugar.”

And, okay, that’s really all she wrote. Thanks to all involved for a capitol evening!





  1. Pingback: Ballpark Visit ALERT: Cooley Law School Stadium (Lansing, MI) |
  2. Charlie & Dave Army (@CharlieDaveArmy)

    Fantastic #cupdates effort with this post. And out the window goes one would-be expert’s theory that baseball stadium beer cups tend to be clear for security purposes.

    One suggestion in the name of fairness: Designated eaters should fit a more loner-ish/loser-ish baseball/Civil War/video games/Star Trek/fried and fatty foods-enthusiast’s profile.

    No adorable couple members allowed. There needs to be some justice in this world.

  3. Jordan

    I would bet a lot of money that Keirsh runs an 18:00 5k, and was the #2 guy on his high school cross country team.

  4. Pingback: $22M renovation project proposed for Lansing ballpark | The Midwest League Traveler

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