Lansing Lugnuts History
Lansing Lugnuts History
by Malcolm MacMillan
- Team has been in Lansing since 1996
- Currently affiliated with Toronto Blue Jays
The Lugnuts have called Lansing home since 1996, when they joined the Midwest League, but the franchise dates back several decades earlier. Early incarnations of the team had stays in Lafayette, Indiana, Waterloo, Iowa and Springfield, Illinois. In Springfield, the team was called the Sultans of Springfield and affiliated with the Kansas City Royals in 1995. Suffering from huge attendance woes, the Royals relocated the team to Lansing and dubbed them the Lugnuts. The move seemed to have immediate dividends. Not only did attendance jump dramatically, the team won the Midwest League’s Eastern Division second half title in 1996 and followed that performance up with a league championship in 1997.
The Royals affiliation with the Lugnuts ended after the 1998 season, and the Chicago Cubs jumped on board for an agreement that would last through the 2004 campaign. The Lugnuts earned a first half division title in 1999 and were crowned league champs for the second time in 2003.
The next MLB club to take over the Lugnuts was the Toronto Blue Jays, and the agreement, which began in 2004, is still in place. The Lugnuts claimed a 2008 first half division title but have yet to be crowned Midwest League champs while under the Blue Jays umbrella.
Despite the team’s Midwest League success, one of its biggest annual moments takes place each May. Dubbed the Crosstown Showdown, the Lugnuts square off against the Michigan State University baseball team in a battle for Lansing supremacy. Since the popular event was started in 2007, the Lugnuts have a record of 4-2.
Several notable players have passed through Lansing on their way to the Big Leagues, and the team has three former players (Carlos Zambrano, Brian Dopirak and Carlos Beltran) honored on its wall of fame. Amusingly, Beltran played only 11 games for the Lugnuts, hitting .143 with no home runs or RBIs.
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