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Lansing Little Leaguers get opportunity of a lifetime

Nine youths take to field for pre-game activities before White Sox game

by Carrie Steinweg

CHICAGO, Ill. (July 29, 2018) – There are a good number of Little League players who have dreams of one day being able to step out onto the field of a major league ballpark. A handful of Lansing Little League players got a taste Saturday of the excitement of jogging out on the field to take a position.

Sam Lawson, Manager of Group Sales Development with the Chicago White Sox, hands out official MLB baseballs to Lansing Little Leaguers to have autographed by players during the pre-game festivities at the July 28 game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

White Sox
Noah Murphy, 11, holds the ball he had signed by Chicago White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada during the pre-game activities. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
It was Village of Lansing Night at Guaranteed Rate Field, and nine youths from the Lansing Little League program had the opportunity to accompany White Sox players to their position before the start of the game. And, as a bit of icing on the cake, the opposing team was the Toronto Blue Jays, giving those youths a chance to see a former Lansing Little Leaguer in action. Toronto’s Curtis Granderson grew up in Lynwood, but played in Lansing’s Little League program and later graduated from TF South.

About 175 tickets were purchased through a discounted ticket promotion for Village of Lansing Night. From those who purchased tickets, nine youths were selected to take the field before the game and stand beside the position players during introductions. They each ran out clutching an official Major League Baseball, exiting the field with an autograph on it.

Lansing Youth Pre-game Participants

Lineup card delivery – Jaelin White
1B – Melvin Lee
2B – Noah Murphy
SS – Nick Neibert
3B – Josh Neibert
C – Ryan Marnell
LF – Dominic Sannito
CF – Chris Gales, Jr.
RF – Michael Bailey

White Sox
Dave and Jenn Neibert of Lansing are pictured with Matthew, 4, during the pre-game activities on Village of Lansing Night at Guaranteed Rate Field. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
White Sox
Melvin Lee holds a ball given to him by the Chicago White Sox to have autographed on the field, where he had the opportunity to stand at first base with Jose Abreu. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)
Additionally eight ticket purchasers from Lansing were able to get a photo on the field before the game. Dave and Jenn Neibert were two of them along with their four-year-old son, Matthew. Their sons, Josh, 7, and Nick, 10, were among the group of Little Leaguers who had a chance to go on the field. “They were very excited to get out there and see the players and go on the field,” said Jen.

About a half-hour before game time the group was led out a gate where they stood in foul territory near the White Sox dugout, getting an up-close view of the ceremonial first pitch and the singing of the American and Canadian National Anthems. As they made their way from the reception area, they were greeted with high-fives from Gail Tucker, Senior Director of Corporate Partnership Activation for the Chicago White Sox who declared herself “a proud TF South graduate.”

Melvin Lee, 11, who plays first base and pitches in the majors for Lansing Little League’s Lions Demolition team was all smiles as he waited for his big moment. “It’s great,” he said. When he learned he’d have a chance to be on the field before the game and meet one of the White Sox players, he said he was “very happy and surprised.”

Christopher Gales, 13, shortstop for the Lions team, said before heading out to the center field spot, “It’s pretty cool. I’m excited.”

Michael Bailey, 12, was setting foot on the diamond for his second time. He said he had the opportunity to be part of a tournament there in 2014, but that didn’t diminish the excitement for him. “It’s just a really fun experience,” he said. Bailey plays center field and pitches for the Lions team.

White Sox
Lansing Little Leaguer Jaelin White meets with umpires and coaches at home plate before the start of the July 28 While Sox game on Village of Lansing Night. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Village of Lansing Night was arranged by Sam Lawson, Manager of Group Sales Development for the Chicago White Sox, who approached Ken Reynolds, Director of Communications for the Village of Lansing, about organizing a special promotion for Village of Lansing residents. The two settled on a night when the White Sox would be playing the Toronto Blue Jays so that the group would be able to see Granderson play. “We are looking forward to a fun event and hope all the residents who purchased tickets have a very enjoyable evening,” said Reynolds before the game.

Granderson is a 1999 TF South graduate who went on to play in the major leagues, first for the Detroit Tigers and then for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Los Angeles Dodgers before being signed this year by the Toronto Blue Jays. During his career he has made history by being the third major league player to join the 20-20-20-20 Club (hitting 20 doubles, triples, and home runs, and stealing 20 bases in a season). He has been a three-time All-Star and the recipient of the Silver Slugger and the Roberto Clemente Award. Granderson attended University of Chicago and has made significant financial contributions to both his former high school and college. His parents, both retired educators, still reside in Lynwood.

White Sox
On Village of Lansing Day, the White Sox played the Toronto Blue Jays, and guests got a chance to see a former Lansing Little Leaguer in action. Toronto’s Curtis Granderson grew up in Lynwood, but played in Lansing’s Little League program and later graduated from TF South. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

In Saturday’s game, Granderson was the lead-off batter, singling in his first at bat and scoring the first run of the game. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Sox got on the board on a 379-foot home run by third baseman Yolmer Sanchez. The White Sox rallied in the 8th inning, scoring six and leading the Sox to a 9-5 victory over the Blue Jays, giving the Lansing audience an exciting evening that ended with an elaborate fireworks show set to music. Saturday was also Super Hero Night at Guaranteed Rate Field—Spiderman and Iron Man characters interacted with the crowd, and bobblehead figures were received by early visitors. Attendance for the game was 29,442, one of the highest numbers this season.


Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg
Carrie Steinweg is a freelance writer, photographer, author, and food and travel blogger who has lived in Lansing for 27 years. She most enjoys writing about food, people, history, and baseball. Her favorite Lansing Journal articles that she has written are: "Lan Oak Lanes attracts film crew," "Why Millennials are choosing Lansing," "Curtis Granderson returns home to give back," "The Cubs, the World Series, fandom, and family," and "Lansing's One Trick Pony Brewery: a craft beer oasis."