Sep 15, 2018

Michigan State, Penn State baseball teams to play at Sports Force Parks


Brian Kollars,

PERKINS TWP. — Many levels of baseball have been played at Sports Force Parks since the complex opened last year, but it will be hard to top the talent that will be on Field 3 this weekend.

The baseball teams from Michigan State and Penn State will play a nine-inning exhibition game at 1 p.m. Sunday, capping two days of activities at the park.

Michigan State practiced at the facility last fall, but Spartans coach Jake Boss decided to take the program’s relationship with the park a step further this year.

“We started taking some retreats with our guys a couple years ago and it was a good opportunity to get off campus and do some team bonding,” he said. “There are a lot of benefits to that, and the Sports Force Parks folks have been awesome to work with.”

Michigan State alumnus Brian Storm, president and CEO of Fields Inc. and Sports Force Parks, suggested that Boss bring his team to the area last year. It worked out well, and NCAA rules changes will allow the Spartans to play a game at the facility this weekend.

The event is part of a push to keep Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center busy. Events coordinator Mitch Sweet said the park will count more than 200 operating days this year. The complex, which has 10 turf fields of various sizes, also hosts soccer, softball and lacrosse events and is the home park for Perkins Youth Baseball. Later this fall it will host a state youth football tournament.

“The park doesn’t make money if it’s sitting empty,” Sweet said. “We are very aware that the best way to generate revenue and make an economic impact for the entire area is to bring in as many teams as possible, including these college teams.

“We want to host as many college events as we can and this brings some prominence to the park. Even if it’s fall ball and a scrimmage, it’s an opportunity to see high-level baseball in our facility.”

The park hosted a National Junior College Athletic Association baseball regional last spring. The four college fields were upgraded for that tournament with bigger dugouts and expanded bullpens.

There is an $8 daily gate fee on Saturday and Sunday, which includes access to all the park’s features, including the ropes course and mini-golf.

The visiting Big Ten baseball teams will stay busy. The Spartans will participate in a play day with special needs athletes at 11 a.m. Saturday at the park’s ADA-accessible field. Boss said his players enjoy the interaction, which is similar to what they experience while working with the Miracle League in the Lansing, Mich., area.

“I told our Miracle League people that I don’t know who gets more out of it — our kids or the special-needs kids,” Boss said.

The Spartans and Nittany Lions will hold open practices starting at noon Saturday. Sweet said that Penn State coach Rob Cooper has invited youth teams to join his players on the field and get some instruction. Later Saturday, the Spartans and Nittany Lions will get together for dinner and bowling.

After the Sunday scrimmage, Boss and Cooper will hold an open forum with area baseball coaches on Field 10.

This won’t be the only college event at the park this fall. Women’s softball teams from the University of Findlay, Northwoods University and Jackson (Mich.) Community College will play scrimmages at Sports Force Parks on Oct. 20.

“If we can use these events to attract bigger games in the spring we’d love to host them,” Sweet said. “But we want to keep the fall series going.”

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