TRAVERSE CITY — Things will start to look much more normal at Turtle Creek Stadium for fans of the Traverse City Pit Spitters this season.
The stadium returned to full capacity June 1 following a move from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration which previously tied the state’s reopening plans to COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“We were excited,” Pit Spitters general manager Mickey Graham said. “This is what we do. This is what we plan all year round to be able to put on these events. That’s what our staff loves to do is for provide an outlet for people an entertainment outlet for folks.”
Previous coronavirus emergency orders permitted 20 percent capacity with socially distant crowds, but Graham said tickets weren’t oversold or waitlisted ahead of the May 20th announcement from Whitmer’s administration.
As soon as Whitmer announced a plan for the outdoor capacity limits to be lifted, Graham said his staff started to go to work redoing the layout to the stadium.
Season ticket holders were moved to their original seats, groups were accompanied for, and starting Monday, May 24, fans were able to purchase tickets at any seat for any game they wanted.
“What fans can expect to see in 2021 is going to be much more like what they saw in 2019 with the with the fan experience that we like to provide, the increased fan engagement.” Graham said. “All the fun returned to the ballpark in a lot of different ways.”
Sanitization stations are still scattered throughout the ballpark. Seating on the suite level — which is indoors — is still limited to 50 percent until further notice, as is capacity inside the gift shop.
Anyone who is not fully vaccinated is also being asked to wear a mask at indoor area of the ballpark such as the ice cream room, restrooms and suites. Masks will be available on site. There is no mask requirement for outdoor areas of the ballpark.
Additionally, Graham said there are still restrictions on player-fan engagement until further notice, such as post game autographs.
Included in the Pit Spitters public COVID-19 Response Plan, which currently permits them to play in Grand Traverse County, is this line: “Any and all player-fan engagement is strictly prohibited for player and fan safety. Autograph lines, meet and greet events, and player appearances are currently forbidden.”
“Not everyone who’s coming to the ballpark and not everyone who’s going to be interacting with one another is going to be fully vaccinated. So how do you protect one another from that right now?” Graham said. “I would expect in the next few weeks to open up player fan interaction, but at least to start with we’re going to be cautious with that piece and try to keep everyone safe.”
The Northwoods League removed paywalls from the league’s streaming service for all games, so fans can watch every NWL game for free online. Stephan Walker calls all home Pit Spitters games.
The two winners of the Spitters’ fan food contest, the Cubano Dog and Chicken and Waffles, will be offered at the stadium this summer. In addition to those two the team is adding several other food items to the menu.
- Cubano Dog — A hot dog with sliced ham, swiss cheese, dill pickles and mustard.
- Chicken and Waffles — Chicken nuggets in a waffle cone with syrup on top.
- Giant Turkey Legs — Sold in limited quantities. “If you see them, get them before they’re gone,” Graham said.
- Monty’s Spit Fire Burgers — Three burger choices, increasing in spiciness. Level 1: topped with Jalapeños, Pepper Jack cheese and Texas Pete seasoning. Level 2: all toppings from Level 1 with Ghost Pepper tortilla chips. Level 3: all toppings from Levels 2 & 3 plus Carolina Reaper sauce. Record-Eagle reporter Jake Atnip began sweating after eating just a quarter of the Level 3 burger.
- Pulled Pork Sandwich — Fire-braised pulled pork with a brioche bun and BBQ sauce. Sold at the grill along the third base line.
- Elephant Ears — Fair favorite. Choices of toppings are Nutella and Pit Spitter Cherry.
- Todd Marga-Reid-A — One of several specialty cocktails in partnership with Traverse City Whiskey Co. Named after Pit Spitters Bench Coach Todd Reid.
Local vendors will include Great Lakes Potato Chips, Tolman’s Meats and Short’s Brewing.
Firework Friday returns
Fireworks will return to Turtle Creek Stadium for four home games.
Every Friday home game in July (July 2, 16 and 23) including Saturday, July 3. All games will have 7:05 p.m. start times.
“We didn’t have fireworks last year, because our capacity limits and didn’t really make financial sense to do fireworks, but those are back this year and we’re excited to have them,” Graham said.
More fun promos
The Pit Spitters have a whole lineup of themed days and promotions on deck for the summer.
Jerseys from the two teams that played in the 2020 NWL pod, The Great Lakes Resorters and Northern Michigan Dune Bears, will be auctioned off with proceeds going to charity. The Spitters will play using those jerseys July 19 and 20.
Fans can sit on the left field warning track for the Spitters games on June 2 and July 16. The cost is $150 for four tickets with an on-field patio table and personal wait staff. Four tables will be available per night.
Dime hot dogs make their return for two Monday contests: June 14 and July 25. All hot dogs will be 10 cents.