Fans go ‘phone free’ for Growlers game

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Baseball fans in Kalamazoo handed over more than cash to get into Monday night’s game: they also had to give up their cellphones.

It was “Phone Free” night for the Kalamazoo Growlers. To get into the game, fans had to place mobile devices inside special locked bags for the duration of the game.

Team spokesman C.J. Hurley said the idea spurred from a Mattawan High School student’s project on distracted driving, adding it was meant to foster relationships and new memories.

Some people didn’t know about Monday night’s theme, but were pleasantly surprised.

“I wish it happened more often, actually,” Lyndsey Winfield told 24 Hour News 8 as she entered with her family. “I need somebody checking me to hold me accountable for being here and present, so it’s nice that someone is helping me out with that.”

Like Winfield, most fans handed their phones over without much issue. Some expressed appreciation for the idea.

“I think it’s a good thing anyway,” one made said after learning he had to put his phone away. “They ought to do this in restaurants.”

However, some guests grew angry. 24 Hour News 8 watched a few fans sneak phones in. Others decided not to attend.

“I’m absolutely shocked,” fan Dillon Keech told 24 Hour News 8. “I can’t imagine somebody that can’t leave their phone a little for a couple hours.”

Some texts or calls just couldn’t wait, so plenty of people took advantage of the “Phone Use Area.” Employees unlocked their bags temporarily while they used their devices in a designated section.

“I don’t know why you’d look at your phone. It’s like going to a concert and staring at your phone and being on Facebook all night. Why would you spend the money and do that?” questioned fan Penny Sundman.

The smiles and conversations in the stands seemed to show the promotion was successful.

Even the Growlers on the field hear about the importance of disconnecting from the coaching staff, Field Manager Cody Piechocki said.

“They’re (team members) on their phone or they’re watching TV and they’re always doing three to four things at once and mentally they can be stressed out,” he told 24 Hour News 8. “So that’s something we take away with our college athletes is just spend an hour without phone and see how your mind responds.”

Growlers staff and fans mentioned the safety aspect as well. Days ago, a young girl was injured by a foul ball at a Chicago Cubs game. While it’s unclear whether she was distracted, it has brought more attention to fans keeping an eye on the ballgame.

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