“Play Ball” will finally be heard in minor league ballparks in Michigan this week.
It’s their first games after missing all of last year's season to COVID-19.
Three minor league baseball teams in Michigan play their opening games of the 2021 season Tuesday.
The Lansing Lugnuts host the Lake County Captains. The Great Lakes Loons play the Dayton Dragons in Midland.
Meanwhile, the West Michigan Whitecaps start their season on the road against the Fort Wayne Tin Caps. The Whitecaps will play their home opener next week.
The Great Lakes Loons home opener in Midland this week is the team’s first game in more than 600 days.
Loons General Manager Chris Mundhenk says it will be a different experience for the fans in the stands.
For example, state Health Department rules will limit attendance to 20% of capacity at Dow Diamond stadium. Also Major League Baseball is reducing fan interaction with the players.
“Yeah it will look much different to fans, but we also think that once they’re here they are going to get a great experience,” says Mundhenk.
Mundhenk expects COVID restrictions will keep his and other minor league teams from breaking even this year. He says the Loons were able to rely on financial reserves to get through 2020 without games to sell tickets and concessions.
But Mundhenk hopes increasing vaccination rates may mean fewer COVID restrictions later this summer, allowing bigger game day crowds.
“Some of those opportunities towards the back end of the season could really determine what that looks like from a net standpoint,” says Mundhenk, “but we’re fully prepared to take a loss this year.”
In addition to COVID, Michigan's minor league baseball teams had to survive a major realignment of professional baseball's minor league system.