It was 75 degrees and beautifully sunny Wednesday. Perfect weather for baseball.
That would have normally led to a particular buzz of excitement for the TinCaps, who were to open their 28th season today in Bowling Green, Kentucky. But COVID-19 has forced Minor League Baseball to push its start date back indefinitely.
The TinCaps' home opener, which had been scheduled for Monday against the Dayton Dragons, is of course on hold, too.
TinCaps President Mike Nutter, albeit disappointed, remains hopeful there will be baseball this season.
“The country is hurting right now and it's a lot bigger than baseball,” said Nutter, who has been with the franchise since 1999. “Everything is framed as (starting the season late) is the necessary and right thing to do, which is true. ... Maybe baseball can be part of the healing process and bringing people back together.”
TinCaps employees have been mostly working from home. Nutter has occasionally gone to work at Parkview Field – with a diamond that has “never been better, ever” at this time of year – and marveled at the unusual quiet for this time of year.
“It feels a little bit like a dream or, in this case, a nightmare,” he said. “It's like, 'What's going on here?' Of course, in the same breath, there are things much, much bigger than baseball going on in our country.”
TinCaps broadcaster John Nolan, who acknowledged other people have bigger problems, is disappointed he won't get to call games early in the season. He was particularly looking forward to having games broadcast in high definition this year.
To keep his broadcasting voice sharp, Nolan has taken to Twitter, inviting followers to submit videos of at-home activities for him to narrate. In one video, he announces as two dogs race each other around a yard, raising his voice excitedly as one dog jukes the other to take a lead.
Although he has found some entertaining ways to occupy his time, Nolan is excited for the season to start.
“I'm passionate about what I get to do,” said Nolan, who has been with the TinCaps since 2013. “I find a sense of enjoyment in getting to describe the journeys of all these young, up-and-coming players. This year, (I was) looking forward to seeing the latest crop of Padres prospects. ... I'm hoping that it still all comes together in time.”
For Nutter, the most exciting moment of opening day – whenever it does come – will be watching a large crowd stroll into Parkview Field and feeling as though life has come close to going back to normal.
“(I'm excited at just) opening up those gates and seeing people come in,” Nutter said. “I don't even mean it from any sort of financial (angle), just back to a little bit of normalcy. Baseball's taken hits over the years and some are deserving with the (1994) strike and the Astros stuff this year and the Steroid Era, but it's also been there through so much and helped bring people together. I would love for us to be able to do that.”
Nutter has eschewed the use of the word “optimistic” about the TinCaps playing this season, in favor of “hopeful.” He wants baseball to be played in downtown Fort Wayne this season but knows it will be an uphill battle to make sure that can happen safely.
“We're just trying to figure out what it all means,” Nutter said. “And we don't know yet. We're just hoping we get back (to playing). Someone used the word 'abbreviated' the other day, I think that's fair. Is there a chance to play this year? I sure hope so. I think there still is.”