It's time to "play ball" tonight at Coveleski Stadium in South Bend.
It's opening day for the Silver Hawks under the new ownership of Chicago businessman Andrew Berlin.
Berlin paid cash for the team and is commited to keeping a minor league team in South Bend for the next twenty years.
I sat down with Berlin over breakfast at Biblers Pancake House in South Bend today to talk about the big game and the future of baseball in South Bend.
We first met Berlin in November when he was visiting South Bend as a potential buyer for the Arizona Diamondbacks minor league team.
I asked him how he felt about opening night of his inaugural season. He said, "That was probably the fastest five months of my life, from the time we first me until today. It's been a whirlwind of activity."
While construction at Coveleski Stadium is ongoing, Berlin says the amount of work that been done in four short month is extraordinary, thanks to the city and construction crews. "I just came from the park this morning and there must be one hundred people there right now polishing and getting it ready for tonight. There's still work to be done, but we'll probably be done in the next 30 to 45 days."
Berlin added his vision, while not finished is coming together, the goal is to sell out of stadium, the goal is not just to get the construction done or make the place look pretty. The end game here is to fill up the stadium and live up to the promise to help revitalize downtown."
Berlin says the suites are sold out for tonight and ticket sales are up.
But this longtime businessman and limited partner with the Chicago White Sox knows this is no "Field of Dreams," and business is not as simple as, If you build it they will come.
When asked when he will know if this is working or not working, he replied, "I go back to that final metric and people show up. We'll know from our attendance figures. Will they come back? That is the final metric whether or not people come back."
And with a great mix of veteran and new talent from farm teams like the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Padres, Indians and Brewers Berlin says the product on and off the field should make a visit to the Cove a complete game day experience. And he admitted to some opening day jitters. "Absolutely, but I'm energized. This is a day in my 24 years of business--I have never had an opening day that I feel responsible for."
And even though he has a slew of family and friends from Chicago coming in to offer support, he wants to make South Bend and the surrounding area proud. "I want to make it for the folks of the Michiana Region. This is our coming out party and we hope to do it right."
There are still tickets for tonights game which you can buy online or at Coveleski Stadium.
They are playing the Fort Wayne Tin Caps. Game time is 7:10pm and there will be fireworks after the game,
Tickets are six and eight dollars and kids two and under are free on their parents lap.
Berlin says with no rain and heaters throughout the stands it should be a great night for baseball.