South Bend Cubs aim to enhance fan experience
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Minor league baseball will return to South Bend this Friday night, albeit a slightly shorter version.
Several steps have been taken that promise to cut the length of a game by 20-to-25 minutes.
First of all, the bases will be bigger (18 inches instead of 15 inches) perhaps making it easier to steal a base or beat out that bang-bang play at first.
When combined with a 17-second time limit (time clock) between pitches, the game promises to play faster and not last as long.
“You know, it’s interesting what Major League Baseball is trying to do, create a little more action with the bigger bases, more stolen bases, trying to shorten the game times a little bit,” said South Bend Cubs President and CEO Joe Hart. “I think last year we were around 3:25 was our average for home games. They say it will take off about 20-to-25 so, that’ll keep somewhere around that 3:00 range, maybe a little bit under. Nothing worse than doing a Friday night fireworks show, it’s 11:30 because you’ve gone extra innings, and you’re shooting them off for maybe 600, 700-people because families had to go home, kids can’t stay up that late.”
The team from South Bend is entering its 11th year under the current management which figures it has brought about three million spectators to town during that time span.
“I made a commitment to a number of different mayors that I met here along the way that we would help downtown South Bend be revitalized,” said South Bend Cubs Owner Andrew Berlin.
To that end, this year brings a new way for the team to make an impact.
“This is the first year that the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball as a whole is responsible for providing housing for the minor league players, so the coaching staff is staying at The Ivy at Berlin Place, but the players, I think they took up 16, 17 apartments down in the new Dave Matthews building down on LaSalle Street (300 E. LaSalle) so, again, that’s just more people downtown continuously. We know these guys will be eating at Peggs, going to Jimmy Johns, you know, going to Brunos downtown. You know, it’s just a good benefit for the community. Obviously when the visiting teams some in, we book over 1,000 rooms and they stay at the Aloft downtown. You know, we’re a downtown business and we want to support downtown,” Hart explained.
Team Owner Andrew Berlin today repeated a pledge he first made last November to expand the stadium.
“Our goal is to double the size of this stadium, double our presence here in a positive way. We continue to be a driving force making South Bend an even greater city than it already is,” Berlin said.
Such an expansion would likely begin after the 2023 season.
This is the first time for the current management that the baseball season will start before the Lenten season ends. As a result, a beer battered cod sandwich has been added to Friday’s menu.
The team decided to allow card payments for parking this year but rejected the idea of going digital throughout the park.
“A lot of minor league teams, major league teams have gone cashless only we’re not. We still love to see, you know, the kid that’s got the $5 bill that runs up to the Dipping Dots thing and gets their Dipping Dots ice cream. That goes away when you’re 100 percent cashless because I got kids, I’m not handing them my debit card,” Hart said.
The South Bend Cubs square off against the Quad Cities River Bandits Friday April 8, at 7:05 p.m.
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