COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — The sights and sounds of baseball have returned to West Michigan after 623 days.
"It's surreal at some points, but you know it's real because you're seeing the people and familiar faces," said Whitecaps general manager and vice president Jim Jarecki.
Hot dogs on the grill, beer and concession lines all served as a sense of normalcy for the two thousand fans on hand at LMCU Ballpark on Tuesday night.
Grand Rapids native Brandon Wilson enjoyed the game with his parents and younger brother, just as they have for the past two decades.
"Glad to be back," said Wilson, "just to watch the ballgame, eat a lot of hot dogs and nachos; let's Go Whitecaps," he smiled.
Meanwhile, Victor Varmagatan has been hosting Whitecaps players in his home since 1994, and while that's changing again this season, he couldn't be happier to at least be back to the ballpark.
"It was lonely last year," admitted Varmagatan. "I really, really missed it; that's one reason why we're here today, because we miss the game of baseball and it's so exciting."
Matthew Driscoll of Muskegon was excited to enjoy the game with his wife and their newborn son.
"It's great; we've been looking forward to this since it was canceled; we brought our son for the first time ever."
After the past 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fans on hand are hopeful that Tuesday night is a taste of things to come, with a light at the end of the tunnel.
"It ain't the same, but it gives you the feeling that hopefully we're getting back to normalcy," Varmagatan added.
It was an emotional day for Jarecki and his staff, who have been through a roller coaster of emotions after the 2019 season was completely canceled.
"It's just an incredible point that we've gotten to, and I mean that together, we've all gotten together here for some normalcy," Jarecki smiled. "If we continue to do this well, we're going to have a good summer out here."
The Whitecaps would fall to the Loons, 9-1 on Tuesday night to fall to 2-4 on the season.
However, regular season will consist of 120 games this summer, and the Whitecaps will host the Great Lakes Loons for the next five days.