COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — It's a sense of normalcy as the West Michigan Whitecaps get set to hit the field after over 600 days off.
The team will start the season on the road on Tuesday night in Fort Wayne.
It will be the first game for the Whitecaps since September 2, 2019.
"We're chomping at the bit," said Whitecaps catcher and 38th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Dillon Dingler, "we're ready to get going and it's time to find out what we're made of."
"I've been waiting for this for a long time," added first-year manager, Brayan Pena.
Expectations are high for the team this summer as they make the jump from Low-A to the High-A level.
The roster is also loaded with top talent, including the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, infielder Spencer Torkelson.
"I'm really excited, I think I speak for everyone when I say this, we missed it and we missed true competition," Torkelson said, "spring training is fun, but the stats don't count and nobody really cares if you win or lose but now in a regular season, it means something."
Meanwhile, Pena was set to begin the 2020 season with the Whitecaps before the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Now, he's making sure he soaks in every moment.
"The fact that we have baseball back means a lot," Pena said, "I love my family, I love my wife, I love my kids but I love baseball, I want to be out here."
Several players on the Whitecaps opening day roster haven't played competitive baseball in well over a year, including outfielder Daniel Cabrera.
The former LSU standout was a second round pick of the Detroit Tigers last summer and says he's beyond excited to hit the field.
"It's going to be fun being able to play for the first time in a year-and-a-half, just being able to be out there, having fun, I'll feel like a kid again," Cabrera added.
With the Tigers top four draft picks from last summer on the roster, Pena says his focus is on helping all of the players grow to get them to the next level.
"Our goal is for them to get to Detroit and help us win a World Series."
The Whitecaps will play their first home game of the 2021 season on May 11 at LMCU Ballpark.