BATAVIA — The action around Dwyer Stadium will be in midseason form tonight despite the fact that the Muckdogs won’t be taking the field for nearly two more months.
And things have been that way ever since the organization learned that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — and for the season Empire State — Yankees would be calling the ballpark on Bank Street home for seven games in 2012.
Ready or not, the time has come as the Triple-A Yankees open up a four-game stand in Batavia tonight against the Norfolk Tides, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
“It’s been a busy week, for sure,” said Muckdogs general manager Travis Sick. “It’s been a little different for us getting things ready to go this early, as far as the in-game stuff and making sure everything is top notch.”
It will be the first time since professional baseball arrived in 1939 that a Triple-A game will be played in Batavia and it will feature numerous ballplayers who have once graced Major League Baseball fields with their presence.
Thus, things have been hectic for Sick and crew since they found out that this was going to take place in late September 2011.
“Once we started to figure out that this was happening, we started to get the plans in place,” said Sick. “Luckily we were blessed with a good March, weather-wise, so we were able to start working on the field at that time ... Professional baseball in April is something that we’re not used to.”
The players expected to be on the field tonight for Empire State include pitcher Manny Delcarmen, catcher and Yankees fan-favorite Francisco Cervelli, infielders Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena and Kevin Russo and outfielders Colin Curtis, Jack Cust, Chris Dickerson and Dewayne Wise.
The situation must be especially odd for Wise, a 34-year-old journeyman who has spent parts of nine seasons in the major leagues and is probably best known for making a leaping catch against the wall at U.S. Cellular field in Chicago to save Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009.
However, just like everyone else in tonight’s game, Wise will be simply looking for a shot — whether it be another shot, a first shot or a last shot — at the major leagues.
“To see these guys up close and personal is something special,” said Sick.
With the added pressure of having to cater to a Triple-A squad, the Batavia brass has been treating these seven games almost as an extension of the Muckdogs’ season.
The grounds crew has worked endlessly to have the field in perfect shape and the entire outfit working the games at Dwyer will be Muckdogs employees and the expenses belong to the Muckdogs — who have been run operationally by the Rochester Red Wings since 2008.
Most importantly, the bottom line will belong to the franchise, not the Yankees.
That is not to say that Empire State has not lended a hand where it was needed.
They sent extra grounds crew to help with the field and specify it to the liking of the Yankees’ staff — i.e. the pitcher’s mound or the area surrounding home plate.
But most of all it has been Batavia’s gig as they have made certain upgrades and renovations, such as cable in the players’ area of the clubhouses, in the hopes of showing the fans — both old and new — what baseball in Batavia is all about.
“Basically, we run the show,” said Sick. “It’s whatever we want to do. We staff it. Scranton will be helping mainly in the clubhouse and media requests for their players. That’s where they’re stopping.”
Moreover, tickets sales have been excellent, according to Sick, who is expecting large crowds for all four games.
“For the people who have never been here before, our plan is to get them here for one game, they fall in love and they want to come back,” said Sick.
Saturday and Sunday’s games will begin at 1:05 p.m. and Monday will also feature an afternoon affair at 12:05.
Tickets will range from $7 to $9 for all four games with a package for all seven games available.
As for whether or not this added revenue will help to keep minor league baseball in Batavia — as rumors constantly swirl of the team’s impending sale — Sick is quick not to make any predictions.
“That would be great but it’s certainly not a guarantee,” he said. “We just take it year by year.”
Right now, the Muckdogs are simply looking to make baseball history in Batavia.
“Triple-A baseball has never been in Batavia and it probably never will be again,” said Sick. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing that is going on. It will be exciting.”