From Basement to Baseball: How Bombers Overcame Pandemic to Get Ready for Season
About a month ago, the Bombers’ general manager, Tyler Shore, did not expect to see baseball in Battle Creek. Fast forward a couple of weeks and on June 15, the first day Michigan lifted its stay at home order, over 11 full-time staffers and more than 20 interns were placed six feet apart at Homer Stryker Field for an orientation for the 2020 summer.
In a normal season, the Bombers start preparing C.O. Brown Stadium as soon as employees can withstand the brutally cold Michigan weather.
“Normally we are out here [working on the stadium] in mid-April, early May,” Shore said. “We get out here as soon as we can, weather dependent.”
But, this season is anything but normal. The coronavirus forced staffers away from the stadium since the 2019 season ended. Now, the three full-time employees and only a handful of interns are given just ten days to clean and set up the entire stadium for a limited crowd of Bombers faithful.
Over these days, interns split their time on the stadium as well as their field of work. Media interns lugged heavy food warmers in the morning while setting up cameras and broadcast equipment in the afternoon. Promotions interns hung banners across the stadium as well as brainstorming and scripting out in-game entertainment. This young group has made the massive project of preparing the stadium for the full-time staff significantly easier.
“It would take us weeks, maybe even months [to do this alone],” Shore said. “Having this crew of interns come in ready and willing to work has been a godsend. We are excited about this crop of interns not only [for] their work ethic with ballpark stuff but seeing how they are growing in their different areas whether that is media, operations or marketing.”
Another wrinkle that was thrown into preparing for the 2020 season was how the stay at home order kept city employees away from the stadium. Typically, the city is responsible for getting the ballpark and field ready, but it could not start until June 15.
“When we got here, things were in a little bit of rough shape,” Shore said. “But the city has done a great job getting things rolling… We have been able to get a lot of stuff done that we need to get done before opening day.”
Having an actual season was a bit of a shocker in the Northwoods League. In a league that spans seven states and two countries, with varying safety precautions, travel seemed impossible. Despite this, there was still a glimmer of hope.
“If you asked me a month ago, I would have said there’s an 80% chance we would not be playing,” Shore said. “Once that stay at home order was lifted, that was really the kickoff for us to say ‘ok, maybe we have a shot at this thing.’ It all came together in a week and a half, and here we are getting ready for July 2.”
While unusual would be an understatement to describe this season, being that the Bombers are scheduled to play just two other teams, all that matters is that the city of Battle Creek can sit back, relax in the sun and enjoy baseball. And, for the people who make up these Northwoods League franchises, this unusual season is critical.
“For our business, it is everything,” Shore said.
The Bombers’ full-time staff spends their offseason working towards the next season. It is a lot of downtime, but the few months of sunshine and baseball bliss make those frigid winters worth it.
“For me, we work for nine months in the middle of winter, freezing cold, selling people on this idea of coming out with their family to a game of baseball,” Shore said. “Cold beer in [one] hand, hot dog in the other, so to be able to have this summer and for someone that loves the game of baseball, it means pretty much everything to me.”