Fifth Third Ballpark hosts Tigers watch party

Grand Rapids

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — While the Detroit Tigers played their home opener in front of an empty stadium Monday night, dozens of fans showed up for a watch party at the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Fifth Third Ballpark leaders tell New 8 they believe exemptions in the governor’s order allows them to welcome fans.

It was anything but a regular day at the ballpark — the crowd was thin and the only baseball being played was on the big screen.

“It feels good. I’ve missed it,” Anne Johnson, an event staff member said.

There was only a peppering of people at the stadium as it was an invite-only event. Only 500 people were allowed inside, but officials said the crowd turned out to be closer to 200.

The idea was to keep the ballpark as relevant as they can.

“Tonight is our first event of the season at Fifth Third Ballpark. It’s bittersweet,” Steve Van Wagoner, a spokesperson for the Whitecaps, said. “We feel really good about it. Everybody is, I think, so excited to come out to the ballpark. Everyone’s adhering to protocol I think because they’d like to do more types of events like this.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order limits outdoor gatherings to 100 people, but Whitecaps leaders say they believe they fall under an exemption that allows parks to be open.

“It’s a park like John Ball Zoo or Fredrick Meijer Gardens,” Van Wagoner said. “As a park and an amateur facility, then we opened it up.”

Temperatures were screened and fans were required to wear masks. But the masks didn’t cover up their excitement to watch baseball at the ballpark. 

“It is sad to see such a sparse crowd out there, knowing what could have been,” Jeff Wilson said.

Fifth Third Ballpark plans to have more events while the weather is nice. Moovies From the Mound is expected to welcome hundreds to the ballpark. Leaders say they’ll keep capacity limited and will require social distancing.

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