South Bend Cubs remain hopeful there will be a season

NILES — Thursday was supposed to be opening day for the South Bend Cubs, the Class A Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

But with both Major League and Minor League baseball currently sidelined during the COVID-19 outbreak, no one is quite sure when training camps will resume and play will begin.

Even though there is no current date set for baseball to return, South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart says that everyone is preparing as if the season could start at any time.

Hart said Monday that work on Four Winds Fields continues and everything is being maintained so that in short order, the stadium would be ready to have fans pack the stands to watch America’s favorite pastime.

There has also been talk of only playing Major League games this season. Hart has not been a part of any such discussions.

“We have not heard anything otherwise,” he said. “We are looking at right now, and who knows what it will end up being, but we are kind of looking at we wouldn’t see anything before June 1. At least internally, that is what we are looking at in terms of getting everything ready.”

Hart said that a lot of work is done immediately following the previous season, while the weather is still nice. That puts them in a good position this spring.

“Right now, it is only cleaning,” he said. “I would say we probably would only need two to three good weeks to get the stadium completely ready. So, we are not in bad shape from that standpoint.”

Hart believes it would take that long for players to return to spring training and get back into shape for the season.

“The tough part is not knowing when that date is,” he said.

Currently, there are 19 regular employees and three interns working for the Cubs. Once the season gets under way, there will be between 200 and 250 seasonal employees, who cover everything from ushers, ticket-takers to concession workers and cleaning crews.

Additionally, the Cubs hire between eight and 10 college interns to aid with promotions, operations and other parts of the operation.

Through all this, Hart has been able to stay positive.

“It seems like Groundhog Day, the same thing over and over again,” he said. “Ultimately, when the weather gets a little nicer like it was [Sunday] and you know that summer is coming, I am one that has stayed relatively positive. I know we will get back to baseball, and when it gets here we will be ready. That is our focus.”

The South Bend Cubs are coming off their first Midwest League championship since 2005. Everyone involved with the organization is looking forward to getting back to baseball and celebrating that championship with its fans.

For now, what that season will look like in terms of when it begins and how many games are actually played, are still up in the air.

Hart said that playing games into September has been discussed, which he is all for.

“I would not mind trading some games in early April when the weather can be cold and wet for games in September when it is much nicer outside,” he said.