AUBURN — The Doubledays are back.
The professional players returned to Falcon Park for their first official practice Tuesday evening. The Doubledays have three days of practice before opening the season Friday in Batavia. The home slate opens Sunday at 4 p.m. against State College.
"It's here," Doubledays general manager Adam Winslow said. "There's been such an anticipation with all of the stadium upgrades we have. I talked to (Brian Rhodes), our groundskeeper, and we just can't wait for them to show up and practice. We've been looking at this since it was ground dirt to where it is now, and to see it come to fruition — the scoreboard, the padding, some of the additional signage — it just takes this park to a whole new level in an old school neighborhood setting. It's rare to dump three or four million in a stadium like this. It's such a small community, but it shows the investment of the partners and the ownership and what they want to do."
The Doubledays took their usual warmups, went through a couple drills and then took their usual batting practice. Then, with the new LED lights shining, played a simulated game on the brand new turf field with the bright new digital scoreboard in the background.
Getting all of the upgrades was a process, but one Winslow is glad happened.
"We started to do it and we thought 'OK, we're putting the field in. What about a scoreboard?' .... I don't think we gave enough credit to not only the ownership but the partners we have with (Cayuga Community College). ... What's great about our facility is it's not only being used for the Doubledays, which was the sole reason this stadium is here, but now we can build off of that in the fall and spring and fill it with events," Winslow said.
Winslow and his staff helped welcome the players to town over the last few days. The goal is for them to have their minds on what happens on the field instead of some of the situations off of it as they start their first days with the mustachioed A on their chest.
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For Winslow, a lot of it is doing the leg work before the team arrives.
"This is really the fast and the furious," Winslow said. "We try to get as much done as we can before a day like today. You get like 25 to 35 guys and coaches that come to town and probably haven't been here before. ... You find them housing and making sure they get to their hotel. The stuff people don't think about. Half of our team speaks English and the other speaks Spanish, so there's a transition there. ... Then you talk about the draft and how the roster changes over time. It's really overwhelming behind the scenes and people don't get to see that part of it."
Off the field, Winslow said the team is "85 to 90 percent" done with preparations.
Some final orders are left, but he's confident in his staff's training. Most have gone through several games, since the team has hosted 15-20 college or high school games.
"It helps the grounds crew and we had the concessions ready to go," Winslow said. "We had a college event but also section semifinal games. We did pretty well from the food and beverage side of it, but it absolutely helped having people come through and using the (point of sale system) for the first time. ... We hired 52 employees this year, and every one of them has been through it multiple times already."
In his third season back at the helm for the Doubledays, Winslow feels prepared.
"I think we're ready to go," Winslow said. "I'm ready to go."