Minor League Baseball Opening Night is so nice, we’re having it twice.
It started at the top, as all 30 Triple-A teams began their seasons on Tuesday. Three days later, Minor League Baseball’s remaining 90 teams are getting underway, comprising Double-A, High-A and Single-A.
Every Opening Night is special, but 2022 feels particularly so. After two COVID-affected years, this will mark the first time since 2019 that Minor League Baseball is beginning the year on time and at full strength.
To get fans fully prepared for the start of the season, we’ve put together the following guide to Minor League Baseball Opening Night. But first, make sure you’re up to speed and ready to maximize your enjoyment. Read about the return of historical league names and their current composition, and then familiarize yourself with 2022’s slate of new rules (larger bases, anyone?).
Tampa @ Lakeland, 6:30 p.m.: Begin your Opening Night with some history as Rachel Balkovec takes to the dugout as manager of Single-A Tampa, becoming the first woman to manage a Minor League club on a full-time basis. Balkovec, whose background in pro ball goes back to 2012, most recently worked as a hitting coach for the Yankees’ Florida Complex League and will lead many of the same players as she takes over the Tarpons, chief among them, No. 3 Yankees prospect Jasson Dominguez.
Somerset @ Reading, 6:45 p.m.: No one was a bigger breakout prospect in 2021 than Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe, who ranked third in the Minors with 68 extra-base hits between Single-A and High-A. Now comes the 2019 first-rounder’s biggest test: Double-A. Volpe could be a plus overall hitter with 60-grade power, and it’s possible he could thrive right away in a hitter-friendly environment in Reading. The game, like all those at Double-A, will be streamed on MiLB.TV.
Aberdeen @ Jersey Shore, 7:05 p.m.: This is a game of firsts for both teams. The visiting Aberdeen IronBirds will take the field with new logos and uniforms, which feature a cartoonish anthropomorphic fighter jet. The home team, a Philadelphia affiliate formerly known as the Lakewood BlueClaws, adopted Jersey Shore as a geographical designation prior to last season. Their stadium is now similarly named, as it was rechristened ShoreTown Ballpark last month.
Binghamton @ Hartford, 7:05 p.m.: The Mets had their own version of the Brooklyn Big Three in 2021 with Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio all playing the bulk of their seasons at Coney Island. All three have moved up to Double-A. Álvarez, in particular, will be making his debut at the level, while Baty and Mauricio return after seeing separate stints with the Rumble Ponies late last season. The trio possesses at least plus power potential, and after playing at a pitcher-friendly park in Brooklyn, it wouldn’t shock to see them put up much better slugging numbers this summer. Lefty Baty and the switch-hitting Mauricio could start by aiming for Hartford’s short porch in right on Opening Night.
Charlotte @ Norfolk, 7:05 p.m.: The top pitching prospect in baseball makes his 2022 debut as Grayson Rodriguez starts for Triple-A Norfolk. Rodriguez, who is No. 6 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, is coming off a dominant '21 campaign in which he posted a 2.36 ERA across two levels. After making that major step forward last season, GrayRod will be facing his toughest competition yet as he makes his Triple-A debut. On the other side of the ball will be White Sox No. 27 prospect Emilio Vargas making his Triple-A debut for the Knights.
Beloit @ Cedar Rapids, 7:35 p.m: This past August, the Beloit Snappers moved from their longtime home of Pohlman Field to brand-new ABC Supply Stadium. The franchise’s evolution continued over the offseason and was rebranded as the Sky Carp. Sky Carp is a slang term for a goose. In the primary logo, the goose wears a scarf and carries a wrench. This denotes his full-time status as a hard-working resident of Beloit, with no plans to migrate anywhere else. The Sky Carp era begins on the road, with the High-A Miami affiliate taking on the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Eugene @ Everett, 10:05 p.m.: End your night, once again, on the West Coast. Specifically, the Northwest League, where two primo shortstop prospects are expected to go head-to-head. Host Everett returns No. 11 overall prospect Noelvi Marte. The 20-year-old, who possesses plus power and plus speed, is set to take over the mantle of the Mariners’ top Minor League prospect following the news that Julio Rodríguez has cracked the Major League roster. Marte will be mirrored by No. 13 overall prospect Marco Luciano, his equal in terms of power. The Giants infielder will focus on making more contact in 2022 after striking out 37.2 percent of the time in his first taste of High-A last season.