Will Ryan spoke for the legion of High Point Rockers fans streaming into the downtown ballpark Tuesday night for a home baseball game far too long deferred.

“I missed last year a whole lot,” said Ryan, sporting a Rockers cap as he awaited the return of minor league baseball cut out in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ryan, who lives within walking distance of Truist Point stadium, said he enjoyed the games he went to in 2019 during the Rockers inaugural season.

“With missing last year, the energy level will be high,” Ryan told The High Point Enterprise. “We’ve all been hermits because of COVID.”

The 2021 home opener against the Lancaster Barnstormers was the first home game for the Rockers since an Atlantic League of Professional Baseball playoff contest on Sept. 27, 2019. That’s 624 days between home games.

The Rockers were expecting between 2,500 and 3,000 fans for their home opener, said ballclub media relations consultant Steve Shutt. Truist Point has approximately 4,000 seats.

As a sign of the pent-up demand for baseball, fans showed up to purchase tickets two hours before first pitch whipped across home plate at 7:05 p.m. on a warm, sunny evening. A line of fans waited to get into the ballpark as the gates opened at 6 p.m., and the enticing aroma of hot dogs and burgers cooking filled the air inside and on the perimeter of Truist Point.

Nick and Christina Caprio of Trinity, with their 6-year-old son Landen, were first in line at one entrance. The couple said they enjoyed coming to High Point two years ago for games.

Christina Caprio said the Rockers have helped their son nourish a greater interest in baseball.

“When I picked him up from daycare this afternoon, he said he was going to watch the whole game,” she told The Enterprise.

Tuesday night marked another first — the opening of Blessing Park adjacent to Rockers stadium as a destination for families.

The park, built through a donation by Ronnie and Molly Millis Young, features a splash pad, picnic tables, an area for play activities and a climbing rock for children.

Blessing Park is a component of the initiative led by High Point University President Nido Qubein to raise tens of millions of dollars in private contributions for core city redevelopment.

During a game, a family can enjoy an outing in Blessing Park, then walk a short distance to their stadium seats. The park fronts Elm Street near the intersection with Gatewood Avenue.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for

Blessing Park was

held Tuesday night before the start of

the Rockers game.

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul