On Opening Night, the Fort Wayne TinCaps will add a whole new dimension to the gameday experience.
It was announced Thursday that the Midwest League club, the Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, will feature a variety of 3D segments on the Parkview Field videoboard during April 7's gala season opener. In order to view this unprecedented bit of ballpark entertainment, all fans will receive team-branded 3D glasses upon entering the stadium.
The TinCaps' 3D initiative was spearheaded by Michael Limmer, the club's vice president of marketing.
"We've been holding our breath this whole offseason, thinking some other team might announce doing this before we were able to," he said. "That's part of the fun of Minor League Baseball, getting opportunities to do things that have never been done before."
The 3D videoboard segments were produced in coordination with PUNCH films, a Fort Wayne-based film and HD video production company.
"As soon as this idea popped into my head, I asked [PUNCH Films'] Derek Devine if it would be possible to bring 3D to a videoboard. He said 'Well, let's find out.' They put together a two minute test film and burned it onto DVD. When we put it up there on the videoboard we all started high-fiving because it really worked. From there it was back to the lab, to work on different 3D things we wanted to be able to do."
3D portions of the evening will include a pregame player introduction and fan welcome video, a mascot introduction segment, a cap shuffle game and the post-game fireworks countdown. Though live segments won't be able to utilize the technology, they will be enhanced by the addition of 3D graphics (such as a spinning disco ball during the "Fan Dance Cam"). The theme will extend beyond the videoboard as well. The front and back covers of the gameday program will feature 3D images, and fans will receive a 3D poster when exiting the stadium.
The Parkview Field videoboard has been in use since the facility opened in 2009, and at 26 feet tall and 54 feet wide it is one of the larger models in Minor League Baseball. But Limmer stresses that the 3D technology could work on just about any videoboard, so long as the team in question is working with technically-savvy individuals.
"If this all goes as well as we hope it does, then maybe come September we'll be able to do a presentation at the [Minor League Baseball] promo seminar," he said. "There are so many creative minds that could take this to a whole new level, as long as they're partnered with a production company or have people working for them in-house."
But, for now, the team just needs to take things one step at a time.
"We're focused on making such a big splash on Opening Night, it probably won't be until afterwards that we're able to sit down and talk about it," said Limmer. "We don't always like to roll out the same idea twice, but it would be stupid to say this is the one and only time we're doing this."
And if the team does stage another 3D Night at Parkview Field, then perhaps it could include an up-close-and-personal segment on the TinCaps' renowned dancing grounds crew?
"The fans want as little between themselves and the Bad Apple Dancers as possible, so this might be a time that 3D could take away from the experience," said Limmer. "They're already dancing in 3D right there on the field, so why mess with a good thing?"
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com.