SOUTH BEND — It used to be you could arrive at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium — aka "The Cove" — without a ticket minutes before a game and pretty much be guaranteed a seat to see the South Bend White Sox or South Bend Silver Hawks anywhere in the park.

Not anymore.

Minor league baseball — South Bend style and, especially, South Bend Cubs style — has become so popular that fans are advised to get their seats before they get to park renamed Four Winds Field.

A stadium with 5,000 fixed seats saw 29 sellouts in 2014, the last year South Bend was affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks, calling the team the Silver Hawks.

Sellout numbers are expected to rise in 2015 with South Bend a Class A Midwest League farm club of the Chicago Cubs.

All seats ($9 for field and $11 for dugout box) for the first opening night in South Bend Cubs history — Thursday, April 9 — were sold almost two weeks ago. There are still a few $6 tickets for the outfield lawn area.

Team president Joe Hart is expecting close to 8,000 customers to see the Cubs on a night that will feature not only baseball but a pre-game concert by Blammo.

The star-packed lineup also includes first pitch by Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein; anthem by Wayne Messmer; appearances by SwoopSouth Bend Cubs mascot Stu and Chicago Cubs mascot Clark; giveaways; and post-game fireworks.

Some might even want to visit former Silver Hawks manager Mark Haley and take a few cuts in the batting cages at the new South Bend Cubs Performance Center

"It's amazing how the change in affiliation has really caused a lot of excitement," Hart said. "We've never had to stop selling tickets completely, but I can see this year where that could be the case."

On many dates — particularly Fridays and Saturdays in June, July and August when group outings alone account for 2,000 or more fans — walk-up sales are likely to be at a minimum.

"I would certainly recommend people buy in advance," Hart said.

To make sure they've got a seat to watch the pinstripe-wearing Cubs frolic on the Four Winds Field grass, about 1,500 have purchased season tickets. That marks a 73 percent increase over 2014, Hart said. Advanced sales can be done online, at the park or by phone at 574-235-9988.

Billboards around the region say the South Bend Cubs are selling memories for 70 regular-season dates and — the team hopes — the playoffs, and plenty of folks are expected to come out and see young players chase their professional baseball dreams.

South Bend has — and will continue to have — prospects. Right now, the roster directed by manager Jimmy Gonzalez includes highly regarded Venezuelan Gleyber Torres at shortstop and second-round draft pick Jake Stinnett as a starting pitcher.

The roster also includes a Hoosier. Pitcher Jordan Minch played at Highland High School in northwest Indiana and at Purdue University.

Hart said there have been twice as many media requests as usual, and oodles of bloggers follow the Cubs before they arrive at Wrigley Field.

"We get contacted by all of them," Hart said. "That's never really been the case before. People are really following the minor league system."

Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Steve Krah on Twitter at @SteveKrahTruth.

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