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      It's (almost) Loons baseball time!

      Loons' skipper John Shoemaker keeps his eye on the ball as he runs fielding practice on Wednesday afternoon. / Matt Waymire

      Update: April 7th, 9:50 a.m.

      The NBC25 Sports and News teams are gearing up for the big game. Thursday, on NBC25 News at 6:00 p.m. we'll be live at the events. We'll have the latest from the players, all the buzz from the parade, and a look at booming business in the area. Be sure to join us!

      In the meantime, we want to know your favorite thing about going to a Loon's game. Leave us your comments or let us know on the NBC25 Facebook page!

      Original Post: April 6th, 7:43 p.m.

      The crack of the bat, the smell of the green grass...and the layers of warm clothing. It must be the season opener for the Great Lakes Loons, which is set to take place Thursday night at 6:05.

      Wednesday afternoon at Dow Diamond, it was one final pre-season workout for the new-look Loons, who return only four players from last year's record-breaking club...a club which saw their outstanding season end at the hands of the Lake County Captains in the East Division finals.

      Lo and behold, that same Captains club will be the foe on Opening Day, when the fifth season of Great Lakes Loons baseball begins at 6:05.

      Many of the new faces on the team are very much aware of just how special playing baseball in Midland can be.

      "I heard the fan support here is outstanding," said outfielder Leon Landry. "A lot of community work within this place, and I'm excited to put on a show for these guys. Me and my guys, we're gonna go out there and we're gonna give it all we have, every single day. No matter what the conditions are here, I'm from the south, you know, obviously it don't get anything like this. Nonetheless, we're gonna grind it out for the fans, 'cause I know they love to show their support."

      "From what I've heard, there's great people, great community around here," said starting pitcher Zach Lee, who was the Dodgers' first-round pick in the 2010 Draft. "Looking forward to meeting some of those people, and just trying to fit into the community as much as possible. Just trying to provide entertainment for y'all, and get to know y'all as best as y'all get to know us, as well."