Most minor league baseball owners furloughed or laid off full-time staff members when the Pacific Coast League declared the termination of the 2020 season due to the pandemic in June.

Gartner, on the other hand, remained devoted to his team.

“We kept everybody on full pay and benefits the whole time. We lost $4 million, but they needed the money more than I did,” Gartner told the Des Moines Register.

“To get ready for (Opening Day), I didn’t really have to do anything. I’ve got all these great people who work here.”

Last year, Gartner’s loyalty to his employees may have harmed the franchise’s finances in the short term, but it paid off when the 2021 season arrived.

“Michael takes a long-term look at everything,” Iowa vice president and assistant general manager Randy Wehofer said. “That’s why we can think about not only tomorrow, but next year, too. We can even look beyond the pandemic. He sets the tone for that.”

Fans, on the other hand, are simply delighted to be able to watch games in person once more.

“I’m a big baseball fan, and it’s not the same sitting at home all the time watching on TV with cardboard people in the stands,” fan Steve Elsberry said.

“They missed it, and they’re just happy to be back,” Gartner said. “A piece of their life has come back.”

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