The Auckland Tuatara's sophomore season in the Australian Baseball League was supposed to be a celebration of the sport's rise in New Zealand.
Their debut campaign was hurriedly put together. They had no permanent home venue, playing just three of their five home series' in Auckland. The majority of the season was spent on the road, with a 40-day road trip closing out their season.
Now, with a new home at Albany's North Harbour Stadium ready to host 20 games of professional baseball, the Tuatara looked set to settle into their new habitat.
But in the lead up to their first game, their season took on another meaning.
Minnesota Twins infield prospect Ryan Costello, who had joined the team for their sophomore season, died suddenly on Sunday night. First respondents and police indicated the 23-year-old died of natural causes.
• Baseball: Auckland Tuatara beaten by Perth Heat in emotional Australian Baseball Season opener
• Baseball: Kiwi first for American major league baseball
• Premium - Baseball: Auckland Tuatara to shorten home games for entire Australian Baseball League season
• Baseball: 'Totally devastated' - Auckland Tuatara officials mourn the death of Ryan Costello
"It's tough losing our brother like that, especially in the way it happened," Tuatara infielder Josh Morgan told the Herald.
With Costello's death coming so close to the team's first series of the season, the Tuatara had discussed whether or not to try and postpone at least the first game. It was an idea the playing group shut down quickly.
"We're playing now for him, we're devoting the season to him, and what he would want us to do is go out there and kick some butt," Morgan explained. "He definitely will be remembered and he is with us at all times."
As the side took the field for their historic first match at North Harbour Stadium against the Perth Heat, the letters 'RC' were emblazoned on the right breast of their jerseys. Emotions ran high for the team as they observed a moment of silence before taking to the diamond at North Harbour Stadium for the first time.
A dummies' guide to the Auckland Tuatara ahead of the new baseball season
'We don't have a reason': Tuatara 'devastated' by death of baseball star
It was only fitting that rising Kiwi star and Philadelphia Phillies prospect Kyle Glogoski was the first pitcher to toe the rubber at the venue. For the most part, Glogoski was solid. In two innings of work, he struck out four hitters, walked two and allowed just one hit.
Unfortunately, that hit was a solo home run from the bat of Heat left fielder Niko Hulsizer. It was the first of four home runs allowed by the Tuatara in the 6-1 opening night loss.
"It was just a mental mistake," Glogoski said of allowing a home run. "Just the wrong pitch selection and he took advantage so you tip your cap to him.
"I was a bit shakier than how I wanted but those things happen; it's just how you bounce back from them.
"It wasn't too bad, but I know it definitely wasn't up to my standard so I have to do better next time."
Glogoski is one of 10 prospects sent down to Auckland by Major league Baseball franchises who will feature for the Tuatara this season. Over the years, a number of rising stars within MLB franchises to be sent down to the ABL have gone on to star in the MLB.
New York Yankees star shortstop Didi Gregorious, Atlanta Braves slugger Robert Acuna Jr, and Tampa Bay Rays infielder Ji-Man Choi are among the host of current MLB players to have spent time in the ABL.
Throughout the season North Harbour Stadium will host 20 games over five weekends with each series featuring some of the best young talent from MLB systems. And, given the hitter-friendly nature of the ballpark, plenty of action is expected throughout the campaign.
"I know the hitters love the dimensions, that's for sure," Glogoski said. "But that's what they want to promote baseball in new Zealand - a few home runs and stuff between innings; you just have to pitch to the field…it's just something you've got to get used to."