With the explosion of drone technology, Wakamatsu said, it was only natural to use it in farming as a more environmentally friendly, efficient and safer way to study, spray and water crops. His foundation bought its first drone last year. It now has four, the biggest of which is capable of carrying two and a half gallons of liquid.
Over the winter, as M.L.B. and the players’ union faced the prospect of staging a normal 162-game 2021 season with fans as the pandemic continued, Wakamatsu brainstormed ways to redirect his efforts to baseball. He said his foundation considered drone spraying at the Rangers’ stadium in Arlington, Texas, last year, when spectators were admitted only during the final playoff rounds of the abbreviated season, but wasn’t ready to do so.
“Can we make fans feel comfortable to come back?” he said. “We’re tired of playing with no fans. It was only natural, with the relationships I had at that ballpark, to say, ‘Let us come in and help.’ I want to be safe.”
It took months of discussions and a drone-spraying demonstration. Earlier this month, the city of Surprise agreed to a deal with Wakamatsu’s foundation to spray the stadium. Whatever is made from the work, he said, will be reinvested in the foundation. He can fly the drones, but trained volunteers did so on Wednesday.
“I’d like to be the official drone spraying company of M.L.B. one day,” he said, laughing.
As spring-training games begin in Arizona and Florida on Sunday, every park’s seating capacity will be based on local and state government guidelines — from as low as 9 percent (at Scottsdale Stadium in Arizona, the San Francisco Giants’ spring home) to as high as 28 percent (Hammond Stadium, the Minnesota Twins’ spring home in Fort Myers, Fla.).