Americans head back to the ball park for socially-distanced opening daySports | 31 Mar 2021 10:57 pm
Great to see ya, Buster Posey. Been a while, Tony La Russa. Good luck, Madison Bumgarner and every other National League pitcher toting a bat.
From Comerica Park to Coors Field to the Coliseum, Major League Baseball is set to roll out a big welcome mat Thursday, AP reports.
Most of all, this opening day, it’ll be for the fans.
When Gerrit Cole throws the first pitch of the season — weather permitting — nearly 11,000 people could be in the stands at Yankee Stadium. Sitting in socially distanced seats and wearing masks, inside a park that will continue to operate as a mass coronavirus vaccination site.
Far from normal. But after a year in which fans weren’t permitted at any regular-season game because of coronavirus disease protocols, no longer will “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” strangely echo around empty ballparks during the seventh-inning stretch.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be, I think,” said Bumgarner, ready to start for the Arizona Diamondbacks against Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres.
“That’s what we’re doing. It’s an entertainment business. We’re all playing a game and competing and everyone’s got their team they pull for or just likes watching the game in general,” he said.
The crowd sizes will vary.
At Fenway Park, where Xander Bogaerts and the Boston Red Sox host Baltimore, 12 percent of capacity will be allowed. At Globe Life Field in Texas, where the Rangers open Monday, a full 100 percent will be permitted.
The Rangers didn’t have any fans in their $1.2 billion palace that opened last year during the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. But 11,000 spectators were inside the Arlington, Texas, park when Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Tampa Bay in MLB’s first neutral-site World Series.
Boosted by signing NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, the pitching-rich Dodgers start in Colorado. Kershaw gets the opener against the Rockies, while Bauer goes in the second game.
“I’m pumped up for it. Especially pumped up to get back in front of the LA fans for my first home start,” Bauer said.
“This is going to be cool, putting on the Dodger uniform, playing with this group of guys. I’m really pumped up that baseball is back, especially now that we get to have fans in the stands,” he said.
How many will actually be in the box seats and bleachers on April Fools’ Day might depend on the weather.
Rain is forecast in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Wet in Washington, too, where a marquee matchup is waiting at Nationals Park: Two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom of the Mets faces big-hitting Juan Soto at the plate and three-time Cy champ Max Scherzer on the mound.