Baseball starts season with fans in attendance, draws mixed reactions

The MLB season starts on Thursday and will be accommodating fans after not having any during a shortened 60-game season last year as a result of COVID-19

April 1, 2021

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Lucky Whitburn-Thomas

The Giants’ Oracle Park Stadium main entrance, which has been closed for just over a year now, opens at the beginning of the MLB season on April 1, 2021. (Lucky Whitburn-Thomas)

Major League Baseball came back on Thursday, and the league will have fans in attendance at each stadium to begin the season. 

Stadium capacity depends on each state’s COVID-19 mandates. Currently, San Francisco County is in the “substantial” risk tier and Alameda County is in the “moderate” tier, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For now, local Bay Area teams will have stadiums at 20% capacity. For the San Francisco Giants, this means hosting roughly 8,400 fans per game, while the Oakland Athletics will have roughly 9,000

The other California teams —  Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres — will also hold 20% capacity to begin the season. 

“I love that people can have these outlets to have fun when it’s normal,” said SF State Associated Students vice president of External Affairs, Joshua Ochoa. “But at the same time, that’s still thousands of people coming together. Most of them, at least for now, are going to be not vaccinated.”

Last season, MLB shortened the season from 162 games to 60 and did not allow any fans to attend. This season, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred plans on making it through a full 162-game schedule. 

SF State’s Head Baseball Coach, Tony Schifano, is excited that MLB is going to have fans this season. 

“I was thrilled to read that MLB is supportive of fans attending games this season,” Schifano said. “It is important that the fans appreciate this opportunity and take the necessary precautions to keep others safe by keeping appropriate distances and wearing masks.” 

Teams around the MLB will be experimenting with different capacity levels throughout the season. Most stadiums will have around 9,000 fans to start the season, although some stadiums are closer to 30,000, and others will have fewer than 5,000 fans. 

While partially filling up stadiums is a sign of progress and exciting for some fans, others are worried that it will lead to spikes in COVID-19 cases. 

“We’ve already seen the ‘cases are going down, let’s reopen’ and then we see another massive spike,” Ochoa said. “I think this time is a little bit different, because we do have the vaccine. It’s just alarming and nerve racking because there’s not that many degrees of separation between us individually and the people that would be going to those events.”

Currently, 16.4% of Americans have been fully vaccinated and 29.4% have been given at least one dose, according to the CDC. 

As more people get the vaccine, more people will be able to work jobs that may not be considered essential and more fans will be able to attend games. 

Tyler Lewis, an SF State student studying political science, feels good about the protocols in place but also remains unsure if the timing is good to allow fans back. 

“It’ll help with a lot of people’s jobs and all that. So I understand the logistics behind it, but it’s also just like, we’re in a pandemic, and it’s hard to think that’s essential. I’m just conflicted on it.”

The Giants and Athletics have listed safety protocols for the season, with the biggest protocols including everyone being required to wear face masks, socially distanced seating, ticket sales being restricted to California residents only, cashless and contactless transactions, and pre-game screenings for all stadium staff members. 

Ochoa is glad to hear about the protocols in place and believes they will make a difference, but still has reservations about the timing of allowing fans at games. He thinks waiting a few months would make a big difference in mitigating the risk. 

“To do it now, just when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s given me that feeling of it’s not a good idea and there’s gonna be some fallout because we’re not that far into the solution yet.”

Schifano is optimistic that fans will be able to enjoy the ballparks and noted that while it will take awhile before stadiums can fill up, good progress is still being made. 

“Some of my greatest memories as a child was my dad taking me to ball games and watching my favorite players play live in person,” he said. “With the massive rollout of the vaccines and the preventive procedures in place, it can be done with success and enjoyment.”

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