Several teams have already been cleared to host fans at the start of the 2021 MLB season, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Boston Red Sox, Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, among others. And, of course, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted all restrictions on capacity, though Texas Rangers officials don’t sound too thrilled with the prospects of a full house at Globe Life Field. Other teams are in limbo, while a few have already been denied permission to host fans–subject to later review.
In California, five MLB teams–the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres–are awaiting word from state officials about hosting fans in the stand. And the early feedback from the Newsom administration is positive, based on declining positivity rates across the state:
“We have confidence that when you look forward to April, to opening day,” Newsom said, “and where we are likely to be if we all do our jobs, if we don’t let our guard down and spike the ball — wrong sport — then I have all the confidence in the world that fans will be back safely, in a lot of these outdoor venues.”
A modification of state guidelines could allow all five teams to host games based on 25 percent capacity.
The Washington Nationals, for example, have been cleared to play games at Nationals Park, but have been denied to host a limited number of fans. The team had submitted a COVID-19 management plan based on the general MLB guidelines: 25 percent or so capacity, pod-style seating with plenty of space between fans, contactless concessions, digital ticketing, and lots of social distances. That plan was rejected by the District of Columbia, but officials there did hold out the possibility of a reversal later this month based on a reevaluation of transmission rates:
DC @MayorBowser approves @Nationals request to hold games at Nats Park, but WITHOUT fans. DC Health Director tells team decision to allow fans could be reconsidered later this month based on #COVID19 metrics. @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/Z0gbSkthUl— Mark Segraves (@SegravesNBC4) March 2, 2021
Similarly, the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs are in a suspended state about fans at the ballpark. Chicago Lori Lightfoot said he’s been in contact with both teams about their COVID-19 mitigation plans and expects them both to welcome fans in 2021, though perhaps not at the beginning of the season, per NBC5 Chicago:
“We’re in discussions with both teams,” she said. “I think they’ve come up with a very good plan and when we’re ready, we’ll announce what the future will look like for potential spectators in the stands.”
The news comes as COVID numbers continue to improve both in the city and the state, reaching new lows in terms of positivity rates. New case numbers are also down significantly, and team officials are hopeful that the progress against the coronavirus will lead to fans being welcomed back into stadiums in the near future.
“We are certainly encouraged by the mayor and governor’s hopeful outlook,” a Cubs team spokesperson said. “We look forward to further discussions to safely return fans to America’s Pastime in Chicago.”
RELATED STORIES: Pennsylvania modifies COVID-19 rules to allow 20 percent capacity at ballparks; Coors Field fans cleared for Rockies games; Massachusetts OKs ballpark fans for 2021 season; Ohio looks at allowing 30 percent capacity at MLB, MiLB ballparks; Brewers plan for fans at renamed ballpark in 2021; Blue Jays may displace Bisons in Buffalo; Blue Jays to begin 2021 MLB season in Dunedin’s TD Ballpark; Marlins to pursue WELL Health-Safety Rating, fans in the stands; Yankee Stadium, Citi Field cleared to host fans this season