By CHARLIE SNYDER
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, because sports are back in California.
Yes, you heard that correctly. After nearly a year of broadcast only sporting events, venues across the nation have announced plans to reopen games to the general public. The slow return will start with outdoor venues being permitted to host a small percentage of fans, compared to the usual packed crowd. Because of the upcoming Major League Baseball (MLB) season, baseball will be the first of the four major North American sports to have fans in attendance for 2021. It does not matter whether you are an Angels or Dodgers fan, this is something that we can all get together and root for.
Early on into the COVID-19 pandemic, California adopted a color-coded four tier system based on the spread of the virus. In essence, counties across the state were ranked from most restrictive, to least restrictive regarding social events, gatherings and activities (purple, red, orange, yellow). Outdoor sports in the purple tier are limited to 100 people, 20 percent capacity in the red tier, 33 percent in the orange tier and 67 percent in the yellow tier. Consequently, the decrease in new COVID-19 cases, paired with an increase of population over 16 being vaccinated, the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics all announced that they will have fans in attendance for opening day on April 1. As for the rest of the California teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers will open their season in Colorado, while the San Francisco Giants will be playing in Seattle.
Though, it’s not just ballparks that will be reopening. Theme parks such as the Iconic Disneyland in Anaheim will also be reopening to 15 percent capacity. In light of these events, California Governor Gavin Newsom gave his insight during an interview with ABC News, stating, “We’re working on the final details, but we’ve been working very closely with Major League Baseball.”
Players such as Yankee’s superstar Aaron Judge have also expressed their excitement for the return of fans. “For me, one of my favorite things is interactions; in between innings,” Judge explained. “The energy and roar when you run out there, hearing them yelling – you feed off that, so it was pretty exciting finally having them back.”
Moreover, the return of fans at sporting events will not only intrigue those infatuated with sport but will also prove to hold great significance amongst scientists familiar with the virus. This will be one of the first times where the virus will interact with day to day crowds, acting as an experiment of sorts for researchers to gather information. If all goes well, the 2021 MLB season will play out as intended, with more and more fans being permitted as the season continues longer and longer.
As for the fans, this is the best news in a long time. In a year of particularly imminent division, sport’s ability to meld that divide by bringing people together will surely be a sight for sore eyes. Furthermore, unprecedented amounts of pent up team-spirit will most likely make a crowd of 20,000 seem like a packed house, and it could not come soon enough.
This change signals one of the more obvious signs of a country in healing. Although it has been a slow burn, sports fan or not, one can surely find a sense of hope and something to look forward to as we inch closer and closer to something that resembles our pre-pandemic world.