With less than a month until the scheduled start of Spring Training, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are currently in the process of sorting out details for the 2021 regular season.
One of the biggest questions is whether fans will be permitted to attend games, and if so, how soon. The majority of the 2020 campaign was played in empty ballparks due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which led to massive reported losses for team owners.
However, that changed during the National League Championship Series and World Series at Globe Life Field, when a limited amount of tickets were made available. A few thousand fans took in the action and witnessed the Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Tampa Bay Rays to end their World Series drought.
MLB was encouraged by the results and has been hard at work creating a safe plan for even more ballparks to welcome back fans this season. According to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, socially distanced seating and a mask mandate will be in place for fans that attend games at the onset of the 2021 campaign:
The league said it anticipated that state and local authorities would require “pod” seating, at least at the start of the season, with tickets sold in a “pod” or group and at least six feet between the groups. If authorities do not require such seating, MLB would have to approve any seating arrangement that would reduce the distance between groups to less than six feet.
The league also said it would mandate that fans wear a mask at all times except when eating or drinking at their seats; that social distancing be enforced in lines to enter the ballpark, for concessions and merchandise, and when leaving the ballpark; that hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations be widely available; and that a buffer zone of at least six feet be established between fans and the playing field.
While the league is planning for fans to attend games as soon as Spring Training, it will be up to the teams to sell tickets. This presumably will depend on local and state regulations, as well as positivity rates in the team’s city.
Interestingly enough, MLB will not require a negative coronavirus test and/or proof of vaccination to enter the ballpark.
Fans reportedly won’t be permitted to watch Spring Training workouts, get autographs
Even if fans are able to attend Spring Training games, they reportedly will not be allowed to arrive to ballparks early for morning workouts or receive autographs during that time unless they are seated.
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