In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible (might) happen.
The first game of a new season at Dodger Stadium has always felt like Christmas. The jolly music from the organ, the various smells that provide a sense of comfort and just the sheer sight of a packed stadium on a beautiful sunny afternoon with the San Gabriel Mountains glistening in the backdrop.
There’s a reason they call it Blue Heaven on Earth.
But this season’s home opener will feel extremely unorthodox. On April 9, the Los Angeles Dodgers will step onto the field at Dodger Stadium to celebrate the team’s first World Series Championship in 32 years in front of (possibly) 11,000 fans, just 20 percent of what the historic stadium can hold (max capacity: 56,000).
Don’t get me wrong. If you can somehow acquire tickets to attend a game at Dodger Stadium this season, do it. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny for the hottest ticket in town. As of this article, the Dodgers have plans to hold a lottery open to anyone for the chance to buy an extremely limited number of opening day tickets.
On March 18, the Dodgers announced in an email to season ticket holders that season tickets are canceled through June 2. Instead, season ticket holders will be eligible to purchase 14-game ticket plans which still will not guarantee Opening Day. For the home opener, holders will be given access to a limited presale.
Even on third-party sites like StubHub or Vivid Seats, no home opener tickets are being sold. I don’t question whether or not fans will be in attendance come April 9, it’s more of the approach by the team themselves to charge fans an absurd amount of money because of the hype of the game itself.
At the end of the day, sports are a business, and after a full year without fans in the stands, the organization is going to do whatever they can to make it fair for all fans but also make a profit.
While coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in L.A. County continue to decline thanks in large part to vaccinations, there is still cause for concern. The county currently sits in the red tier but could easily move into the orange and, potential, yellow tier should progression continue. This would then allow Dodger Stadium to be filled up to 33 percent (orange) and 67 percent (yellow), respectively.
The organization has yet to announce exact plans for overall health and safety protocols, it would be a fair assessment to assume we would see something similar to what we saw during the playoffs last season. A pod-like style of seating, enforcement of face masks, temperature checks prior to entry and adhering to the rules of exposure to anyone who contracted Covid-19.
Back in October, a Covid-19 vaccine did not exist and therefore was not something required by stadium officials to ask fans attending to show proof at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Times have since changed and it begs the question: Would the Dodgers require fans to show proof of a completed vaccination series or recent negative Covid-19 test? I don’t see why they couldn’t. Just look at New York.
On March 18, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the plans for how the Yankees and Mets would handle protocols for fans to attend ballgames in each stadium. Just like Los Angeles, 20 percent capacity is the current model until there are signs of improvement. The most important takeaway from this announcement is this:
“Attendees must show proof of a recent negative test or a completed vaccination series prior to entry and are subject to strict state guidance on face coverings, social distancing and health screening.” (Quoted from the Governor of New York website)
If there is proof that a state cares about the importance of safety and health protocols while also trying to reform a normal lifestyle where sports and entertainment can be seen in-person, then it’s New York. This also isn’t a forced vaccination on anyone who doesn’t believe they need to be vaccinated but having proof that you tested negative for Covid-19 is the alternative.
Personally, this is the way of life until Covid-19 can be compromised. Sports have always provided that sense of comfort and this escape from our other daily stressors. After a year of quarantining and doing everything in our power to slow the spread, it is nice to have this opportunity to once again return to live sporting events. But health and safety are still the number one priority.
For Dodgers fans, the timing of winning a championship could not have come at a better and worse time. When we needed a pick me up, the Dodgers provided that spark and perhaps started the road to recovery for Los Angeles County at least. Winning a championship during a pandemic was also the worst thing that could have happened for a franchise and its devoted fans who were waiting to celebrate accordingly.
Any fans in attendance will make the home opener celebrations much more exciting but it will definitely not feel the same.
Featured Image: Zach McKinstry-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Oakland Athletics Sunday, February 28, 2021 at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Dodgers beat the A’s 2-1Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2021