MLB hosts crowds for first time in 2020


Tony Gutierrez

A fan shows off a foul ball that he caught at game one of the National League Championship Series. He was among the first fans to get a souvenir in 2020, as it was the first game of the year that MLB permitted fans to attend.

Alex Burbidge, Editor-in-Chief

The first Major League Baseball game this year with paying fans in attendance was played on Oct. 12, when the Dodgers and Braves kicked off the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. An announced crowd of 10,700 showed up to also become the first paying fans to see a game at the stadium, which celebrated its inaugural season this year as the Texas Rangers’ new home.

MLB announced on Sept. 25 that they would be permitting fans for all games of the NLCS and World Series, which will both be hosted in Arlington, a neutral site for the first time in history. The American League Championship Series is not open to fans, as the series is being hosted in San Diego. California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, will likely not sign off on the opening of stadiums for a long time, while Greg Abbott, Texas’ governor, approved professional and college stadiums open to 50% capacity.

The league is taking cues from teams in the National Football League that are allowing limited fans, such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. These cues include selling tickets in pods of only four, zip-tying seats that will not be in use (which as a result also prevents people from being in a seat that isn’t theirs), and spreading people out so that they are properly socially distanced. In addition, fans are required to wear their masks at all times, save for when they are actively eating or drinking. There will be artificial fan noise playing from the speakers at all times.

Globe Life Field will only be open to about 28% capacity and will have its retractable roof open at all times, weather permitting. Additionally, fans are barred from sitting in the five closest rows of seats to the field to protect the safety of players, coaching staff, and umpires. While this is the first time in the park’s short history baseball fans will be able to watch a game there, tours have resulted in about 20,000 people seeing the stadium for themselves, and there have also been more than 60 high school graduations held.

The stadium being open to the public has brought up concerns from fans, with some wondering how effective a “playoff bubble” can be when the bubble is open. Others have said that people traveling for the games from states such as Florida, where restrictions are more lax, could transmit COVID-19 to other fans from more strict states, who would go back to their homes and spread the disease more. Piling on top of this is the fact that MLB is not temperature-checking fans at the security gates. These concerns can be eased considering the Chiefs have only reported one positive test through their first three home games, and contact tracing showed that the virus was not spread to anyone else.

It should also be noted that there is an inherent risk of contracting COVID-19 in any public setting, so blaming any sort of resurgence in cases solely on MLB allowing crowds again would be an ignorant and foolish statement.