As a most unlikely regular season winds down for Major League Baseball, the league and its fans are looking to the future, where an expanded postseason awaits. And, if Texas officials give their OK, fans will be a part of it, commissioner Rob Manfreid confirmed this week. Houston and Arlington, which are hosting the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and World Series are in the final stages of approving a return of fans to the stadium at those ballparks.
“We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas,’’ Manfred told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “One of the most important things to our game is the presence of fans. Starting down the path of having fans in stadiums, and in a safe and risk-free environment, is very, very important to our game.”
No fans have been allowed at a single game during the abbreviated 2020 MLB season, which began in July after initial plans were wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. None will be allowed at the first two rounds of the playoffs either. Wild Card games begin next week with 3-game series held at the home ballparks of the participating teams, but no fans allowed just as with the regular season. A “bubble” format will be used from then on, with four neutral sites playing host to each series. American League Division Series games will be played at Los Angeles and San Diego, while Houston and Arlington host National League Division Series games. Arlington and San Diego will host the NLCS and ALCS, respectively, with the World Series at Arlington’s Globe Life Field.
“The elimination of travel is obviously a positive because it cuts exposure,” Manfred told The Associated Press after the format was announced. “Less interaction outside with the group that you’re looking to protect is a huge positive. It’s all about what the risk of interacting with the community is.”
It is unclear at this point what capacity will be allowed for home games in Texas, which currently allows attendance of up to 50 percent of venue capacity for large stadiums. But the league is pleased with the possibility of having any fans in the building, which Manfred emphasized plays an outsided role in the game experience itself, even for for the players.
“The inability of our fans to enjoy the in-ballpark experience is probably my biggest disappointment. The players have been poignantly honest about the significance of having fans in our ballpark and their importance. It emphasizes the bond between our fans and our players.’’