Baseball is back, and so are fans – particularly in Texas. The Rangers opened their doors this week to a crowd of 38,232, not including numerous tickets gifted to health care workers – making the game sellout. The game is believed to be the highest attendance event since the COVID pandemic ground live events to a halt in March 2020.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed event operators to open at full capacity should they choose. The Rangers, who opened Globe Life Field to no fans at all last year (but hosted fans as the neutral field for MLB playoff games, including the World Series). Plans are to have reduced capacity going forward after the doors were thrown wide open for the opening of the year. Major League Baseball teams are all allowing fans as the season gets underway, through capacity limits vary greatly from team to team.
“You can have your opinion on it, but at the same time our country is moving forward. It symbolizes a little bit of hope,” Rangers Manager Chris Woodward told the Star Telegram. “We haven’t had a full crowd in a long time in any sport. To be the first one, as long as it’s done right and responsible, we should be fine.”
Fans in attendance were asked to wear face masks and to respect social distancing recommendations in the concourse areas throughout the game, which saw Toronto capture a 6-2 victory over the home Rangers. Regular messages were piped over the public address system to remind guests to follow health protocols in place.
— Stefan Stevenson (@StevensonFWST) April 5, 2021
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has expressed hopes that the capacity limits will be lifted by the middle of the season as vaccination efforts continue to roll out across the country, mitigating some of the losses that teams and the league saw last year when it played its entire abbreviated regular season with no fans.
“I hope by midsummer that we have ballparks that are unrestricted and we have full fan access,” Manfred told The Associated Press.
“I see this season as a huge opportunity for baseball,” Manfred said. “We’re an outdoor sport. I think it’s safe or safer to go to outdoor activities. Everybody seems to agree on that. And I think that there’s pent-up demand for entertainment products, and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to take the best opportunity to take advantage of that.”
While Texas had by far the largest opening day crowd, Houston (50 percent capacity) and Colorado (43 percent) are also allowing large crowds, with Boston (12 percent) the lowest capacity currently. The full capacity ranges allowed for opening day are included in the table below (compiled by the Associated Press).
|TEAM||BALLPARK||STARTING PCT.||FULL CAPACITY|
|Red Sox||Fenway Park||12%||37,305|
|White Sox||Guaranteed Rate Field||20%||40,126|
|Reds||Great American Ball Park||30%||42,319|
|Astros||Minute Maid Park||50%||41,168|
|Brewers||American Family Field||25%||41,700|
|Phillies||Citizens Bank Park||20%||43,651|
|Rangers||Globe Life Field||100%||40,300|
|Blue Jays*||TD Ballpark||15%||8,500|
|* Playing at spring training ballpark in Dunedin, Florida
— The Associated Press