By Ethan Kispert
Spring training is a popular time for both tourists and locals to swing by the ball field and catch a quick game. But all of that will be a bit different this year as COVID-19 has pumped the brakes on large gatherings at venues. As of press time, the spring training season is set to begin on February 27, but the many local officials hope it is pushed back at least a month to give time for COVID-19 cases to go down.
Stephanie Pressler, director of community affairs at Experience Scottsdale, says that Major League Baseball (MLB) will play a major role in dictating what happens during spring training.
“Many of the spring training facilities have limited capacities that are set by Major League Baseball,” she says.
Many of these changes will be coming to fields such as the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and Peoria Sports Complex, where, if fans can attend games, they’ll be enforcing protocols to help keep fans safe when spring training kicks off.
“The teams and stadiums are planning to implement enhanced cleaning and safety protocols should fans be allowed,” Pressler says.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not fans will be allowed to attend any of the spring training games. In a Forbes article written by Maury Brown, Major League Baseball claimed that they’ll do everything they can to coordinate with county health officials and the MLB Players Association to ensure that things start smoothly and on time.
“As we get closer, we will, in consultation with public health authorities, our medical experts, and the Players Association, determine whether any modifications should be considered in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases and the challenges we faced in 2020 completing a 60-game season in a sport that plays every day,” according to Major League Baseball.
What does this mean for fans who are desperate to catch a quick game? At this point in time, everything is up in the air. Assuming that fans are allowed to attend games, there may be a reduced number of tickets available for purchase. Major League Baseball may also implement a limitation on the size of groups that come to games as well as how far apart people are sitting while in the stadium. MLB doesn’t appear to have set a requirement for fans to be vaccinated before attending games, nor are they requiring temperature checks. Of course, this could all change at any point in time depending on COVID-19’s trajectory.