Play Ball: Baseball Is Back, And So Are The Fans

No April Fools joke, the 2021 Major League Baseball begins today. And, for the first time since 2019, fans will be back in ballparks for regular season games. (A limited number of fans were allowed during last year's National League Championship Series and World Series in Arlington.) The Astros open the season in Oakland, but when they host the A's one week from tonight in the Minute Maid Park opener, there will be about 20,000 fans on hand---or 50% capacity.

This will mark the first time fans are at Minute Maid Park since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, and after last year's bizarre, truncated season everyone seems eager to return to some normalcy. "First and foremost, I think the players are going to love it," says SportsTalk 790 host Matt Thomas. "They have been playing basically in front of nobody for a year...a few fans at spring training games, nobody last season."

Astros tickets went on sale last week, and so far the demand is strong. "The fans missed the sport obviously," says Thomas. "I think the Astros did a pretty good job of explaining to their season ticket holders where they'll be sitting, and 20,000 per game must mean a lot of people really want to get out there and see live baseball in person."

For now, the Astros will limit capacity at Minute Maid to 50%, with plans to review capacity limits on a monthly basis. "I think if everything goes well in the month of April, I could see not only Minute Maid Park but stadiums across Major League Baseball going up in capacity," says Thomas.

Fans who do attend will notice several changes. Masks are required inside the park at all times, except when eating or drinking at your seat; physical distancing is required when moving about the park; all concessions have gone cashless, with "reverse ATMs" that will distribute stadium debit cards.

Catch all the Astros action again this season on SportsTalk 790 and NewsRadio 740 KTRH.

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