MLB’s opening day marked by a COVID-19 postponement, weather impacts and limited fans

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Fans returned to stadiums for the first time in over a year.

Stadiums across the country welcomed back fans Thursday for the first time in over a year, after teams played to mostly empty or cardboard cutout-filled stands last season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Both the pandemic and inclement weather made for some day-of derailments. Thursday evening’s Washington Nationals home game against the New York Mets was postponed amid “ongoing contact tracing” among members of the Nationals organization, the team announced.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the game will not be made up on Friday,” the league’s built-in off day, the Nationals said in a statement. “We will continue to provide updates as available.”

The Nationals would have been down five players and a staff member after a player tested positive for COVID-19, ESPN reported.

The Red Sox opener against the Baltimore Orioles was also postponed — due to the weather. With a forecast calling for rain throughout the day in the Boston area, team officials announced Thursday’s afternoon game will be rescheduled to Friday — forecast to have sunny skies.

“The decision to postpone our first game of the season was not made lightly,” Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said in a statement. “We have been eager to have fans back at Fenway Park for the first time in 18 months and look forward to welcoming everyone back tomorrow under brighter and drier conditions.”

Snow didn’t stop the Detroit Tigers’ home opener against the Cleveland Indians. The first pitch was thrown in 32-degree weather. Slugger Miguel Cabrera hit his first home run of the season in the first inning as snow came down at Comerica Park. The Tigers went on to clinch the win, 3-2.

With most stadiums not opening to full capacity due to COVID-19 safety protocols, stands were noticeably lacking the typically packed crowds on opening day. For instance, Comerica Park, which can normally hold 42,000 fans, is limited to 8,200.

“It’s quieter than normal on opening day, but, at the end of the day, you make the best of it,” Tigers fan Andrew Postema, who drove from Grand Rapids for the game, told ABC Detroit affiliate WXYZ.

Chicago’s Wrigley Field is limited to 25% capacity — about 10,000 fans. They entered using contactless tickets on their phones, one of several safety measures in place this season, along with required face coverings (which present the opportunity for fans to wear masks emblazoned with their team’s logo).

“The fans are real excited to come out,” Cubs fan Shawn Greene told Chicago ABC station WLS. “I’m sure this place would be crowded but it’s just good to be back.”

Fans going to the New York Yankees this season are required to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The stadium, one of the city’s mass vaccination sites, is also continuing to administer vaccinations between home games through at least the end of the month, officials said.

Stuart Goldwasser told New York ABC station WABC he paid $900 for him and his son to be one of the nearly 11,000 fans on opening day at Yankee Stadium, which is limited to 20% capacity.

“Had COVID, got through it and we’re here and we’re going to win the World Series,” Goldwasser said.

“We always come to opening day,” his son told the station. “We come to a bunch of games every year. It was tough not to be here for a couple of years.”