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Pandemic Baseball Chronicles: It’s an Opening Day unlike any other

Scenes from around the league as baseball returned on Thursday

Nationals fan Hayden Bluth protests outside Nationals Park during Opening Day
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Yesterday baseball grappled with the news that Nationals star Juan Soto would not play on Opening Day against the Yankees after testing positive for COVID-19. Fans were also treated to a stunning last minute development that MLB and the MLBPA had agreed to an expanded playoff format hours before the first pitch. It was a dizzying run-up to the return of the nation’s pastime, but baseball did return, albeit in a way that looked very different than anything we’ve seen before.

Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch wearing a mask. It’s pretty clear baseball isn’t his best sport, but he was still absolutely the right man to start the 2020 season:

For a few innings it looked like the rain might hold off in Washington DC as the Nationals and Yankees played the season opener. But when the rain came, it was hard to not see it as a sign that could only happen in 2020:

The deluge started immediately thereafter, cancelling the game and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s interview. Honestly I’ll just let that speak for itself.

New York Yankees v Washington Nationals
An epic rain delay in Washington DC
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The game was halted in the sixth inning, and since it had gone past five innings, it’s official:

Final from the season opener

On the West Coast Clayton Kershaw was pulled from the game at the last minute which led to a start from Dustin May and his incredible hair, which rivals the pandemic hair from Yu Darvish I highlighted yesterday:

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
Dustin May during the third inning in LA
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

If you looked closely in the nightcap last night you might have seen Giants coach Alyssa Nakken, the first female coach in MLB:

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
Alyssa Nakken works with Brandon Crawford before their game against the Dodgers
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

I spotted dozens of players in Black Lives Matter shirts during their warm-ups which is not something I expected from MLB. The movement on racial issues this summer has been remarkable. In fact, MLB is allowing players to opt-in to wearing patches that say “Black Lives Matter” and/or “United for Change” on their jerseys. Considering this is a league that won’t let Willson Contreras wear a Venezuelan flag arm sleeve, I was stunned.

The Dodgers are one of the teams with cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands and I’m just not sure I’ll get used to this:

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
This scene of cardboard cutouts of fans in Dodger Stadium is very pandemic baseball
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’re mere hours from finding out what Wrigley Field baseball in a pandemic will look like. I’m an excited, nervous, optimistic ball of emotions counting down the minutes.