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If you think there will be fans in Wrigley Field on Opening Day, think again

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We’re still a long way toward having Wrigley full again.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A full house at Wrigley Field on a beautiful spring or summer afternoon.

Really, there’s no better place to be on Earth, as far as I’m concerned. As you all likely know, I have spent literally thousands of afternoons and evenings at the ballpark, enjoying Cubs baseball and the company of good friends.

No one has been able to do this in almost 18 months, since September 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone who’s a Cubs fan, or baseball fan, or Wrigley Field fan, or any combination of the above, would love to get back into the ballpark soon.

Major League Baseball has established that the 2021 season will begin on time. I continue to believe a delay would be best for all, but if that doesn’t happen, the Cubs will host the Pirates at Wrigley to open the season April 1, which is just 55 days — one day fewer than eight weeks — from today.

I’m still not convinced that’s a good idea. Some have said that the NHL and NBA are playing now, so why shouldn’t MLB? How are those leagues doing?

Oh.

Even the NFL, who plowed through their 2020 season paying little mind to the pandemic, says 2021 might not be “normal”:

The National Football League’s 2021 season may not be normal in any regard or feature anything close to full fan attendance as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, acknowledged league commissioner Roger Goodell. But he said the lessons learned from the turbulent and now-concluding 2020 season will be critical in future NFL operations.

Back to baseball: Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti is concerned about having spring training in Arizona:

“I’m worried,” said Antonetti, president of baseball operations. “One of our organizational priorities from the very beginning, even before we knew what the pandemic would hold, was to continue to prioritize the health, safety and well being of our players and staff.

“It is concerning that we’re going to be going into an environment in Arizona that has one of the highest infection rates in the country.”

Cleveland’s pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report just 12 days from now, Wednesday, February 17 and their first game is Sunday, February 28.

“I’m hopeful that the protocols we’ll have in place will help mitigate some of those risks and keep everyone healthy and safe as best as possible,” said Antonetti. “But it is a concern.”

Antonetti said the Indians have given all staff members the ability to opt out spring training if they don’t feel comfortable. He said no one, to date, has opted out.

Beyond the impact on players and staff, all of that raises these questions: Whether fans will be permitted at MLB ballparks this year, when that might happen, and how many.

If you think there will be fans at Wrigley Field to watch Opening Day in person, consider the words of Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the Chicago Department of Public Health:

During a press availability Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Allison Arwady, the director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that while the city is making “good progress,” sports teams are still likely “months away” from allowing fans to attend games.

“We’re definitely making good progress here, but we are still not even below the 400-case mark (the number of new cases per 100,000 residents per week) and 5% positivity that really mark our danger zone in Chicago,” she said. “I think about fans in stands, that is months away.”

The article notes that the Bulls and Blackhawks are currently playing games at the United Center without fans. Dr. Arwady concluded:

“I am certainly optimistic that we will be able to reopen further, but we’re going to have to be doing that in a way that’s cautious, and I really can’t predict months from now where we will be. (But) I am feeling optimistic based on the way things are going right now,” she said.

When Dr. Arwady says having fans in stands in the city of Chicago is “months away,” I don’t think that means only eight weeks. We’re probably talking about May or June, most likely, even for socially-distanced seating.

No one wants to get back in Wrigley Field more than I do. But I also want to wait until we’re sure that we’re on the recovery side of the pandemic, with caseloads dropping and more people vaccinated.

I’m with Dr. Arwady. Let’s wait until it’s safe.

Poll

Fans should be allowed back in Wrigley Field...

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    April 1
    (216 votes)
  • 6%
    May 1
    (40 votes)
  • 16%
    June 1
    (102 votes)
  • 40%
    Sometime after June 1
    (246 votes)
604 votes total Vote Now