The California Department of Public Health gave baseball teams and fans cause for spring fever Friday when it announced that spectators can return to the state's baseball stadiums in gradually increasing numbers starting on Opening Day as the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Since the state's five MLB teams all reside in different counties, their numbers will differ based on the guidelines and current coronavirus statistics, but the San Francisco Giants are targeted be the first of the teams permitted to invite thousands of fans and even sell hot dogs and beer, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Giants' home opener is not until April 9, and San Francisco County and Gov. Gavin Newsom said it is already close to the benchmarks necessary to reopen the stadium to 20 percent capacity, which for the Giants would mean about 8,300 fans. As a county's coronavirus statistics hit various criteria, teams will be allowed to fill 20 percent of their stadium's capacity, then 33 percent, and 67 percent through the summer.
The Dodgers, Angels, Padres, and A's are in counties where the virus continues to be widespread, and presently would be regulated with only up to 100 fans and no concessions sales, although statistics are trending positively in their counties.
The announcement was noteworthy in part because California has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and has established some of the most restrictive measures in the country. The Rose Bowl, for example, was moved to Texas owing to the two states' differing approaches to combating the spread of the virus.
Orange County, home of the Angels of Anaheim, is close to reaching the benchmarks to open to 20 percent capacity (9,000 fans) in time for the April 1 home opener. Los Angeles, Alameda, and San Diego counties are further from reaching the criteria for opening the stadiums, but the announcement was still greeted as good news by the teams.
"Like the Governor, we're optimistic that California will continue to make progress in the fight against COVID-19 and that we can safely host fans to start the season," Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement.
The Angels also issued a statement Friday saying the organization "are thrilled to welcome fans back safely to the Big A."
The teams said information will be released soon regarding ticket sales and policies for reduced capacity, suite rentals, and stadium protocols as the state finalizes guidelines.
--Field Level Media