Take me out to the (2020) ballgame

Take me out to the (2020) ballgame

Approximately 900 regular season MLB games were played this year in front of cardboard cutout fans with simulated crowd noise orchestrated by professional sound engineers.

But in late September, MLB announced that a limited number of fans would be allowed at the new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, to watch the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and World Series (WS).

Articles by several national writers including Craig Calcaterra and Jesse Spector criticized this decision, asserting that MLB’s financial interests were superseding public health risks.

MLB’s parameters for allowing fans in the stands were laid out as follows.

  • Approximately 11,000 tickets (28% capacity) available for each game
  • A “pod” of four tickets seated together could be purchased
  • The pods were spaced in alternate rows at least six feet apart
  • No seats available within 20 feet of the playing field, dugouts, or bullpen
  • Mandatory masking except when actively drinking or eating
  • In the ticket agreement, fans waived the right to sue MLB in the event of contracting COVID-19

As expected, tickets to the playoff games sold out. A number of Padres fans purchased them online, hoping to see the team play in the NLCS and WS. But the Dodgers prevailed in the NLDS, so Padres fans with tickets pivoted to Plan B: rooting against the Dodgers.

Fans at the NLCS

Jenny is a San Diego native and Padres season ticket holder who made the trip to Arlington on her own to attend the NLCS.

I had the money and had the time so I texted my friend Alphecca in Texas. She said she’d jump on the Padres bandwagon.

Not long after her plane touched down, Jenny and Alphecca headed to Texas Live, the entertainment complex adjacent to Globe Life Field, where fans gathered to watched the Padres take on the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Jenny (far left) with other fans at Texas Live watching Padres vs. Dodgers in the NLDS

On October 12, it was time for Jenny to make her way to Globe Life Field for Game 1 of the NLCS. Not only was she in the first group of MLB fans to see a game in 2020 but she also got to break in a new stadium.

We went to our seats. It was an amazing feeling because we were the first ever fans to be in the ballpark and to sit at those seats.

I was the first to have a beer, cotton candy, a coke, peanuts, a bite of the boomstick, a cheeseburger, and popcorn in that seat.

Plus, I was the first to drop peanuts on the floor. 😂 It was great!

Some fans from LA looked at me like I was a freak … saying why are you wearing head to toe Padres, they lost, they aren’t even here? I almost cried because I looked cute in my new jersey my boyfriend Eli bought me.” -Jenny

Mike was raised in East County (El Capitan High School, ’93) but now lives about 13 miles south of Arlington.

As a kid, he fell hard for the Padres during family trips to Yuma for Spring Training and games at Jack Murphy Stadium.

1984. That season set the tone of my baseball fandom going forward.

Rope line autographs, Tony’s laugh, and getting yelled at by Steve Garvey to hold the ball still while he autographed it.

We attended every home playoff and World Series game, though as kids my brother and I were relegated to the RV in the parking of the Murph, watching on a small black & white TV.

Mike as a kid in Yuma and in the family RV at the Murph. He says he still has that hat.

Although he didn’t cross paths with Jenny, Mike was also at Game 1 of the NLCS. His pod consisted of himself, his son, and best friends who are “nice enough people” that he overlooks them being Dodgers fans.

The Dodgers lost to the Braves that night. Based on the video Mike posted on Twitter, it appears that his son will be carrying on the tradition of enjoying Dodgers’ failures at every opportunity.

Fans at the WS

Francisco (who goes by “Panch”) is a third generation Padres fan. Both his father and grandfather grew up in Tijuana and rooted for the Padres.

The rule at home was bedtime was right after the Padres game was over that night.

So back in 2008 when the Padres played that 22 inning game, I stayed up until 1:21am. My parents tried grounding me but rules were rules!

(L) Francisco with his six year old son; (R) meeting AJ Preller

Francisco’s sister is the one who came up with the idea of getting tickets to the WS as a birthday gift to their dad. I asked him to “walk me through” the experience of settling into his seat at Globe Life Field.

I was honestly in shock thinking to myself: “Wow, I’m at the World Series.” Especially with how tough and crazy this year has been.

I was lucky enough to be sitting behind home plate with one of the best views in the stadium!

Francisco with his dad and stopping by the MLB Network stage

Marc went to his first Padres game almost 30 years ago and has been hooked ever since. While growing up in Poway, he went to the same schools as the families of Bib Roberts, Tony Gwynn, Alan Wiggins, Howard Johnson, and John Moores.

Marc’s entourage for Game 1 in Arlington included three friends, one of whom is a Dodgers fan.

They took an Uber ride from their hotel to the Texas Live complex and had drinks before entering the stadium. Marc loved the ballpark and says “there was nothing to dislike.”

Aside from the Dodgers winning, it was a blast!

The concessions weren’t anything special, although my friend did consume their “boomstick” – a 2 foot hot dog, covered with chili, nacho cheese, onions and jalapeños.

Joey is also from Poway and grew up a huge Padres fan. He’s followed the team all around the country and was in Cooperstown for the HOF inductions of both Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.

In 2003, the ambulance company where he was employed assigned Joey to be the lead EMT and liaison to the Padres.

I worked every home game and had free reign of the stadium. I would get to the ballpark early and watch batting practice from the dugout.

I remember hanging around Jake Peavy, Sean Burroughs, and Oliver Perez.

Joey has been to 28 MLB stadiums and says that Globe Life Stadium is one of the nicer ones. He enjoyed the way the vertical design of the seating bowl made him feel close to the action on the field, even from the second level.

Joey (left) and his brother Jon bought Rays caps to root against the Dodgers.

In terms of the overall vibe at Game 3, this was Joey’s observation:

You could really tell that the players wanted to be there and that they were taking this World Series seriously. I liked that because I didn’t want the experience to be ruined by all of this “shortened season asterisk” talk.

The fan atmosphere however was very subdued due to the lack of fans. You can tell people were excited, but the game never had that true elation you see on TV when the entire stadium is filled and rooting for one team.

It was definitely fun, but it wasn’t what I would hope a World Series game to be.

Somehow, a fan with conflicting fan loyalties snuck into this article!

Will grew up in the Los Angeles area and describes himself as a “rabid fan” of the Dodgers from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s.

My mother would take me to games. She’d get off work at 3pm, she’d come home, and we’d hop in her orange VW hatchback as soon as we could so that we’d get to Dodger Stadium when the parking gates opened.

On some nights, she’d even let me hang out at the player’s parking lot to get autographs. I was such a groupie that some of the players got to know me.

I was a bit nutty. I’m not saying I was as nutty as Padres fan extraordinaire, Ryan Cohen, but I wasn’t far off. I was a huge Steve Garvey fan, going so far as to be him for Halloween not once, but twice.

Will gradually became more of a Padres fan after his father moved to San Diego in 1973 following his parents’ divorce. At the age of 15, he saw all three games of the 1984 series against the Cubs at Jack Murphy Stadium, including Steve Garvey’s infamous walk-off home run in Game 4.

At the end of that 1984 series, I was officially a Padre fan.

I didn’t renounce, and still haven’t renounced, my Dodger fan status.

But it’s different being a Padre fan. It requires a certain something that I can’t quite describe to be a Padre fan. I think it comes down to it being a hard test of a person’s ability to have hope and to be loyal.

Will’s interest in baseball ebbed and flowed over subsequent years but says that his son Spencer “is the reason I’m back into baseball.” He describes Spencer as a “rabid Padre fan without any of the conflicts I have.”

And, just as Will was 15 years old when he saw the classic “Garvey game” in 1984, Spencer (at 15) got to see what is already being labeled a classic game on October 24 when the Rays came back in spectacular fashion to defeat the Dodgers.

Will and his son Spencer at Game 4 of the WS.

Will told me that Game 4 in Arlington felt just as amazing as the “Garvey game” at the Murph (which was 36 years ago).

The early part of the game had an odd feel to it. It felt like the Dodgers were in complete control. But the Rays battled back, the Dodgers kept up the pressure.

I’ve never seen such a back and forth game.

After the comeback by the Rays, people were in shock. I think it stemmed from the fact that they all knew that they just saw a classic game and were grateful for being there given how 2020 has gone.

I heard a lot of people on the radio, people calling in, expressing how fun it was to have a “slice of normal” and “we saw history.” I know I felt that way.

And so, when all was said and done, MLB pulled off a 2020 season, some fans were able to attend games, and the Dodgers were crowned champions.

There are certainly more questions than answers as to how 2021 will play out, especially in terms of bringing fans back into the ballparks.

The Padres fans I interviewed felt that the measures taken for fan safety at Globe Life Field were appropriate and that most people complied with the protocols while inside the stadium.

Here’s hoping that more fans can safely return to the stands in 2021.

Slideshow

Globe Life Field is receiving overall good reviews. It has been described as a modernized version of the old stadium. Here are some pictures taken by the fans interviewed for this article.

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Mostly here to promote fun baseball! My focus is on our experiences as fans and shared connections in the baseball community. I also produce content for #PadresTwitter, including vlogs and event coverage. Find me on Twitter (@PadresGeekster) and IG (PadresGeekster).

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