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Report from The Fort: Spring Training Gives Hints on Target Field’s Season

The stakes for spring training games have never been this high.The game itself was even less meaningful than most spring training games, if that’s even possible. But the event, with an estimated 2154 fans attending a live baseball game while a nation limps towards a COVID finish line has repercussions throughout the baseball world. It also likely gives a glimpse as to what we might expect at Target Field this year.


It starts hours before fans enter the stadium. Lot of disinfectant is brandished on handrails.



The gates open about 90 minutes before gametime, but don’t expect to see the road team taking batting practice, at least not a Hammond Stadium. Yesterday, the Red Sox took BP on a side field, while the Twins had their BP in the stadium. I expect that will not be the case during the regular season.


Masks are required throughout the stadium, even when outdoors, unless you’re eating or drinking. Yes, this creates a sizable loophole, but the team seems like they’re pretty serious about enforcing social distancing. Tickets can only be bought in groups of two or four, and all the seats around sold seats are zip-tied shut.



There are no common areas in which to eat in the ballpark; they clearly want people to eat in their socially-distanced seats.



This will likely provide a special challenge in some sections of Target Field, just like it does in Hammond Field. The only way to enforce this is with manpower. They are doing so.



Concessions and beers might also have a new look at Target Field, too. The Twins announced this week that they’re unveiling a new say to order concessions through the MLB Ballpark app, which will allow you to just swing by the concession stand to pick up your order.


On the other hand, it’s not clear how they’ll handle the bar areas in Target Field. Today, at least, it was probably the one area I found that felt a little too cozy.



For what it’s worth, the restrictions don’t seems to be keeping people away from the ballpark. There were tickets made available to the general public on Thursday. They sold out within a matter of a couple of hours, even though the games are only seven innings long. What’s more, we’ve been warned to expect some other quirkiness, such as we saw yesterday when the Twins batted in the bottom of the seventh – with the lead.


Whatever. The crowd just wanted baseball. And baseball wanted the crowd. It was noticed by the players, particularly Twins starting pitcher Devin Smeltzer. “I get out early as you guys know,” Smeltzer admitted. “I heard some fans, and some normalcy out there. It was pretty emotional. I got choked up a little bit.”


He wasn’t the only emotional one in Hammond today, but most of the emotions I witnessed were some mixture of joy and relief and maybe a little wonderment at how good meaningless baseball can feel.


Or maybe it wasn’t so meaningless. Certainly the efforts to bring it back were not. It required some reasonable attempts to solve a difficult problem, while keeping an eye on some widespread repercussions. As my hot dog vendor said “If we screw this up, it could mean no fans for all of baseball.”


Overall, it didn’t look like they’re overtly screwing it up, and it gave me a lot of hope that we’ll have some similar experiences in Minnesota this summer.


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Doesn't matter if it is outside; wear your masks when you're going to be around the same set of people for 3+ hours. Target Field is still hiring for police officers this year; I have a feeling they are planning on being very diligent with their masks and social-distance policies this year. It won't be an 80-year-old retiree usher asking you a second time to put on your mask and keep it on in your seat.

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Teams are using Spring Training games as a test run to show their respective cities how they plan on safely having 25% capacity: so far all teams in Florida (except maybe Toronto?) are requiring masks at all times "except for when eating and drinking." Detroit is going so far that they're not allowing gaiters; masks only. https://www.news-press.com/story/sports/mlb/springtraining/2021/02/25/spring-training-2021-baseball-schedules-covid-restrictions-florida-gulf-coast-ticket-information/4563672001/


Ultimately, there is two ways this will go down when the season opens (unless a city decides not to allow fans at all, which I certainly hope is not a legitimate option again):


- Teams will decide that fans do not need to wear masks in their seats, but fans will still be required to wear them when walking to and from their seats, in the concourses, on the plazas, in the bathrooms, etc.




- Teams will require masks at all times except when eating and drinking, and certain fans will attempt to skirt that by nursing a single beer or bag of peanuts for a full 9 innings.

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