Major League Baseball returns for 2021 season

Opinion: After a strange 2020, sport hopefully back to normal

After a very unusual 2020 season, Major League Baseball is finally back for what looks to be a more regular 2021 season. In 2020, Opening Day and Spring Training were delayed because of COVID-19, and each team only played a total of 60 games for the entire season. Additionally, 16 teams competed in the playoffs, rather than just 10.

This year, only 10 teams will compete in the playoffs in a return to the typical playoff format. That means each division winner and two wild card teams will make the playoffs in both the American and National League.

MLB is also returning to the full 162 game schedule this season. On Opening Day, April 1, 26 out of the 30 teams competed. The Boston Red Sox game against Baltimore Orioles was postponed until April 2, with rain covering the Boston area. The Washington Nationals versus the New York Mets game was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Despite vaccines becoming more accessible to the public, COVID-19 will continue to affect MLB in 2021. There are still limits on how many fans can attend games in ballparks across the nation, and there remain health and safety protocols that coaches and players will be required to follow. There is not a set amount of fans that can attend the games, as it is mostly based on state and local government regulations.

Based on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order on March 2 (which lifted the mask mandate and allowed all businesses to open at 100 percent capacity), both the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers have the ability to open to full capacity. However, the Houston Astros have decided to only allow about 20,500 fans in Minute Maid Stadium for games in April, which is 50 percent capacity.

On Opening Day, the Texas Rangers opened at full capacity, allowing 40,518 fans. The following games will have reduced capacity to accommodate social distancing. Additionally, masks are required at both Minute Maid Park in Houston and Global Life Field in Dallas.

Apart from general season-starting news, MLB has also made headlines recently after announcing that they will no longer be hosting the All-Star Game and MLB Draft in Atlanta after Georgia signed a voting bill that critics have said were aimed at voter suppression, especially targeting Black voters. MLB has selected Coors Field in Denver, home of the Colorado Rockies, as the new host. The Rockies last hosted the All Star Game in 1998.

While stands aren’t quite full and masks are still visible at every turn, baseball is thankfully mostly back to normal.