For the first month of the 2021 season, minor league operators are confident they will be serving one of the most appreciative fanbases they’ve ever seen.
After a completely lost 2020 season, fans will be thrilled simply to walk back into a ballpark. Green grass, a beer, a hot dog and a baseball game are all signs that normalcy is slowly returning to an increasingly vaccinated United States.
That will be enough to thrill fans who have been away for a long time. The first month of this year’s minor league season is expected to be the honeymoon period of all honeymoon periods.
Teams will throw open their gates and welcome fans back with universal appreciation. Everyone will (mostly) happily endure physical distancing, mask-wearing and plenty of coronavirus-enacted rules. Simply seeing a game in person will be an experience many didn’t realize how much they enjoyed until it was gone.
That feeling should last through the first and maybe the second visit a fan makes to a park in 2021—just put on a baseball game, keep the fans safe and everyone goes home happy.
By the time June rolls around, the novelty of getting back to the ballpark will begin to fade. The grass will still be green. The kids will still love getting an ice cream in the seventh inning. But the novelty of returning to the ballpark will start to dissipate.
At that point, minor league teams will face their biggest challenge of 2021: How do they make a night at the ballpark as entertaining as possible without many of the tools they use to make their experience more than just a baseball game?
Once the new car smell of a night at the ballpark wears off, fans will begin to notice all the differences of baseball in a world still affected by the pandemic.
The list of items that will be off-limits in 2021 because of coronavirus concerns is lengthy.
Sumo wrestling, dizzy bat races, kids racing mascots and other staples of the normal minor league game won’t be allowed. Fans and staff aren’t allowed on the field, so there will be no on-field promotions of any kind.
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