Following a season from hell nearly everyone is looking forward to a return to a sense of normalcy when the MLB season opens Thursday. That includes Milwaukee Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns.
“I think the words you’re hearing most from everyone is just excitement and optimism,” Stearns said. “I’m genuinely excited to watch a game with our fans in the ballpark. I can’t begin to imagine the excitement level of our players to play in front of our fans again.”
In past years Opening Day has been essentially a holiday in Milwaukee with fans packing nearby bars, parking lots to tailgate and then a full house inside the stadium. For the most part it won’t be like that against Minnesota on Thursday — there will be roughly 12,000 fans at American Family Field and no tailgating is being allowed — but it will different than what players experienced a year ago playing in front of cardboard cutouts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will make a difference,” said manager Craig Counsell, whose team played two exhibition games in Texas with fans in attendance. “Monday night [against the Rangers] you could just sense it from the players. You sense it from the players how it made a difference. It felt like a game. The noise level is not there but the buzz that people create is there.”
Though fans will be back in the stadium for the first time since September of 2019, the pandemic is still making an impact. A positive test within the Brewers organization Wednesday morning sent the team scrambling, only to later find out it was a false positive and everyone is cleared to play. The Washington Nationals weren’t so lucky, as a single positive test there cost them five important players for their opener.
“We understand COVID is still here,” Counsell said. “That it’s not going away, so we understand very well that we need to take precaution. We will continue to do that.”
The team knows the greatest way to avoid getting the disease is to get vaccinated, something every Wisconsin resident over the age of 16 will be eligible to do starting next week. It’s unclear how many players will decide to get vaccinated, but we know one for sure — Christian Yelich.
“I would imagine a number of guys, if not everybody is going to be doing it,” Yelich said. “I can’t speak for other guys. It’s an individual choice, of course. Nobody is required to do it, but I myself will be doing it and I know a lot of guys on the team are going to.”
First pitch for the Brewers and Twins on Thursday is set for 1:10 p.m. You can catch the action all season long on 96.7FM and 1670AM.