Phillies fans’ return marks ‘light at the end of the tunnel’
By Matt Rappa
Not counting the Phandemic Krew cheering outside of the center field gates and keeping the Philadelphia Phillies fan spirit alive, the last time the team played in front of fans was March 12, 2020.
More than 350 days later, that will change when the Phillies’ 2021 Grapefruit League schedule gets underway on Sunday, February 28, away against the Detroit Tigers. The American League Central team recently announced that it will host approximately 2,000 fans per game at its spring training home, Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.
Phillies fans can return to games socially distanced and masked starting Feb. 28.
Coinciding with the recent Tigers announcement, the Phillies similarly announced on Friday that they will sell 2,220 tickets to each of their 14 home spring training contests at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Tickets will go on sale this Friday, 10 days before the spring home opener on March 1 against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Phillies spring training venue has 8,500 seats, which means slightly more than a quarter of their maximum stadium capacity would be allowed inside. Fans who attend games will be required to wear a face covering and, of course, socially distance with others when possible.
Phillies fans being able to take in games, in person, is surely a positive sign toward us being closer to the “light at the end of the tunnel” – as it relates to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It marks some return to normalcy, even if there are not sold-out crowds.
There is no word yet as to whether fans will be allowed to attend games right away come the regular season, which kicks off April 1, home against the Atlanta Braves. For now, the focus will be the Phillies roster, particularly pitchers and catchers as they report to spring training this Tuesday, followed by their first official workout on Wednesday.
The Phils will play five teams across 28 games as part of their revised spring training schedule, adjusted to a “pod” to reduce travel. Anything to keep players safe while still giving them plate appearances and innings on the mound to gear up for a 162-game schedule is a win-win.