Newsom says state is on track to allow fans at MLB games by opening day

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Bill Shaikin
·3 min read
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Four F-15 Eagles from the Air National Guard fly over Dodger Stadium during the national anthem.
Fans attend a game between the Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates on July 4, 2018. California Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated Wednesday that fans could be allowed to attend Major League Baseball games when the upcoming season starts. (Mark J. Terill / Associated Press)

California’s major league ballparks were closed to fans for every game last season, but Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated Wednesday that they could be open to fans for every game this season.

“We’re working on the final details,” Newsom said Wednesday at an appearance in Long Beach. “We’ve been working very closely with Major League Baseball and others across the spectrum.”

That means the Dodgers could raise their first World Series championship banner in 32 years with thousands of fans in attendance, even though Dodger Stadium would be far from full.

Newsom stopped short of a guarantee, since a resurgence of the coronavirus could derail plans. But he noted that the state’s positivity rate has fallen to 2.2% and hospitalizations for the virus have dropped 43% in the last two weeks.

“We have confidence that when you look forward to April, to opening day,” Newsom said, “and where we are likely to be if we all do our jobs, if we don’t let our guard down and spike the ball — wrong sport — then I have all the confidence in the world that fans will be back safely, in a lot of these outdoor venues.”

What Newsom would essentially approve is a modification of the state guidelines, which for now ban fans at professional sports. The modification would acknowledge that games can be held safely at limited capacity, and with health and safety protocols, including mask wearing and distance between seating groups.

Those protocols currently are in use in Arizona, where the Dodgers and Angels have joined the other 13 Cactus League teams in playing before a fraction of capacity.

The Dodgers could sell 11,200 seats to Dodger Stadium at 20% capacity and 14,000 seats at 25% capacity.

None of the five counties that host California’s major league teams are in the orange tier, which indicates moderate spread of the coronavirus. Under the current state guidance, teams in counties in the orange tier can play to 20% of capacity. Teams in counties in the yellow tier, which indicates minimal spread of the virus, can play to 25% of capacity.

The Dodgers are scheduled to play their home opener April 9 against the Washington Nationals. The Angels are set to open their season April 1 in Anaheim against the Chicago White Sox.

In the National League West, the two teams not based in California are expected to admit fans.

The Colorado Rockies already have been approved to play before 25% of capacity, or about 12,000 fans. The Arizona Diamondbacks have not received approval for fans, but Phoenix and the seven suburban cities that host Cactus League games all have approved limited capacities for the exhibition games currently underway.

In the American League West, two of the non-California teams play in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday removed all restrictions on capacity. The former president of the other non-California team, the Seattle Mariners, recently told the Bellevue Rotary Club that he hoped the team would be able to host close to 10,000 fans.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.