I looked at my desk calendar the other day. Written across a few days in July were “Atlanta Braves.” During the past several years, annual trips to Atlanta to see the Braves play baseball have added lots of enjoyment to my summers.
I’ve been with family often and friends a lot, too. Those are trips I’ve always looked for ward to.
Needless to say, this summer’s trip could not happen.
Major League Baseball has been absent due to COVID-19.
So, I’ve not only missed the road trip, but I haven’t been able to watch my favorite sport in person either.
That’s starting to change.
Major League Baseball and its player association agreed to a 60-game shortened season. “Spring Training” started on July 1.
Last week I got a taste of the Braves by watching an intrasquad game from Truist Park (formerly SunTrust) Park, their home stadium.
Then Saturday night, just because I was ready for any baseball, I watched a little bit of a practice game between the New York Yankees and New York Mets. Sunday night, for a little while, I watched the Chicago Cubs versus the Chicago White Sox.
At the New York versus New York game, cutouts in the stands behind home plate provided a virtual-type audience for the players.Teams are selling the cutouts; they are faces of actual fans.
The Giants and New York Mets are offering cutouts to all their season ticket-holders for no extra charge and expect to use them for all home games. The Giants are selling cutouts for $99 to fans without season tickets, according to an Associated Press article. The Dodgers are charging $149 to $299 depending on where the cutouts will be seated, with all money going to the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.
The White Sox, according to the article, sold out their allotment of 1,500 cutouts for their opening series, with the $49 sales benefitting White Sox charities.
The Oakland Athletics are also offering fan cutouts, at a wide range of prices, with proceeds benefitting the Stephen Piscotty family foundation that’s seeking a cure for ALS.
Major league teams are also piping in crowd noise. I could hear some on the practice game telecasts when a batter got a big hit or an infielder made a good play.
The actual Major League Baseball 60-game season begins this week. It kicks off Thursday night with a pair of games — Washington Nationals versus New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers versus San Francisco Giants.
The Braves open their season Friday in New York versus the Mets.
We’re all still looking for normalcy during these uncertain times. It looks as if it will be awhile before that takes place.
But for me, the return of Major League Baseball, even without the fans, offers a sense of hope. It returns a bit of normalcy for this avid baseball fan.
I’m looking forward to kicking back in the recliner with a Dr. Pepper and some snacks nearby while watching my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves.
And maybe next year, 2021, the dates I mark on the calendar, “Atlanta Braves,” will hold true.