First off, let’s cheer on our Bronx Bombers and our Amazin’ Mets – they’re back! April 1 is Opening Day for Major League Baseball and we couldn’t be happier. The only thing more unimaginable than last year’s cardboard audience would be a substitution of Strat-o-matic fantasy baseball for the 2021 season.
You could say we’re in the fifth inning in New York City (rather than in a rain delay) thanks to increasing numbers of vaccinated fans and a bit of hindsight about how the virus spreads. We’ve arrived at a middle ground, where the city’s baseball stadiums are re-opening to both players and fans alike, albeit with only 20 percent capacity. We still have four innings to go.
So what does that all mean?
New Protocols for Going to the Game
Going to a Yankees or Mets game will be like traveling to another state or even another country. You must be fully vaccinated or have a Covid-19 test with a negative result no less than three days prior to the first pitch. And you’ll need to show proof if you plan to enter the stadium, whether you have a ticket or not. Temperature checks will also be required.
CDC guidelines are being followed by both the Yankees and the Mets. Masks must be worn at all times except when eating or drinking at your assigned seat, and it is suggested that you bring hand sanitizer and wipes with you and wash your hands frequently. You can expect to see signs and a small legion of people reminding you of this around the restrooms, too.
Clearly defined spacing between seating clusters will ensure that social distancing rules are followed in the stands, but you will be expected to monitor your behavior and avoid congestion when you walk through the stadium. A must-read for anyone planning to attend a game, detailed “safety” information for the Mets and the Yankees is available on their websites and will be updated as available.
How ‘Bout Them Tickets?
Like the Red Sox and the Yankees playing a game without any excitement, getting a ticket will be another challenge.
Tickets are harder to score than ever. With initial games reduced to 20 percent attendance, and only the first month’s games on sale, you can expect higher-than-normal prices particularly for popular series like Red Sox vs Mets. Tickets are being sold in “pods,” meaning that you can only purchase them in singles, pairs or groups of four and six, and seating will be strategically scattered throughout the stadiums. For these “limited capacity” games, only 8492 tickets will be sold for the Mets and 10,850 for the Yankees. Tickets for other games will be released at a later date with the hope that capacity restrictions will be relaxed. Stay up to date by checking the websites for the Mets and the Yankees.
For safety’s sake, all ticket purchases will be contactless. No tickets will be sold at the stadiums. Everything needs to be taken care of online and your phone is your baseball ticket. Be sure to keep your battery charged or bring a spare; you’ll need to show your phone to return to your seat if you go for a restroom or refreshment break.
Concessions are still being worked out, but as a rule, all purchases will be cashless this year. If you do bring cash, however, you can convert it to a pre-paid debit card at a “reverse” ATM. In-seat delivery has been suspended but you can pre-order and pre-pay some food selections on Uber Eats at Yankee Stadium and on the MLB Ballpark App at Citi Field for express pick-up at designated locations. You’re welcome to use your mobile phone or credit card to make purchases directly at the stands.
The preliminary lineup of vendors at Yankee Stadium includes Blue Point's Pinstripe Pils and food stands from local faves Jersey Mike’s cheesesteaks, Nathan’s hot dogs, Lobel’s steak sandwiches and Haru Sushi. There will also be Grab n Go options in two locations.
The Mets have confirmed the return of David Chang’s fuku chicken sandwiches, Shake Shack burgers, DO Cookie Dough and the margherita and pepperoni snacks from The Pizza Cupcake. All food will be served in individual containers. It will be interesting to see how Citi Field manages its outdoor beer garden and food stand area where people usually crowd and queue en masse.
Openings and rules for the sit-down restaurants and clubs -- including the Legends Suite Club at Yankee Stadium and the Delta Sky360° Club at Citi Field — will be available on the teams’ websites.
Can We Still Have a Seventh Inning Stretch?
There’s one question that remains a bit hazy. What happens during the traditional late-game pause? Remember when a seventh-inning stretch meant actually stretching your legs and taking a quick walk to grab a beer or hit the loo? A mass exodus of even the 20 percent in attendance could cause a serious social distancing problem. Maybe it’s best to just stay in your seat and sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with your pod pals? Add the tarantella “Lazy Mary” by Lou Monte to your repertoire if you’re in Flushing.
And now, the words we’ve all been waiting for: “Play ball!”