Cubs, White Sox to let some fans into stands as COVID-19 numbers fall

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Images
2 Comments

CHICAGO – After a season of mostly empty ballparks in Chicago, the famed marquee at Wrigley Field said it all.

“Welcome home, Cubs fans,” it read.

Thousands of masked fans of the Cubs and White Sox will get to see their teams play in person beginning on opening day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday. Each team will be limited to 20% capacity, but it was enough to send some fans off to Wrigley to celebrate.

“For everybody (the last year) has been super rough, you know, being enclosed in the house for months and months,” Nelson Gonzalez said near the Cubs’ neighborhood ballpark. “I know that people are ready to go out and start living their normal lives.”

The capacity limitations mean the White Sox can admit as many as 8,122 fans to Guaranteed Rate Field, and the Cubs will be allowed to admit as many as 8,274 fans per game.

“As a diehard sports fan myself, I’m personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season,” Lightfoot said. “We’re able to do that thanks to the commitment of our city’s two great baseball franchises who continue to work in close partnership with Chicago’s public health officials to find solutions that are not only safe, but offer a path forward toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our COVID-19 recovery.”

Though the announcement clears the way for fans in the stands for the first time since the 2019 season, the mask requirement is just one of several changes that will make the experience of going to the ballpark look and feel a bit different. Cash will not be accepted at concession stands or in souvenir shops. Also, everyone from players to fans “can expect comprehensive screening and sanitization procedures based on the latest scientific guidance,” according to the city’s news release.

At Wrigley, according to a team release, the food menu will be limited to individually packaged items and the only bags fans will be allowed to bring into the park are small clutch purses, medical bags and, if they have infants, diaper bags.

Both teams will implement pod seating to keep groups of fans a safe distance from each other.

Major league teams have been announcing in recent weeks that fans will be allowed to return to stadiums. Some teams have not specified how many fans will be allowed. Other teams that have set their opening-day capacity at 20% include the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Angeles. The Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies will limit capacity to 25% and St. Louis Cardinals have set the capacity limit at 32%. The Kansas City Royals will limit capacity to about 30%, according to the team.

In Chicago, the announcement comes after the city, because of a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases, recently started allowing limited indoor seating. Just last week, the restaurants and bars in the city were told they can increase their indoor seating capacity to 50%.

“We believe this is a moment when baseball can indeed serve our fans and our communities again as we all hope for a gradual return to normal,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement.

There was no word on when fans might be able to return to the United Center, the home of the NBA’s Bulls and NHL’s Blackhawks.

Out in Arizona, where the Cubs and White Sox have been playing in front of limited crowds during spring training games, there was excitement about the return of fans to their home ballparks. The Cubs open their season on April 1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the White Sox play their home opener on April 8 against the Royals.

“I think everybody is trying to work back to some sense of normal, and getting back with fans in the stands, we’re super grateful for that,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Can’t wait to get to Wrigley and get the season started with some fans in the stands.”

Yankees’ Judge heads on road still at 61 homers; 4 games left

Getty Images
0 Comments

NEW YORK – Aaron Judge won’t break the American League home run record at Yankee Stadium, remaining at 61 as New York headed on the road for its final four regular-season games after a 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Judge struck out three times and walked once, disappointing a crowd of 44,332 that watched the Yankees regular-season home finale in rain for much of a chilly, blustery afternoon. New York finishes the regular season with four games at Texas, starting Monday night.

Judge took a called third strike from rookie Kyle Bradish leading off the first inning, then couldn’t check his swing and stranded the bases loaded when he struck out on a curveball in the second. He walked in the fifth and fanned against Bryan Baker in the seventh, dropping to 1 for 7 with six strikeouts, five walks and a hit batter since hitting No. 61 at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012, Judge tops the AL with 130 RBIs. His batting average fell to .311, four points behind league leader Luis Arraez of Minnesota.

Baltimore (82-77) guaranteed its first winning season since 2016. The Orioles went 52-110 last year and became the first team since at least 1900 to have a winning record one season after losing 110 or more.

AL East champion New York (97-61) took another hit to an injury-ravaged bullpen when Ron Marinaccio left while pitching to Jorge Mateo in the eighth. The Yankees will be without Clay Holmes until the playoffs because of rotator cuff inflammation, and Aroldis Chapman (3-4) was once again wild, walking three, including rookie Gunnar Henderson with the bases loaded, as Baltimore surged ahead in the seventh.

Chi Chi Gonzalez, a 30-year-old right-hander, made his Yankees debut after pitching for Minnesota and Milwaukee in the majors earlier this season. He threw to Jose Trevino, his batterymate at Oral Roberts in 2012 and ’13.

Gonzalez allowed one run, four hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Bradish gave up one run – unearned – three hits and five walks in five-plus innings.

Logan Gillaspie (1-0) pitched a scoreless sixth in his first big league decision, Baker struck out five while getting six straight outs, and Dillon Tate got three outs for his fifth save.

Ryan Mountcastle had an RBI double in the first. Aaron Hicks scored from second base in the fifth when Bradish bounced a wild pitch and catcher Adley Rutschman threw the ball into center for an error.

Cedric Mullins reached on an infield hit starting the seventh against Chapman, has walked 28 in 35 1/3 innings. After Chapman walked three of four batters, Austin Hays followed with a sacrifice fly off Marinaccio.

WEB GEMS

Yankees 3B Josh Donaldson made a backhand grab on Jorge Mateo’s bases-loaded grounder in the sixth and from foul territory made a strong throw for the inning-ending out. … Hicks saved two runs with a sprinting catch on Terrin Vavra‘s slicing liner near the left-field line in the seventh.

FOR THE BOOKS

New York went 57-24 at home, matching most wins at new Yankee Stadium. Baltimore was 38-43 on the road, up from 20-61.

IN THE SEATS

The Yankees drew 3,136,207 for 78 home dates, down from 3,304,404 in 2019, the last season before two years of COVID restrictions. They had 16 sellouts, up from 12 in 2019.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: RHP Felix Bautista may not pitch for the rest of the season because of the sore left knee he injured Friday.

Yankees: Matt Carpenter (broken left foot on Aug 8) will not work out initially in the outfield at the Somerset, New Jersey, training camp this week. He was moved to the 60-day IL on Sunday, ruling him out of the Texas series. … RHP Miguel Castro (strained shoulder) could be activated Monday. … LHP Wandy Peralta, sidelined since Sept. 18 with back tightness, threw a bullpen session and will face hitters at Somerset on Tuesday or Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer (6-8, 3.17) starts Monday’s opener of a season-ending series against visiting Toronto and Jose Berrios (11-7, 5.37)

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (6-3, 3.41) starts Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Texas and LHP Martin Perez (12-7, 2.93). After Wednesday, the Yankees have five off days before their Division Series opener at home on Oct. 11.