In a sport known for its adherence to tradition, spring training is a throwback even by baseball’s standards: fans sitting among scouts and executives; players working their way into shape while chatting with people hanging over outfield walls; and small stadiums geared more toward enjoying the game than making money.
No one was quite sure how spring training would work during the pandemic — not even the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony S. Fauci. The mayors or city managers of the eight Arizona spring training communities unsuccessfully lobbied for it to be delayed. But camps opened and exhibition games began ahead of the regular season, which is expected to start on time.
The stadiums the fans returned to have limited capacities, masks are ubiquitous and player interviews with the news media, always a hallmark of the more relaxed environment, have mostly moved online. Some players have even admitted to being a little nervous to play in front of a crowd for the first time in a year.
It may not exactly match the traditions of the past, but in the end, the sun is shining in Florida and Arizona, the fans are filling as many seats as teams allow and the baseball players, as they do every spring, are preparing for a long season.