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Baseball

2021 MLB Season Brings Excitement and Uncertainty

For baseball fans, the promise of a new season usually brings hope and excitement. But with the country still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hesitant to get too excited about anything. 

Despite the continued threat of COVID, spring training officially began on Sunday. Major League Baseball is coming off a COVID-shortened 60-game season and the 2021 season is likely to be impacted by COVID as well. 

So what can we expect from baseball this year, inasmuch as we can expect anything anymore? 

Full 2021 MLB Season Scheduled

We’ll start with what hasn’t changed, and that’s the number of games teams are scheduled to play. While cancelations and postponements are almost a given at some point, each team is scheduled to play the normal 162 games, with spring training games starting Sunday and Opening Day April 1. The league proposed postponing the preseason and regular season a month or so to give the country more time to vaccinate the general population, but the MLBPA wanted to stick with the current collective bargaining agreement. So here we are.

Last season teams mostly played within their division in order to keep travel to a minimum, but this season teams are back to facing their typical opponents across both leagues. 

Two Major Changes Carry Over from 2020

Two controversial changes that were implemented last season are here to stay, at least for this season: the runner starting on second during extra inning games, and seven-inning doubleheaders. Fan reaction to these changes last year was mixed. Some felt they disrupted the integrity of the game, while others were tolerant of the changes because they were just happy games could be played at all. 

Whatever your feelings on the changes, it’s important to remember that COVID is still a huge threat to schedules, as well as player health. So if shortening some of the games will help alleviate the struggle to complete all 162 games, it’s a small price to play. 

The Return of Fans

One change that fans can unanimously get behind is the return of spectators at Major League games. In January the league informed teams to prepare for the return of fans at a lower capacity with COVID protocols in place. Fans will wear masks everywhere but their seats, purchase tickets in pods, and have access to hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the ballpark. The percentage of fans allowed in stadiums varies across the league, dependent upon protocols created by local officials. 

Temporary Home for the Blue Jays

For at least the first couple of weeks of the season, the Blue Jays will fly south for the spring. Due to Canadian border restrictions, they cannot play their home games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and will instead play at least their first two homestands at their spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida. That takes them through May 2, and then after that a decision will be made if they can return to Canadian soil. 

An Uncertain Future

As we enter into a new season at a time where everything is still so unpredictable, fans should be advised to soak up every minute of live baseball they can while the going’s still good. Games could be canceled left and right, so watch while you can. And the looming offseason negotiations for the expiring CBA mean a work stoppage in 2022 is a very real possibility, given the animosity between the league and the players’ union.

Here’s hoping the 2021 baseball season brings us some good times, because we could really use them right now.

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Elizabeth DiPietro

Elizabeth DiPietro

Liz DiPietro has been a staff writer for In The Zone since 2011. She is a New York City public school teacher working at a middle school in Brooklyn, NY. Liz has a Master's of Creative Writing from Queens College and a Master's of Special Education from the College of Staten Island. She is a diehard Yankees, Knicks, and Jets fan and exercise enthusiast. Liz lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband Dave and 2-year-old son Christopher.

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