Cleveland Fans Will Return to Progressive Field in April; Here's One Season Ticket Holder's Perspective

Kathryn Dillon

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On April 5th, the Cleveland Indians will play their home opener against the Kansas City Royals, and for the first time since the end of the 2019 season, they'll enjoy the roar of their hometown crowds.

As partial season ticket holders and avid Indians fans, my husband and I will be among those in the ballpark for Opening Day, so we've been researching Major League Baseball and the Indians' COVID-19 protocols with immense interest. After all, we've hardly left the house in the past year, and we wanted to be sure we weren't acting rashly by deciding to go to baseball games when the pandemic is far from over.

Turns out the roar of that crowd I mentioned earlier will be a little softer than usual.

Governor Mike DeWine has indicated that the Indians and the Cincinnati Reds can host up to 30% of their total capacity in the stands for Opening Day. This percentage is higher than most other teams that have announced their specific attendance targets as of today. Only St. Louis has publicized more lenient rules, allowing 32% of total capacity.

Meanwhile, our rival Detroit Tigers will have only 1000 fans in the ballpark (about 3% of their capacity) and Washington D.C. will not allow the Nationals to host fans at all for Opening Day.

Progressive Field's seating capacity is 35,041, though more can be accommodated with standing room areas. If the seating capacity number is used to determine how many fans will be able to attend April games, Cleveland could host up to 10,512 people in the ballpark.

The Indians have collaborated with the Cleveland Clinic, Major League Baseball, and state and local public health officials to put together health and safety protocols for fans attending games. The team's website indicates that the Clinic is providing the organization with the most up-to-date information available to inform decision-making.

Tickets will be available in pods of two or four people with social distancing in place. Other safety steps include a strict mask mandate (when fans are not in their seats), additional hand sanitizer stations, disinfecting regimens, and a recommendation to use cashless payment methods for food and beverage purchases.

This will also mark the first time fans will be unable to use paper tickets to enter the ballpark, as mobile entry will be enforced to further limit contact.

My husband and I have been more careful, over the past year of the pandemic, than most people we know. Part of that is our privilege - my husband works from home under normal circumstances, and my company has been allowing me to do so since last March.

The other part is an abundance of caution. We have no desire to experience the potentially lasting effects of COVID-19, from either a health or a financial perspective, nor do we want to contribute to the spread of the disease.

We socialized with friends once, sitting socially distanced in a neighbor's driveway around a fire pit Memorial Day Weekend, masked unless we were eating or drinking. We've had lunch on our sizeable front porch with my mother (before the cold weather hit), and have helped her with some household maintenance tasks since she lives alone.

We had a frosty Christmas celebration with my sister's family, again socially distanced around a fire pit, and that pretty much sums it up.

I've been doing curbside pickup every two weeks like clockwork (Aldi and Giant Eagle) and then darting into Zagara's (our neighborhood market) for anything I couldn't order online. I've minimized any other in-person shopping, arranging curbside for our pet supplies and having prescriptions shipped.

Even our cats' visits to the vet are COVID-safe, as we wait in the car while our wonderful doctor talks us through the examination results over the phone.

And yet, on April 5th, we'll be off to the ballpark, though neither my husband nor I will likely have access to the COVID-19 vaccine by then.

We thought long and hard about whether we felt safe returning to Progressive Field this spring. The Indians organization offered season ticketholders three different options for our April home games - (1) attend the games, (2) choose not to attend and receive a credit to our accounts that could be used for future games, and (3) choose not to attend and receive a refund for our April games.

Ultimately, there are a few reasons we've chosen baseball games as our first foray back into the real world.

First and foremost, it's an outdoor activity. It's unlikely we would feel comfortable attending an indoor event at this point, but sitting outside and socially distanced from others is a lower-risk endeavor. Though we'll limit the time we spend indoors at the games, it's comforting to know that as part of the health and safety plan, outdoor air circulation will be pumped through all indoor areas too.

Second, we feel good about the COVID-19 protocols announced by the Indians organization. We've ordered some Indians masks to show our team spirit (though they're unfortunately so flimsy we'll have to double up) and we're ready to do our part in keeping ourselves and others safe while attending the games.

Third, the more vulnerable members of my immediate family will be fully vaccinated within the next couple of weeks. While we'll continue to gather in a socially distanced manner until my husband and I are inoculated too, I feel more comfortable attending games knowing that my family is protected.

At the end of the day, we all have choices to make. Most of us have spent the past year doing the right thing for the greater good. We've carefully weighed the pros and cons of every action we've taken. While we're hoping we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is far from over, and we'll continue to be vigilant.

This is not a return to normalcy. I don't see indoor events or even restaurant dining in the near future for my husband and me. But allowing ourselves to engage in a lower-risk activity like attending an outdoor baseball game will make our continued caution just a little more palatable.

Fans interested in purchasing single-game tickets can fill out a form on the Indians' website to receive email updates on ticket availability.

Go, Tribe!

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I live and write in Northeast Ohio, about everything from food to mental health, pets to relationships, music, art, and sports. My articles usually have a personal slant because I believe we as a society and as individuals grow stronger through truth-telling and connection.

Cleveland Heights, OH
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