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Major League Baseball Is Back Under COVID-19 Restrictions

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Baseball is back, baby. A new regular season of Major League Baseball started yesterday. And even though the game between the Mets and the Nationals had to be canceled over COVID concerns, other games went ahead. And fans who had to sit out last year's regular season were psyched, including our own Tom Goldman, who was at the game in Seattle.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: A timeless bit of Americana wandered by Seattle's T-Mobile Park three hours before game time yesterday - a father, a son, both with baseball gloves, ready to catch whatever came their way. No matter that the father, Clifford Planellas, is 69, and his son Greg 40. They've been doing opening day together since Greg was five. After missing last year with every other baseball fan during the regular season, Clifford said they were ready to resume their tradition.

CLIFFORD PLANELLAS: We're glad to be two of 9,000 people enjoying the baseball.

GOLDMAN: Nine thousand reduced from T-Mobile's more than 45,000 capacity was the Mariners' bargain to get fans back in the stadium. Greg Planellas mused about an opening day with all those vacant seats.

GREG PLANELLAS: So we're going to lay down if we want. Maybe in between innings, take a nap.

C PLANELLAS: (Laughter).

G PLANELLAS: Seventh-inning stretch, we will legitimately stretch as much as we want.

GOLDMAN: The Mariners didn't give their fans much reason to do anything but stretch out and nap, as the team fell behind the San Francisco Giants early. By the eighth inning, San Francisco led 6-1. But then...

(CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: There was, in fact, opening day magic at T-Mobile. That roar - 9,000 can be pretty noisy - came as Seattle scored its sixth run of the inning on its way to winning the game in the 10th.

For Trevor Gooby, it was the second huge accomplishment at T-Mobile last night. The other one didn't get any cheers. But Gooby, the senior VP of ballpark operations, marveled at the 350-plus cleaners on special COVID duty before, during and after the game.

TREVOR GOOBY: So we have the game ends at, say, 10 o'clock. And we'll have a crew that works from 10:01 until about 7 in the morning, deep cleaning every seat at the ballpark.

GOLDMAN: Even though only 9,000 were occupied, everything gets cleaned constantly. The electrostatic sprayers and UV light T-Mobile uses to clean and kill potential viruses is not unique. Throughout the majors, ballparks are doing this, also requiring masks and social distancing. And if that isn't proof enough that the coronavirus remains a threat, yesterday's Washington Nationals-New York Mets game was postponed after positive cases on the Nats. But in many ballparks, excitement outweighed the dread of the past year. Linda Carbajal from Everett, Wash., exited T-Mobile happy to have her team 1-0.

LINDA CARBAJAL: Honestly, even if we had lost, just coming out to to a baseball game with family and friends - I feel like some normalcy is coming back into our lives. That's the whole part for me.

GOLDMAN: And for a lot of baseball fans who, win or lose, were at the very least back. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Seattle.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRONTIDE'S "CABIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.