Hot dog, a ballgame! With a smaller crowd at Chicago Dogs opener in Rosemont
Face masks and hand sanitizer became as much a part of the baseball fan experience as peanuts and Cracker Jacks during the Chicago Dogs' opening night Tuesday in Rosemont.
After months of uncertainty due to COVID-19, spectators were allowed through the gates at Impact Field to see the suburban baseball team step to the plate for the start of a shortened 30-game home season. They played the Milwaukee Milkmen.
Danny and Haley Schwartz of Bartlett brought their 4-year-old son Jackson in a full hot dog uniform. Coming to the game "was something we really wanted to do" despite the coronavirus risk, Danny said.
"It's in our minds, but I appreciate the steps they're taking to make it safer," he said.
Safety measures included taking temperatures of everyone entering the stadium, mask requirements, social distancing in lines and seating, and one-way aisles.
The Dogs, which play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, initially planned to start the home portion of their 60-game schedule at the Milwaukee Milkmen's new stadium in Franklin, Wisconsin. Then the team got word from Illinois state officials late last month that fans would be allowed in Rosemont on a limited basis.
On Tuesday night, that meant a capacity of no more than 20%, or up to 1,300. It also meant cashless payments for food and beverage, and hand sanitizing stations throughout.
But there were signs of normalcy you might see at a baseball game: Acclaimed vocalist Wayne Messmer performed the national anthem, and fans received a free commemorative bobblehead -- that of Coach Mike Ditka donning sunglasses and a Dogs sweater vest.
Da Coach was to have co-managed the Dogs alongside team skipper Butch Hobson for the home opener originally scheduled in May, but that promotion is now planned for next season, officials say.