Cubs, White Sox getting fans back this season

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday fans will be welcomed back to Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field when the season opens.

    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday fans will be welcomed back to Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field when the season opens. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday the Cubs and Sox have been approved to fill 20% of the their ballparks when the season begins next month.

    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday the Cubs and Sox have been approved to fill 20% of the their ballparks when the season begins next month. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 3/8/2021 7:12 PM

Major League Baseball was able to squeeze in a 60-game season and expanded playoffs last year. Under the considerable cloud of COVID-19, it was quite an accomplishment.

But something was missing.

 

"I missed out on the fans quite a number of times last year," said White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito. "I know that early in the season, like Opening Day and those first couple weeks, it was a little bizarre."

Sox and Cubs players gradually adjusted to having no fans in the stands in 2020, and they got used to performing in front of the piped-in crowd noise.

On Monday morning, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered some welcome news -- fans can attend games at Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field in reduced numbers this season.

The Cubs and White Sox have been approved to fill 20% of their stadiums' capacity at the start of the year, with the hope crowd sizes can increase as the season moves on.

"As a die-hard sports fan myself, I'm personally excited to have Chicago take its first, cautious steps toward safely reopening our beloved baseball stadiums to fans this season," Lightfoot said. "We're able to do that thanks to the commitment of our city's two great baseball franchises who continue to work in close partnership with Chicago's public health officials to find solutions that are not only safe, but offer a path forward toward safely increasing stadium capacity as we move closer into our COVID-19 recovery."

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The Cubs have the first home game in Chicago this season, on April 1 against the Pirates.

"The atmosphere around Wrigley Field, on a day game or a game in general, I don't know if there's anything like it in professional sports," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It just really is a special place to come to."

Last season was the exception.

"It was an empty feeling, because it was," Ross said. "You've got this museum there that nobody could get in and appreciate except for the players. It's exciting to get back to some sense of normal and having some fans there and cheers. Getting a little bit of that atmosphere back around the area will be great for everybody."

The White Sox open the season on the road against the Angels and Mariners before playing their home opener on April 8 vs. the Royals.

Nick Madrigal was a rookie last season, and the Sox's second baseman can't wait to play in front of a home crowd.

"I overheard some of the guys talking about it in the clubhouse and we're all very excited," Madrigal said. "I haven't experienced the fans in our home ballpark, but I'm excited for that, it's an exciting thing that came out. We're looking forward to it and hopefully it's open everywhere we go. Our home ballpark will be a lot better this year."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Until further notice, Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field will be following safety protocols such as a mandatory mask policy, physically distanced seating and mobile ticketing.

"The safety protocols we're working into our game presentation, and just reminders to people, our staff will be trained to respectfully talk to our fans in the ballpark and reminding them of the policies that will need to be in place," said Brooks Boyer, the Sox's chief revenue and marketing officer. "The last thing we want to do is have any sort of outbreak where we can't have fans in stands.

"We've come this far, we want to make sure we keep this rolling."

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