Professional baseball inches back to previous season precedent

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Major League Baseball is making out-of-the-ballpark adjustments this season to accommodate the pandemic.

As most things have, the 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) season has looked very different this year compared to the past. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major changes in the regulations of games, the MLB has also made large changes in accordance with current events happening around the country. The overall effect on players and spectators alike have been vast.

To culminate a difficult year, fans witnessed a major event take place with regards to the All-Star Game. The All-Star Game, or “Midsummer Classic,” takes place every season after a vote by which spectators can choose outstanding players to participate. The location is usually set a year or two prior to the game itself and very rarely gets moved. The All-Star game of 2021 was to take place at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia, not only to show off their field but also to honor the Baseball Hall of Fame member Hank Aaron, who played for nine years in Atlanta and unfortunately passed away in January. The MLB officially moved the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver, Colorado in disagreement with Georgia’s Voting Restriction Laws, stating that they were against MLB values. On April 2 the league announced they would relocate the 2021 All-Star Game and Draft to an undetermined location.

Commissioner Rob Manfred stated that the move was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport,” and “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” 

The League ensured that the decision was talked about with teams, current and former players, and the Players Association, among others.

This wasn’t the only shockwave sent through the sport this year, though. Despite an already shortened 2020 baseball season, players proved to be back stronger than ever. All members were expected to abide by strict restrictions placed in order for everyone to stay safe and healthy. Many limitations were placed on teams and the league at large during the 2020 season, such as smaller rosters, fewer games and added rules that affect the game directly, such as an extra innings rule and the universal DH rule being removed. 

The universal DH rule was implemented in the 2020 season to allow pitchers to not have to bat, and instead have a designated hitter (DH) hit in their place. This rule has been removed, reverting to the classic rules with the American League (AL) having a DH and the National League (NL) not having one. 

The 2021 season is expected to run from April 1 to October 3 with a total of 162 games, like a normal season, unlike the sparse total of 60 games played last season. The league saw a strong start as 26 out of 30 teams played on opening night; one postponed due to weather conditions, and the other due to positive COVID-19 test results.

Not only were players’ routines altered, but the return of live spectators in the ballpark was finally able to take place for the 2021 season! All playing MLB teams had their doors open and ready on opening night for fans. With limited capacity and numerous rules to follow, the League safely began operating with spectators. Face masks are required at all times, unless enjoying food or drinks. All normal security measures, like metal detectors, are also still in place, but all have been converted to be contact-free. Ballparks have also placed markers to ensure social distancing is enforced everywhere, food vendors are spread out more than usual and sanitary measures have increased as well. 

Overall, the MLB has gone through some major changes in the past two years, but the return of a long season and in-person spectators makes everything a bit less gloomy. On top of all their precautions, many parks are also used as vaccine distribution centers! So whether you’re rooting for the home team or shooting a vaccine into your arm, everyone can get out there and show their support.