Normally, the new year marks a good time to look at spring training, and 2021 is no different. We know, though, that things will be drastically different this year.
With the pandemic still raging, it’s hard to tell what it will be like at major-league ballparks this season, let alone for exhibition games in Florida and Arizona.
It was recently reported that Major League Baseball is leaving it up to the 30 teams whether they intend to open their ballparks for the 2021 regular season, and this policy would extend to spring training as well. Any policies would presumably be done in concert with relevant state and local authorities.
That likely means that similar to the NFL, you’ll see more stringent attendance policies in places like California and New York than states that have shown a willingness to open stadiums, such as Florida.
Does that bode well for the Grapefruit League, and for spring training stadiums in general, to be open for the 2021 exhibition season? Well, it remains to be seen, of course.
It appears clear, though, that the same protocols that were — and continue to be — in place for events such as the World Series, the College Football Playoff and select NFL games will remain. Namely, social distancing guidelines, pod-style seating arrangements (meaning tickets will only be sold in blocks), and masks required while inside the venue.
So if you wanted to plan out a trip to see spring training baseball in 2021, chances are good (but still not guaranteed) that you’ll be able to go.
From there, the question becomes: How worth it will it be to attend a scaled-down version of spring training, with limited attendance, social distancing, masks, etc.? It’s one thing to see a big event such as a playoff game under these circumstances, but what about exhibition baseball?
And to me, one of the pleasures of visiting spring training, whether in Florida or Arizona, is the leisurely way in which you can go from ballpark to ballpark, while enjoying the attractions of the area — and, depending on where you come from, the fact that you’ve escaped cold weather and gotten a head start on enjoying spring weather.
So whether you find it worth it to travel to enjoy spring training in what would most likely be a different atmosphere is, of course, up to you.