While Minor League Baseball has been canceled for the season, there is still high-quality baseball beginning in Connecticut. The New Britain Bees, a team comprised of elite college players, began play Thursday night.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Chris Sawyer of Bristol. “It’s probably the best opening day I’ve ever been to in my life.”
The stadium itself was kept to 25% capacity, which could be up to 1,500 fans. It was general admission but to maintain social distance, rows and seats will be skipped as necessary.
“It looked like there were a lot more people here because of social distancing because they’re all spread out but it works,” said Jeff Walton, one of those in attendance.
Fans were required to wear masks in concourses but allowed to remove them once in their seats.
“People seem to really be heeding the warnings,” said Sawyer. “Everybody’s got their masks on when they’re walking around.”
Concessions were open but without condiment stations. Instead, individually packed servings were provided by employees wearing gloves and masks. Concourses were separated to define traffic flow and maintain distancing.
According to the team’s website, restrooms were sanitized with disinfectant and enzyme solution. Doors will be propped open to encourage touchless entry and exit. Foot traffic will also be one-way only.
“Everything’s been safe. It’s been clean. It’s been great, everybody is social distancing so it’s been awesome,” said Albert LeBron of Hartford.
The team store was open but also limited to 25% capacity. Customers were instructed not be to touch items they do not purchase.
While the Kid Zone was closed, the Mascot “Sting” was there. He, too, was socially distancing, with no hugs, high fives or closeup photos. Still, fans in attendance were more than happy to be back at the ballpark.
“This is the best thing right here, opening day,” said Walton. “Baseball, it’s back. You can’t beat this.”
Looking ahead, the Bees have 20 more home games scheduled in July and August. To promote a cashless environment, the team is encouraging tickets to be purchased online so tickets can be e-mailed, reducing human interaction as much as possible.