A capacity crowd of 38,238 was allowed in for the Texas Rangers’ home opener in Arlington on Monday, despite there being almost 70,000 active cases of coronavirus in Texas.
The Rangers’ Globe Life Field stadium is the only Major League ballpark that will allow 100 per cent capacity.
“We know there is going to be a lot of attention on us,” Rangers’ executive vice president of business operations Rob Matwick told the Dallas Morning News before the game between the Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Baseball was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, with the season reduced from 162 to 60 games and clubs suffering a revenue drop of as much as 70 per cent, according to Reuters.
The Rangers-Blue Jays match is being seen as an experiment for other teams on how to approach the opening few games of the season.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, lifted restrictions in Texas last month, paving way for the Rangers to open up the doors to fans for a regular season game at its Globe Life Field stadium for the first time.
The stadium was built and opened for the 2020 season, during which fans were locked out until the post-season.
The $US1.2 billion ($1.57 billion) stadium hosted playoff matches last season, as well as the World Series, but those did not feature the Rangers, meaning Tuesday was a chance for many fans to watch their team live for the first time since 2019.
Opening the stadium fully was a move that was criticised by President Joe Biden, who called it a “mistake” and “not responsible” in an interview on Friday.
Only one stadium outside of Texas, the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field, will permit any more than 33 per cent capacity for its opening games.
The Houston Astros, the state’s other MLB side, will allow 50 per cent capacity – some 20,500 supporters – at its Minute Maid Park.
The Rangers mandated that fans who entered the stadium would have to wear masks.
However, reporters noted that mask compliance was mixed, with security and stewards turning a blind eye to those choosing to go without.
AP reported that mask wearing had dropped to about 50 per cent of people by the middle innings of the match.
According to the Texas Health and Human services website, there are 69,968 active cases of coronavirus in Texas.
In Tarrant county, where Arlington is situated, and neighbouring Dallas county, there are over 10,000 active cases.
In both counties just under 20 per cent of over 16s are considered fully vaccinated, having had two doses.
Just over 30 per cent of people have had at least one dose of the vaccine across both counties, according to official figures.
Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the White House, told CBS last week that he expected an “incremental relaxation of some of the restrictions” heading into summer.
He added that he was looking forward to getting to watch his beloved Washington Nationals, for whom he threw out a ceremonial first pitch last year.
One person who did not attend the baseball was Governor Abbot who, despite being invited to throw out the opening pitch, decided to skip the event in protest of MLB’s decision to move the All Star game from Georgia due to new voting restrictions in the state.