During the dog days of the 2020 season, players around MLB found amusement in throwing baseballs really hard at the cardboard cutouts taking the place of actual fans in stadiums.
That form of entertainment for the players won't be taking place at the Oakland Coliseum this season after the state of California updated its guidelines for outdoor gatherings Friday, paving the way for the A's to welcome fans back to their home games beginning in April.
"Yeah, we'll dial it back and take a little juice off of it," A's first baseman Matt Olson told reporters Saturday when asked if players will have to remind themselves that fans, not cardboard cutouts, will be sitting in the seats.
Under the revised state guidelines, the A's will be allowed to have 20 percent capacity at home games as long as Alameda County remains in the red tier of COVID-19 case count and positivity rate.
If the numbers improve in respective counties, the percentage of capacity could increase to 33 percent (orange tier) and 67 percent (yellow tier).
Olson admitted that he wasn't expecting fans in the ballpark this season, but is thrilled they will be back beginning with the home opener on Thursday, April 1.
"You never know what to expect nowadays with what's going to happen, but I was pretty shocked and happy that we're going to have people in the stands on opening day," Olson said. "I don't know if it was just me or what, but I had kind of mentally counted that out. But yeah, it's going to be sweet. Hopefully we can get as many people as we can in there. Obviously be safe about it and everything, but being able to have a little energy in the Coliseum is going to be nice again."
Olson and the A's welcome the Houston Astros to the Coliseum on opening day, so the fans in attendance will get a chance to let out all their pent up emotion. With fans barred from stadiums last season, they missed out on the chance to boo the Astros after the team's sign-stealing scandal was exposed during the 2019 offseason.
There will be plenty of safety protocols still in place when fans enter the Coliseum this season, but a little bit of normalcy will be a welcome sight for Olson and the A's.