Gabe Kapler's final offseason media session did not come on the suite level at Oracle Park a day before FanFest, as it normally would. Kapler sat on a Zoom call Friday from sunny Scottsdale Stadium, a few feet from bleachers that have been empty since last March.
"It's been a while, it's been a while since we've looked up in the stands and seen that support," Kapler said. "Visualizing it, it's exciting."
The Giants haven't played in front of their own fans since March 10, but last week, as players and coaches started to descend back on Scottsdale for the start of camp, the organization sent out word that a bit of normalcy is coming back.
The Giants will have between 750 and 1,000 fans in the seats when the Los Angeles Angels visit on Feb. 28 to kick off the Cactus League season. Tickets will be sold in pods of two or four and fans will be distanced from other pods and required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
For a staff that has grown so accustomed to working and playing in a bubble, this will be a change, but it's one Kapler is looking forward to. He said he is not concerned about letting a limited number of fans into games even though the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"I am comfortable with it, and obviously part of that comfort comes from the fact that this is a decision that our organization put a lot of time into, and with that comes putting the health and safety of the players and the staff first," Kapler said. "With that comfort level, it's going to be nice to look up in the stands and see orange and black."
Spring training generally is the time when fans can get closest to players and staffers. Scottsdale Stadium is an intimate setting, and in normal times, just about every player who goes out to stretch stops down the right field line to sign autographs and take pictures. It's not uncommon to see younger players walk right into the stands after games to visit with family members and friends.
None of that will be going on this year, but this still is a small step towards normalcy for the Giants. They hope to have fans back at Oracle Park when they return, but that first game back will be later than it usually has been. The annual Bay Bridge exhibition series will be played in Arizona this year, with the Giants hosting the A's on March 28 and then playing them in Mesa a day later.
That series also tends to take on an informal vibe, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he'll miss seeing old friends from his A's days on the field. But the decision this year was a no-brainer.
"This is a season where we've just got to be smart about our travel and how we're putting the schedule together," Zaidi said. "Everything is just about being efficient, being safe, and making sure we get to the season. It's a bit of a bummer (to not play in the Bay Area) but we'll see them during the season and I think everyone agrees that the most important thing for us is to get to the season as quickly and safely as possible."