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Giants look forward to adrenaline boost from fans returning

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There generally are only a couple hundred fans spread out across the seats behind the first base dugout when the Giants hold their first live batting practice sessions every year, but sometimes that can make all the difference. 

The Giants ramped things up Tuesday when pitchers faced position players for the first time, but they did so in a quiet Scottsdale Stadium. Even for players who grew accustomed to empty seats last year, it was weird. 

"I miss that," Evan Longoria said. "I was thinking about that when I was coming out of the batting cage coming onto the field. You kind of take it for granted, those little bursts of adrenaline that you got when you came back onto the field or you were going from the back field to the locker room or whatever it was. You realize how much they kind of boost you through your day."

That jolt of adrenaline was probably needed for Giants hitters Tuesday. The group that took the main mound at Scottsdale Stadium impressed, particularly Kevin Gausman, the likely Opening Day starter. He showed off midseason command and was hitting 97 mph. That's a rough day for a veteran stepping into the box for the first time. 

"He looked unbelievable," Alex Dickerson said. "If he has any more in the tank than that, it's crazy."

The live BP sessions are crucial in getting all involved ready for the first Cactus League games. For the Giants, the spring season will start Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium, and they expect to have fans cheering them on for the first time in nearly a full year. The Giants will allow 750-1,000 fans at games this spring, and while that's less than 10 percent of a usual spring crowd, the players are looking forward to it. 

 

"It seems like a small number but we haven't had any fans," Longoria said. "It's going to seem like a good amount just to have someone cheering when you take the field or get on base."

The Giants are carving out small pods for fans for the actual games, but nobody is allowed inside Scottsdale Stadium during workouts this year. Players who went on Zoom calls with reporters Tuesday said they miss signing autographs and interacting with fans as they come on and off the field. The stress-free environment of February is the best time for that, Longoria said. 

"That was the most fun part for me as a kid," Longoria said. 

That part will have to wait until the spring of 2022. The focus right now is on safely getting fans back for games, and the Giants expect to invite them back to Oracle Park this year, although they're not yet sure if they will get clearance from county health officials by opening day. 

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When fans do return they'll take the place of cutouts, which will be an adjustment for one veteran Giant. Dickerson had some fun with the cutouts last year, repeatedly taking aim at them when he had to discard foul balls. 

"Hopefully I don't instinctively just throw it in there," Dickerson said, laughing. "I might have to work that out of my system."

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