The Nationals are pushing for fans to be allowed back in the ballpark this season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the team to play in empty stadiums last year, President and GM Mike Rizzo said Thursday on 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies.
“We’re working with the city on that,” Rizzo said. “We’re certainly committed to hosting fans the safest way possible at the ballpark and we believe that there’s proper protocols that we’ve all practiced — social distancing, mandatory masks — if those are in place, we can host a safe number of fans.”
Major League Baseball will allow teams to open their ballparks to fans this season in accordance with state and local health guidelines. The Nationals have already made season ticket plans available for purchase but have not opened single-game tickets for sale. Fans can purchase tickets for their upcoming spring training games in West Palm Beach, Florida.
All 30 teams played the abbreviated 60-game regular season in 2020 without fans in attendance. MLB was the first of the four major U.S. sports to return after the coronavirus shut down the sports world in mid-March. The league was able to let a limited number of fans into Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, for the National League Championship Series and World Series, maxing out at just over 11,100.
The Nationals entered 2020 with high hopes following the franchise’s first championship the year prior but a string of injuries and down years from key contributors resulted in a fourth-place finish in the NL East. Rizzo attributed some of those struggles to the lack of fan support during games.
“We miss our fans, the players miss them and we need them,” Rizzo said. “We need their energy and support inside of Nats Park. That couldn’t be overstated in our success in 2019 and our failures in 2020. That was a different world without the fans and we need them and want them.”
He's not alone, either. Starter Max Scherzer talked Friday about how he wants to see fans back this season.
“Fans should be in the stands, 100 percent,” Scherzer said. “You can do it, we’re in outdoor stadiums. Fans just need to be allowed to come in the ballpark. We can engineer a way around it. I don’t see any reason why not. So hopefully cooler heads prevail, we look at this pragmatically and we get some Nationals fans out there because trust me, as all ballplayers, we definitely miss them and we miss the atmosphere that they bring.”
Opening Day is set for April 1, when the Nationals host the New York Mets at 7:09 p.m. ET.
For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington weekdays from 6-10 a.m.